Constitutional Fairyland

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Another week, a new harvest of insane Democratic pre-electoral hobby horses. Various of the numberless swarm of presidential aspirants in that party have glibly chimed in with their views of how to modify American government to assure a permanent “progressive” majority. Gathering steam now are absurd ideas to side-step the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, lower the voting age to 16, and divide the political rubble heap of California into three or four states to create more Democratic senators.

All of this is nonsense, emanating from the same political fairyland as the 12-year elimination of carbon use and bovine flatulence. La Pasionaria Occasion assures us her Green New Deal will not lead to millions of unemployed as the leaders of organized leaders claim, but too a “reinvigorated workforce.” That is a (presumably) unintended recourse to Orwellian newspeak: involuntary unemployment is rarely reinvigorating.

Would-Be Rulers East and West
The bunk about the Electoral College is an attempt to subvert the basis of the American federal system. Little states such as Delaware and Rhode Island had the same number of senators as large states like Virginia (which then included West Virginia) and Pennsylvania, for the reason that their interests as states were just as significant as those of the large ones—and probably in need of even greater protection. (Philadelphia in 1787 was the second largest English-speaking city in the world, with 34,000 people, though a long way behind London, 20 times as populous.)

The champions of the project to negate the Electoral College recognize the practical impossibility of amending the U.S. Constitution for such a partisan measure. In practice, an amendment requires a two-thirds majority of each house of Congress and the concurrence of three quarters of the states, and evidently partisan measures have no chance of leaping these hurdles. Especially in this case, where all the states with fewer than ten electoral votes are effectively disenfranchised, the opposition of a majority of states could be assured in advance.

The detour proposed is that states determine that all their electoral votes shall be cast for whichever candidate receives the largest number of votes. In effect, the Democratic Party elders in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco want to take for themselves the power to overturn the verdict rendered by 20 or more states in all parts of the country. A federation equitably homogenizes the collective will of the whole country and balances out the great cities and the more thinly populated states, the regions, and the vastly differing socio-economic characters of the different states.

The whole idea is based on the false notion that the present system throws up presidents who receive fewer votes than their chief competitor. This has happened with John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson in 1824, Rutherford Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland in 1888, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 (if the Democratic votes in Alabama for Senator Byrd are not falsely awarded to Kennedy), in the Bush-Gore election of 2000, and the Trump-Clinton election of 2016. Calling upon small states to fall on their swords and put their votes where New Yorkers and Angelenos and Chicagoans want will not achieve the goal of “making every vote count” that is claimed. This is part of the leftist misspeak that holds, inter alia, that “pro-choice” means pro-choice when it really means pro-abortion, and that euthanasia is “death with dignity” and death from a wasting illness is not. (In general, suicide is not usually the most dignified way to die, though it can be. The point is that it should not be allowed the benefit of that phrase uncritically.)

If the advocates of eliminating the Electoral College really wanted the candidate who received the most votes to win (of course, JFK and LBJ would be no better known today than Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen), then they should advocate that there be, as in the French presidential system, a run-off between the top-two candidates where there is not a majority on the first round. In 2016, Trump, on the second ballot, would have taken most of the Libertarian votes and the McMullin third party votes in Utah, and Clinton would have taken most of the Greens . . .

And Trump still probably would have won.

Under this proposal to end the Electoral College, entire election campaigns would be conducted in the 25 or 30 largest metropolitan areas, altogether excluding states with fewer than 10 electoral votes: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming—27 states with 147 electoral votes. Why should these states waive their right to influence elections just to add to the political stature of such unworthies as Chuck Schumer, Kirsten (“I chose brave”) Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, and Rahm Emanuel? This is a greater enthronement of shabby bossism than ever prevailed in the piping days of Boss Tweed, Tammany Hall, and the Kelly-Daley years in Chicago, (which, with Lyndon Johnson’s skullduggery in Texas in 1960 led John F. Kennedy to say: “Thank God for a few honest crooks”).

Partisan Nostrums Disguised as Reforms
The court-packing scheme is completely spurious. There are three co-equal branches of government. Apart from deciding on the number of judges, nothing entitles the legislature to tinker with the composition of the Supreme Court. The current proposals to impose term limits, apportion appointments to each president, and so forth are just cruder forms of meddling than even FDR attempted by seeking to expand the court. He had won a colossal reelection victory, sweeping in huge congressional majorities behind him in 1936, and he still failed to add a few judges “to lighten case-loads.” (He did succeed in frightening the Supreme Court to be careful about invalidating his legislation, and ended up appointing seven of the nine justices.) On that occasion, the all-time heavyweight political champion of the country was rebuffed by his own congressional majorities, very loyal in almost all other matters. This proposal is just a suicide mission.

The rest of it—lowering the voting age and splitting California into several states—is just a naked partisan power grab. At times, the young were more Republican—and so was California when it was the state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. These things can change.

In pointing this out my intent is not to protect the Democrats from suffering from their tendency to believe that conditions in each state will be as they are now. My point is to protect a system that generally works well and has the legitimacy accorded it from 230 years unbroken practice, from the infantile tinkering of hacks like the egregious Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez.

All of these partisan nostrums aren’t reforms, they are just the less than righteous grumblings of people who thought they had durably gamed the system already after they watched in horror as this president dumped their apple-cart and lumped in the look-alike Republicans going through the motions with the Democratic winners who show their gratitude by going to the funerals of Republicans they defeated in presidential elections.

The Reagan legacy was squandered when George H. W. Bush allowed the charlatan Ross Perot to take 20 million mainly Republican votes, and we got the Clintons—“New Democrats,” who metamorphosed into the new normal, flat-lined Obama welfare state. It is clear from the tenor of the Democratic race this year that these wished for “reforms” are just another wheeze of the “OBushintons” to re-establish a permanent majority for their soft-left vote-harvesting declinism: the disintegration of the American state in equal opportunity self-denigration in favor of every aggrieved claimant group, foreign and domestic.

It won’t fly, and if these numberless, faceless candidates push any of this silliness, they will regret it. They are already like an awkward wave of people going over a minefield and detonating everything. At some point they are going to have to try to mount a serious campaign. Joe Biden, inadequate as he is, will make every Trump vote count, and will enable the Democrats to solemnize their electoral death with dignity.

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About Conrad Black

Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.