Since the days of the Terror, authoritarian leftists have been fundamentally the same everywhere. For example, the difference between the authoritarian progressives who run The Atlantic and the authoritarians who ran the Soviet Union is one of degree, not kind. The Atlantic’s recent call to ignore the plain text of the Constitution because it interferes with progressives getting what they want (see here) brings this point into relief. As Justice Scalia once observed, on paper the old Soviet Constitution was far superior to the United States’ Constitution:
Our Constitution isn’t the best, if you judge it by its guarantees. Frankly, the old Soviet constitution was better, and it was full of all kinds of grand guarantees . . . For example, ‘Citizens are guaranteed inviolability of the person . . . Citizens are guaranteed inviolability of the home’ . . . But this Soviet constitution was just a piece of paper . . . A bill of rights has value only if the main articles of the constitution truly constitute the organs of government – establish a structure that will preserve liberties against the ineradicable human lust for power.
If the Soviet Constitution was superior to the US Constitution, why was the former a totalitarian hellhole, while the latter is one of the freest and most prosperous countries that has ever existed? The answer is obvious and simple. The Soviets did not respect the text of their constitution; it was a farce. Yes, the Soviet constitution guaranteed inviolability of the person. But cross the wrong official and they knocked down your door, arrested you and sent you to the Gulag. In contrast, in the United States we take the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments very seriously. Indeed, just the opposite often happens here when the government must release an accused person even though everyone knows he is guilty, because there was some transgression against his civil rights.
So how is The Atlantic in effect urging us to adopt the Soviet approach to constitutions? The Constitution guaranties each state shall have two and only two senators. The Atlantic says we should employ rank sophistry to justify ignoring the plain text of the Constitution. Why? Because the plain text interferes with the authoritarians who run The Atlantic getting what they want. There is no difference between this and when the Soviets ignored the plain text of their grand constitutional guarantees whenever the text interfered with them getting what they wanted (such as sending Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the Gulag).
What is the philosophical underpinning of this approach to law? Materialism of course. A constitution is a compact among the people who live under it. A compact is a mutual promise. The whole thing works only to the extent the promise is considered binding. Whether a promise is considered binding is fundamentally a moral question.
The materialists who ran the Soviet Union and the materialist editors who run The Atlantic have the same basic approach to moral questions. That is to say, no approach at all, since they both believe there is no ultimate grounding to morality. Which in turn means morality does not exist in any meaningful objective sense. And that means there are in this world no hard and fast binding moral rules — like honoring promises to name an example. There is only strength and weakness.
When Justice Brennan said that constitutional law amounts to the ability to count to five, he meant simply that when he was able to cobble five votes together, he had the strength to force you to bend to his will. What the constitutional text actually said regarding the matter was irrelevant to Brennan exactly in the same way it was irrelevant to the masters of the Soviet Union and the editors of The Atlantic. And whether it was moral or immoral to disregard the promises implicit in the constitutional compact was never even a consideration.
For Joseph Stalin, the only thing that ever counted was the raw exercise of power. And that is exactly the same vision modern progressives have for the United States today.