THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 6):
We have some work to do to make our constitution serve our needs in the 21st Century.
There were major problems with the constitution when it was adopted. A few things have been repaired along the way. We got rid of slavery, adopted a definition of citizenship, and made the senate a popularly elected body. Those changes were some of the most significant. There have been others.
But the Trump presidency has brought other problems to my attention that we have traditionally overlooked either because the parties that benefit can’t be persuaded to go along with a change or because we believe that citizens of good will won’t exploit them.
There is, of course, the Electoral College standing between the citizens and majority rule. In the past, candidates who won Electoral College majorities in spite of coming in second in the popular vote, at least showed enough respect for rule of law and our the business of government that we were able to limp along through the years and preserve our institutions.
Not so in 2016. Our minority rule 45th president dedicated his administration to the destruction of democratic governance as it has been practiced since the George Washington administration. He behavior on January 6, 2021 was a desperate effort to keep himself in office.
Trump has had his aides poring over the Constitution looking for loopholes he could exploit. The run up to the certification of the electoral vote had him trying to drop a wrench into the works at every opportunity. Every step presented him another opportunity to have the people’s voice overruled. Judges saved the day.
But there is danger in relying on a single branch to provide the safeguards. Over time through poor appointments, even corrupt appointments, the courts can also be subverted.
Some options for potential changes that would be helpful, but difficult to accomplish:
- elimination of the unit rule in allocating each state’s electoral votes
- better yet, elimination of the Electoral College
- address gerrymandering to make it illegal, establish a fair method or drawing congressional district boundaries that is fair, respects communities of interest, and keeps districts geographically compact
- establish terms for court appointments, rather than for life
- reconsider the structure of the Senate; is it necessary to pay respect to the former sovereign status of states? It has been over 230 years from the adoption of the Constitution. Could it be time to govern as though this were a unified nation?
- In consideration of the previous item, do away with equal representation in the upper house.
- The list could go on.
Thanks to No. 45, we have been prodded to think about these things that never seemed so urgent before.