February 8, 2013 · Lessig
On my way (by train via DC to avoid #Nemo) to Georgia (as in .GE) to help/learn/think about their latest constitutional crisis. Twenty years ago this work began, with a delegation from Georgia traveling to the University of Chicago and drafting their first, post-communist Constitution. What happened then is the story remixed in the West Wing episode that portrays me as old as I now feel …
It is a weird and strong bond I feel to this country — weird, because there’s no ancestry to account for it; strong, because over the past 20 years, I’ve come to know the genuine and serious struggle of people trying to build a constitutional Republic.
It is once again a critical moment, and the President and his party have an enormous opportunity to be for Georgia what Adams et al. were for America. Indeed, this was exactly the lesson that I was first taught by Aleksandr Davidovich Chikvaidze when I first went to Georgia in the early 1990s. As I waited to meet the President, Eduard Shevardnadze, Chikvaidze quizzed me: “What was the most important moment in American history?” he asked. I had no idea what he was thinking of, so I offered all the obvious dates. “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG,” he scolded. “March 4, 1801.” “Why that date,” I asked him? “Because that was the date that America had its first peaceful transfer of power between two fundamentally opposed parties.” One party (the Federalists) accepted its defeat, but showed the world that democracy had come to America, because they showed the world, they could step aside (the judiciary is another story…).
This is precisely the question in Georgia right now. A new party has swept the parliament. The President now must decide whether and how he could be Adams, or be every other Georgian president since the Soviet Union fell. Mikheil Saakashvili has likely done more good for Georgia than Adams did (as President) for the US. His fight to end the corruption of the Georgian police is world-historic and an amazing success. And there are many in his party that have real questions about the party that now demands the right to govern. But he and everyone else involved in this struggle must now bridge a critical trust gap. Not sure it’s possible. But it would be extraordinary if they can.
(Original post on Tumblr)