It is almost becoming too easy to take pot shots at the president. After his trip to England and France, some scholars wondered if Alzheimer’s was creeping up on him as it did his father. They listened to his speeches and talks and radio interviews from 25 years ago, 20, 10, and now. The inability to stay on track, to find the right word, to form a coherent paragraph that had sentences that led to a point were troubling. If it were anyone other than the president of the United States it would be sad, worrisome. It is the president of the United States. That makes it dangerous.
This article, therefore, is not about taking pot shots at the president. It is about the debate taking place in my head about how strong the institution of democracy is if the infrastructure of the nation’s government is in as bad a shape as the infrastructure of its roads, bridges, and tunnels and if so when one or more is going to fall down. After all, democracy had shown it fragility in Gore v. Bush before Trump and again after in Trump v. Clinton two years ago.
Right now, the left is screaming about abandoning the Electoral College. I don’t agree. I’m not in favor of messing with the constitution. Its genius and longevity have been attributed by scholars to its brevity that it is a broad stroke document, not one that attempts to govern ‘most every aspect of life. This is the principal difference between it and most state constitutions. One you can slip into your coat pocket, the other needs a Radio Flyer Wagon to get from one room to the next. While not easy, amending a state constitution is easy enough that many of them, like Florida’s, seem to have as many amendments as Carter’s has liver pills. Get a strong feeling about something, enough signatures, some money to make your case, and on the ballot it goes.
While brevity is to be admired it brings with it its own set of problems. The United States Constitution tells us what the amendment process is, but it oddly stops some would say before it is finished. We know how to call a constitutional convention. We don’t know how to run one. Thus if the requisite number of states come together to call a convention let us say on election law, we have one. But is that all we have? There is no direction, an so far no court tests to tell us the answer to that one. Thus we could call a convention on the Electoral College and end up having a group of delegates put abortion, or defense spending, or voting law up for discussion and vote. In fact, a convention might end with legislation passed on all manner of subjects except what the convention was called for. That’s a mighty big gamble. I say don’t take it.
I do say though the elections in this country need to be fixed, not in the old fashioned sense but in the coherency sense. To me the most incoherent aspect of election law is gerrymandering. Save me some key pounding and do yourselves some educational good by looking up Gov. Gerry and his sneaky-brilliant idea for his party to hold on to power.
We have election districts that look like Rorschach tests. Some are fat, some are short, some are skinny and tall. A few look like snakes. They are all sinister. Yet the Founding Father’s told us they should all pretty much look alike. So why don’t they? Good ole political cunning. Many of you I’m sure have gone to last year’s voting place to find you are no longer in that district. Many of you have read stories how state legislatures after every census sit down and doodle into reality election maps favoring their party for the next ten years. Then the courts get involved. Sometimes there is resolution, but it comes after the next election. Sometimes it comes quickly but the implementation doesn’t. And, on occasion, it goes right. Is this any way to run an election in a democracy? Nope.
Another thought that troubles me is habits one brings to this country from another home. We are seeing the “browning” of America. Nothing wrong with that. Were it not for immigration, I’d be in a Russian jail somewhere. My problem is that many of today’s immigrants come from countries where the resolution of so many problems is taking to the street. There is nothing wrong with that either. We do it here. However, there seems to be a lot of violence brought to the street; it almost seems reflexive. Does it get people’s attention? Yes. Does it get a lot of people hurt and arrested for trying to exercise their freedom of speech? Yes.
One of the purposes of the Electoral College is to take a very close election and make it not nearly so close. You may say it is sleight of hand. It was designed to keep leaders’ heads off of spikes. On the other hand, Americans have been abiding by the system, with its faults for centuries. If our new citizens don’t have or want to live in a staid democracy but one where the winner is the winner, either by 50 votes or 5 million there may be more violence in the streets. Right now we seem to have enough of that though compared even to European democracies our election demonstrations seem a bit toady. But I’m ok with that too. People hear each other better when the decibel level is low.
To me, it seems the least damaging and most effective way of protecting our precious system is to follow the rules set in the constitution, heighten the citizen’s knowledge of state legislative electoral hanky panky during census years, don’t quail before the use of the courts, and keep the pressure on. We’ve seen the power that can be brought to bear to protect the right to vote or a woman’s right to choose. The vast majority of the country favors abortion laws, though with some restrictions. We need to fight against the aborting of elections the way we do against the aborting of woman’s right, or anyone else’s for that matter–at least from my perspective.
Some are didactic, some or exploring, some are humorous and others near nonsense. This one expresses concern. All of Bill Gralnick’s blogs are available at http//:www. atleastfrommyperspective.net
Tonight along with “Read: It’s good for both of us,” let’s add, “Think! It’s good for all of us”