Citizenship, Free Society

The Electoral College – essential and relevant

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

As we look at the polls, the argument over the Electoral College raises its head again. My wife mentioned this to me the other evening and stated the argument succinctly. The Electoral College is a remnant of a time when we did not have an informed democracy. That “our Democracy” has advanced beyond those days and there is no reason to have the EC.

There is the argument, pure and simple. I was informed that just because the founders felt this way is no reason to stick with that system. I replied that there was a reason for my position and I can explain it. It does not matter which candidate wins the popular or electoral vote. And I am not driven by democracy as such—the dictatorship of fifty percent plus one is still a dictatorship.

Benjamin Franklin, who apparently slept through much of the Constitutional Convention occasionally awaking to make a pithy remark, is reported to have had an encounter in which a woman asked whether the Convention had produced a monarchy or a democracy. His reply: “A republic, madame, if you can keep it.”

There were several proposals regarding the selection of the Executive. One was selection by the legislative branch, another by popular vote, another by the Governors. And the compromise was the electoral college. The idea was to balance population with representation of the States, from whom the united States derived its existence and powers. By giving each state a vote in the electoral college equal to its number of Senators and Representatives, the small states were not neglected.

Those favoring the idea of a national democracy rather than a federal constitutional republic see the states as irrelevant—or at best a laboratory for national policy. Those from the District of Columbia complain that their votes count less than those in Wyoming—I did not ever vote on giving electoral votes to DC and would not be upset if they were repealed. The fact is, that with both the popular vote and the electoral vote the current president was elected by those residing in less than ten percent of the landmass of the United States.

It is a token of the Republic that we still have an electoral college, that we still make a distinction of states. As long as we can do this, there is hope that we may recapture the Republic and our basic rights.

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Citizenship

Goodbye federalism

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

As I have been re-reading Madison’s notes as edited by Solberg I have picked up on some details that the 23 year old college senior (slow learner) missed. In fact, I would recommend a re-read of a lot of stuff as an adult—you’d be amazed at what holds up and what does not.

But I digress—as most of my friends and relative note…often. Reading Madison’s notes on the federal convention reveals a lot. Many of the debates are still unsettled from day one. What are we as a nation. Do we have a general, national government or a federal republic? I can argue it both ways as my old hero Harold Fatzer did on occasion when he was chosen (by rotation) to write a majority opinion against which he had voted—his majority was solid and well thought out but his dissent was masterful, logical and chiding of the majority. I can write a legal paper on the textual federalism of the Constitution. I fervently support a federal republic and believe the national government has done more to destroy than protect.

I am writing this about the fact and not the law. The Constitution of the United States is regarded as antiquated. Franklin D Roosevelt wrote to Samuel B. Hill, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on July 6, 1935, stating, “I hope your committee will not permit doubts as to constitutionality, however reasonable, to block the suggested legislation.” I did not find a quote for his reference to the Constitution as a “quaint 18th century document,” but the sentiment fits with his attitude toward Congress and the Supreme Court. And I would posit that most in elective office agree.

What Hamilton and a number of people at the Convention preferred was a national government—some went as far as to propose the elimination of states. At that point even Madison was in favor of a stronger central government than he was after persuasion by Jefferson during ratification. The argument was that the states were a roadblock to a strong (read militarily powerful) nation. And of course the states were a hindrance to commerce—actually California does not recognize the commerce clause when it comes to firearms and the Ninth Circuit says fine.

If I end up interspersing current events with this it is that the same forces are at work today and this is about where we are. There is no provision in the Constitution for a national police force. The federal government has 150,000 “law enforcement” personnel which essentially constitute a standing army within our borders while the natural defense of society—the militia of the people—is further infringed. George Mason who drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights wrote in Section 13: “That a well-regulated militia, or composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” The Department of Homeland Security has become a power unto itself and has voided much of what is left of federalism. Does this bother the electorate—hint, the candidates are both believers in national government. As Clinton and Bush gave up their defense of their gubernatorial powers when they arrived at the juncture of New York and Pennsylvania Avenues, so too will Romney if elected.

