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Understanding and Facing the Autocratic Threat to Our Government

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  • Understanding and Facing the Autocratic Threat to Our Government

    Every government is perpetually affected by two competing forces. One is driven by our better angels and one is driven by greed and lust for power. One leads us to democracy; the other force seeks autocratic government where the will of the people is often denied. Democracy is at one end of the scale and autocracy is at the other end.

    The Democracy Index compares the level of democracy in countries around the world. Our ranking has recently declined and we are now 6th best among the G-7 nations.

    We call our government a democracy (more accurately called a representative democracy or a democratic republic). A democracy continuously tries to improve itself. Our democracy, after over two centuries became the ‘shining city on a hill’. But as Ben Franklin intended with his comment ‘a (democratic) republic if you can keep it’, democracy is fragile.

    Our better angels have sustained our democracy through logic, knowledge, science, deliberate reasoning, and balance of power in our government. The forces against democracy rely on the passion of the voters and put party and special interests over the interests of the country.

    Our Founders created a path to the ‘shining city on the hill’ by tapping into the knowledge and experience of enlightened minds of their time. They considered a long list of failures and successes in other countries. Four documents were critical in this effort; the Declaration of Independence, Federalist #10, Federalist #51, and Washington’s Farewell Address.

    The Declaration of Independence establishes that we are all created equal and that the power of our government is derived from the consent of the governed. If we are all equal then the document strongly implies that gerrymandering, which gives one set of people more power than the other is wrong. And it strongly implies that the government must have consent of the majority people in order to make laws regarding background checks for gun purchases, laws regarding abortion, and laws regarding campaign financing.

    Federalist 10 details the reasons that mob rule, driven by passion instead of deliberate reasoning, will lead to government failure and autocracy. Emphasis on cultural differences (culture wars) is associated with passion.

    Federalist #51 details the need for balance of power in government. Branches of government need to be equal and separate. When one party in the United States Senate controls the ideology of our Supreme Court, the balance is disrupted.

    If we wish to reverse the trend we must successfully counter the forces that move toward autocracy.

    Two flaws in our ‘flawed democracy’ stand out. Our election system is flawed. We have had several ‘minority’ Presidents. Gerrymandering has packed the House with up to 25 additional seats from one party. Thanks to Citizens United, seats in the Senate are sometimes purchased by the party with the highest cash infusion.

    The Supreme Court has become dependent on the will of one party. Judges have been vetted on their willingness to do the bidding of that party rather than upon their overall jurisprudence. This party dominance of the court has reduced trust in our government and has disrupted the balance of power that the Founders envisioned. Our Declaration of Independence railed against King George for this very reason; he had made judges dependent upon his (authoritarian) will.

    History has shown that our country has been successful and history has shown that, on the average, new amendments have been adopted every 17 years (after the Bill of Rights was adopted). It has been 51 years since the last amendment was initiated and adopted. Amending the Constitution at this time is worthy of discussion.

    Two new amendments are worthy of consideration.

    Our Founders did not anticipate the quirks of population distribution that cause a relatively high propensity for electing a minority President. And they could not anticipate the effects computer generated gerrymandering. They could also not envision a time where one political party would dominate the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court for over 50 years. We should consider correcting these flaws in order to increase confidence in our government and achieve fairness in a fashion that was intended by the Founders.

    The election reform amendment codifies the right of the federal government to make election laws regarding the election of the President and denies the right of the states to interfere with the election process. Specifically, states cannot refuse to or delay certification of the electoral votes.

    This amendment will reform campaign financing, change national elections to Saturday, eliminate gerrymandering, mandate that the states stay within a range of options for drop-boxes, early voting, absentee ballots, voting hours, and availability of polling stations, and reform the Electoral College.

    Gerrymandering will be eliminated and involve a detailed, computer-driven set of parameters that maximizes fairness to each political party, considers geo-political and geographic boundaries, and minimizes the exterior perimeter of each district.

    Each state will have two electoral votes cast for the candidate that received the most votes in that state plus one vote for each congressional district won. This will eliminate swing states causing candidates to visit more states during the campaign. Mathematically, having a ‘minority President’ will be far less likely. States’ electoral votes will be cast virtually there will be no physical electors. Only court challenges to the electoral vote count will be allowed. Congress shall not decertify the vote without a court-based reason.

    Saturday elections will make it easier for more people to get to the polls.

    This amendment denies corporate personhood and overturns Citizens United leaving election laws as they would have been if the minority position had prevailed in that court decision.

    In the rare occurrence where the electoral result in a tie (at 269 today), the next President would be the one with the highest popular vote count. Throwing the election into the House gives the small states and advantage. This was never intended by our Founders.

    If no candidate receives a majority (270 today), then the top two recipients of electoral votes (ties settled by those with the most popular votes) would face off in a runoff election in those districts that did not submit all of their votes for one or the other of the two top electoral vote getting candidates. Those districts may have submitted elector votes for a third party candidate or may have failed (for any reason) to certify their electoral votes. This process takes away the bias of nefarious players.

    Giving and advantage to one political party is the first step toward losing the right to vote.It results in anger and distrust of government and may lead to bullying tactics by the party with the advantage. It’s kind of a like a poker game where the one with the most chips can use those extra chip to continue to dominate the opponents. Autocratic governments have more chips than their constituents and bullying is a normal part of those governments. And it can certainly be argued that Citizens United gives the bullies a bigger chip stack.

    The term limits amendment mandates that one Supreme Court justice be appointed every other year and all Supreme Court justices have an 18 year term limit,.

    In addition to term limits the method of appointment would be altered. The President shall nominate a judge by June 1st of the odd numbered year. The Senate shall have an opportunity to approve or reject the nomination and subsequent nominations if necessary. A full Senate vote is mandated and shall result in approval or rejection. That part has will not change significantly. The change is that that part will have an expiration date, October 31st. If no nominated judge receives approval by October 31st, the United States Attorney General shall appoint the new judge to the Supreme Court from among the nominated judges. That appointment shall be made on November 1st. Neither the Senate majority leader nor the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee shall have an opportunity to block or delay the nomination. Hearings shall be held in a timely manner. The Senate will have adequate time to vet the nominees. Logically, the Senate will utilize their privilege before it expires. The new amendment strips some power from the Senate but, in practical terms, it allows the Senators to do the same job that they have done previously for over 200 years while preventing undemocratic obstruction by overly partisan Senate leaders.

    The 18 year term limits open the door to alternating dominance of the Supreme Court by different political ideologies. Although that may cause some rulings to change back and forth, this method is better than allowing nefarious pursuit of power by one political party to dominate the court for 50 years or more. Dominance of the court by one party smacks of biased judges and inappropriate influence of one branch of government over another branch. Note that the Declaration of Independence railed against biased judges. And 50 year dominance violates the separation of powers concept laid out in Federalist 51 written by James Madison.

    If one party becomes secure in the knowledge that it will maintain dominant influence on the Supreme Court then it will nominate judges that have a higher propensity for partisan rulings and judicial activism. Decades of dominance of the court leaves the country with an ingrained perspective regarding court actions and voters are less likely to punish the party that installed the biased judges.

    But if potential party influence in the court alternates over just a few years, voters would be more likely to see knee-jerk ideological changes and punish the party that put biased judges in place. As a result of the alternating party influence, judges on the court may be less biased.

  • #2
    I would like to discuss/debate points outlined here. If the guest would so kindly register and propose this to the National Floor 2022. The floor is open to proposals.


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    Who wrote Federalist Paper 85?