28 October 2020

Some Reflections on the (Fingers Crossed) Post Trump Era

I know Trump's defeat is not inevitable even now. Continue to fight. Work. Vote. But indulge me in a little "post Trump era" reflection. Short term there's lots to say long overdue policy, etc. and we will all need to think about and become engaged in those issues to make the new government, assuming there is one, actually fulfill their promise to act in our interests.
But I'm thinking longer term here for just a moment. If there is one serious constitutional lesson to take from the Trump era, it is that to avoid the hijacking of the entire government by an ideological cult, as has happened over the last 40 years culminating in the full takeover of the Supreme Court this week, from happening again, we need more than just popular vote of the president. We need three enormous structural reforms and we need to work assiduously with the long term goal of achieving them, however long it takes.
1. We need to explicitly curtail the powers of the presidency. No one person should have the ability to completely derail the values, enterprise, and direction of our society. The presidency was never intended to be an elected monarchy, which is how the rightists see it, quite openly. The Constitution contemplates an ADMINISTRATIVE (synonym for "executive") branch, which may involve itself in crafting compromises, and propose legislation, but which fundamentally and necessarily leaves the determination of policy to Congress. Folded into this should be the obviously necessary elimination of the Electoral College and the direct popular election of the president.
2. Congress needs to be EXPLICITLY reformed. So that rules cannot be hijacked by one party to completely control the deliberations and actions of the whole body, as McConnell has done to an unprecedented extent in the Senate. There should be VERY FEW, maybe zero, supermajority rules. And any member of either body should be able to propose and put to a vote legislation. There is no valid reason for rules that prevent this; they exist only to undemocratically consolidate power. And folded into THIS reform must be a reform of the representation of the Senate. In the original 13 states the largest was not much more than 10 times the population of the smallest. Now, it is over 40 times, and that means 40 million people have the same representation as half a million in the Senate. A sensible and simple reform, that would retain at least half the "state" representation in the original Constitution, would be to increase the Senate to 120, with only ONE per state allocated that way, and the other 70 being allocated to those states which by population are entitled to additional senators as proportional to population as possible.
3. Court reform. It simply cannot be tolerated that a faction can control the judiciary for decades through political machinations. Term limits, expanded courts, explicit ethical rules requiring recusal when a justice has made statements indicative of prejudice. And not just the Supreme Court. The ENTIRE judiciary should be expanded and reformed. This area of reform, it should be emphasized, is urgent, and, apart from term limits, CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED simply by legislation under the current Constitution. We need to strongly push our own party leaders to take this seriously and act on it immediately.
Thank you to anyone who's read all the way to here.

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