The arguments ranged back and forth on the merits of democratic election versus a republic. And at the Convention, there was a compromise. We are told today by those who wish a more powerful and intrusive government that compromise is not a bad thing. The Senate was to be selected by the legislatures of the states as a bone to the republicans. The fear was that a complete democracy would endanger the rights of all. As the growth of democracy gained power in the 19th Century, the Progressives manipulated the Populists into assenting to their power grab and the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913 leaving the Senate of the United States unaccountable to those states they represent.

The situation we are in now—a national, central and unaccountable government—is not a failure of democracy but rather the natural consequence of democracy. It arises out of a public school system which has, as its primary mission, the indoctrination of the population in the current political system. This sets them up to accept the demagoguery they became acquainted with in school. Unfortunately the progressives have control of education regardless of who holds the government through the NEA and AFT.

The document remains but the reality is different. The courts and Congress cannot control the Executive because they do not have the will. This is not a new phenomenon of the Clinton-Bush-Obama years. Andrew Jackson once said, “Mr Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

More quotes:

“I took the Canal Zone and let Congress debate about me.” Theodore Roosevelt whose 1912 campaign made suggestions about the need to revise the Constitution to give the central government more power.

““The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution, – it will be from no lack of constitutional powers on its part, but only because the President has the nation behind him, and the Congress has not.” Woodrow Wilson who believed there was a “transcendent constitution” that superseded the dead written document.

So we are here with a national rather than a federal government that Republicans and Democrats alike are comfortable with.

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Citizenship, Education

Antique Roman

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

 

Never believe it.
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.
Here’s yet some liquor left. – Horatio in Hamlet act V

It takes awhile to find that line though it rings true to me—it always has and yet it is not found in the memorable quotes because it is not “profound” to English lit professors. I admit to having not read the play itself since high school, following the admonition of my Shakespeare scholar father to watch rather than read.

Why I relate to the specific line is that I, too, am more antique (republican) Roman than 21st Century progressive American. The Roman republic was created when Lucius Junius Brutus defeated the tyrant Lucius Tarquinus Superbus (the Proud) and ended the monarchy in 509 BCE. From this republic which was defended by blood—Brutus watched the execution of his own sons for attempting to restore the monarchy. During the Republic 509-44 BCE the people of Rome began referring to themselves as Citizens and at Brutus’ insistence took an oath:

Omnium primum avidum novae libertatis populum, ne postmodum flecti precibus aut donis regiis posset, iure iurando adegit neminem Romae passuros regnare.
First of all, by swearing an oath that they would suffer no man to rule Rome, it forced the people, desirous of a new liberty, not to be thereafter swayed by the entreaties or bribes of kings.

We have never, since the beginning of the American Republic, been required to take such an oath although we insist on school children repeating a mindless pledge to a flag that was written by a socialist minister and used to enforce a belief in a unitary democracy.

At any rate, the antique Romans believed in defending the Republic but not giving power to a king or a dictator. Unfortunately, as time progressed the Senate allowed generals their way and was happy with conquest. While maintaining the trappings of republicanism, the actual form of government that began to develop was an empire. Cato the Elder, Rome’s Joe Lieberman, would end his senate speeches on any topic with ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam or “in my opinion we should destroy Carthage.” While Republicans would counter this, in 146 BCE Rome destroyed the Phoenician port of Carthage and the die was cast about a century before Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

At any rate, Caesar was content to keep the fiction of a Republic—the Senate made him dictator for life in 44 BCE. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a shorter term than expected as Marcus Junius Brutus, descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus, led the assassination that got him mention in Dante and Shakespeare. With Gaius out of the way, his nephew Octavian defeated Antonius and Brutus to become Caesar Augustus. Plutarch used the term “fall of the Republic” rather than “rise of the Empire.”

I am more of an Antique Roman than a 21st Centuty progressive. I am a citizen of the Republic.

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