When the several states joined forces to become the “United States”, they did it by signing a contract with one another; they’d cede out control of certain issues that the states couldn’t handle as efficiently and effectively as the states to a central, national government. The contract was called a Constitution,.
Under the terms of that contract government had certain enumerated powers; the states had some more; The People had the rest.
As part of that contract, that central government had checks and balances:
- The power of the chief executive and their branch was limited; appropriations and foreign treaties could only be approved by Congress; a Supreme Court could constrain all three of their ambitions – or, put another way, hold them to the contract.
- The lower chamber would be directly elected. The upper chamber would represent states, not a direct nose-count of the population.
- The chief executive would be chosen by a system that would pare back a little of the power of the more populous areas. Furthermore, the entire system was predicated on the idea that the chief executive, while an important and powerful position, would not be a “winner-take-all” choice as far as governent power when: small states wouldn’t “lose’ because they had the Senate to temper the passions of the mob; larger population centers weren’t disenfranchised because the combination of the directly-elected House and usually-directly-elected President counterbalanced the, er, counterbalancing effect of the Senate and the electoral college. You weren’t just voting for a President; you were voting for a complete package at the Federal level.
That’s the system that made this country what it is. For worse or, mostly, better.
Lately, though – and it’s hardly the first time, even in my lifetime, although the dumb power of raw numbers seems to make it louder this time – there are those talking about “making the country more representative”; they propose:
- Eliminating the Electoral College, electing the president by popular vote.
- Making the Senate a popularly-elected body, or eliminating it altogether.
- Adding term limits to the Supreme Court, or allowing Presidents greater leeway to change its composition.
These proposed changes to the contract accompany many other more or less drastic proposals to alter the fabric of this nation; various guttings of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments are all current events these days. And for many of those constitutional guarantees, the fact this nation’s contract enforces a sort of gridlock designed to constrain the passions of the dumb masses is the only thing standing in the way.
So let me make a proposal – and when I say “proposal”, I guess I’m shading more toward “manifesto”.
A Not At All Modest Proposal
Go ahead. Change the Electoral College, the Senate, the SCOTUS. Jam down anything you want, in fact.
But consider those changes an abrogation of the contract under which this nation was formed.
California, New York, New Engalnd, Illinois and the Mid-Atlantic states can form their own parliamentary democracy with popular president and enshrined powers of the majority. They can basically turn their nation into a glorified city government, like that of MInneapolis (or Chicago, Newark, Baltimore, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle or Saint Paul) with aircraft carriers, giving all power to the most populous areas, essentially making the less populous areas, the Inland Empires and Southern Illinois’ and upstate New Yorks taxed without representation – and with the contract now null and void, the rest of the nation can be free to choose something less stupid.
But you can not have one without the other. One party to a contract can not force a change in contract terms on the other parties without a negotiation – and that includes the freedom to walk away. Not legally. Not with any talk of forcing everyone to remain in a contract that’s been abrogated, rendered null and void.
I’m fine either way. But nowhere in between.
One or the other.
It’s worth having a knock-down, drag-out national debate over. Wars have been fought over much less. Let’s try not to do that.