Constitutional Illiteracy is at Epidemic Proportions

I ran across this column yesterday in the Washington Post that was written by Anne Applebaum. Here’s a little background on Ms. Applebaum from Wikipedia:

Applebaum was born in Washington, D.C. Her parents are Harvey M. Applebaum, a partner in the Covington and Burling law firm, and Elizabeth (Bloom) Applebaum, of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Applebaum has stated that she was brought up in a “very reformed” Jewish family.[5] Her ancestors came to America from what is now Belarus.[6] She graduated from the Sidwell Friends School (1982). She earned a BA (summa cum laude) in history and literature at Yale University[7] (1986), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. As a Marshall Scholar at the London School of Economics she earned a master’s degree in international relations (1987).[8] She studied at St Antony’s College, Oxford, before moving to Warsaw, Poland, in 1988 as a correspondent for The Economist.

Obviously an accomplished woman and seemingly well educated. With her top notch education and her life’s experience how is it possible that she is so ignorant when it comes to the U.S. Constitution? I surmise it’s because she is in fact well educated on the Constitution but that her education was based on bad information and/or propaganda.

The third paragraph is where the problem starts. Here it is:

Thanks to the quirks of our Constitution and the vagaries of our politics, the result is that all three branches of the U.S. government are dominated by minorities. In the White House, we have, for the second time in less than two decades, a president who did not win the popular vote. He was elected thanks to the electoral college, a system originally designed to block demagogues, but which no longer does. Electoral college delegates are not independent, as they once were; instead, they vote as their state party chairman decides. The effect is to skew the result.

The Electoral College system is not designed to block demagogues. Instead the system is designed to temper the popular vote and prevent corrupt foreign powers from meddling in the election. No electors can be from the Senate or House of Representatives and are directly elected by the voters in each state. She is correct in that the electors are no longer independent. That is the fault of corruption within our political parties that rigged the system to their advantage in all but two states (Nebraska and Maine are the only ones with independent electors). Originally electors were to be appointed by each state legislature in any manner they chose (that’s where the problem came in allowing political parties to change from appointment to direct election). If there is any change to be made to the Electoral College system it would be to return it to independence where electors have to vote in the manner that their district demands and not the mass population of the state. With the “winner-take-all” system small congressional districts are denied their voice because of the overwhelming populations in the major cities.

This next paragraph is just a gross misunderstanding of what the Senate is and who it is supposed to represent.

For many years now the Senate, our senior legislative body, has been grotesquely out of line, too. The 40 million people who live in California get the same two votes in the Senate as the 740,000 people of Alaska. The 20 million people of New York state get the same two votes as the 755,000 of North Dakota. A system created in the 18th century, originally designed to protect smaller states against the larger ones, now has the opposite effect. The inhabitants of rural America have a far louder voice in Congress than the inhabitants of urban America, well out of proportion to their numbers. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

As originally designed the Senate is not supposed to represent the people (that’s the function of the House of Representatives) instead the Senate’s roll is to represent each state. This is the reason why there are only two senators from each state. Each state has an EQUAL voice in the government and is supposed to act as a more deliberative body that will slow down the passions of the people in order to prevent mob rule.  Senators were also supposed to be chosen by state legislatures and not directly by the people.  Ms. Applebaum, with her Yale education, surely must know this. How can someone be so ignorant of the role of the Senate?!?

Now we move on to the roll of the Supreme Court.

The minority-dominated Senate and the minority-elected president have now chosen Justice Kavanaugh. And, thanks to his appointment, our Supreme Court may well cease to reflect the views of the majority, too.

The Supreme Court is not supposed to reflect ANY views. They are supposed to interpret the law as passed by Congress and signed by the President. That’s why the judiciary is independent and appointed for life. They can remove themselves from public opinion and decide disputes based on the law and not on the opinion of the majority of the people. The judiciary, as a branch of government, was also originally viewed as the weakest branch of the three. The reason it was seen as the weakest is because the judiciary had no power to pass legislation nor any power to spend money. They were only to judge the application of the laws. Only in modern times did the court obtain extraordinary power and that’s why political groups that can’t get what they want through legislation turn to the courts to try to bend precedent in their direction.

Tyranny of the majority was a definite concern and it is why the founders of the nation made our form of government a republic and NOT a democracy. A republic was thought to take a more cool and calm approach to government and less susceptible to the whims of the majority.

When they were writing it, the authors of our Constitution were worried about the tyranny of the majority, not the tyranny of a minority. But two centuries after the fact, they have achieved the opposite effect. If the coming midterm elections do not reverse at least one and preferably both of the houses of Congress, that minority will have two years to entrench its power further, through gerrymandering, voter registration laws, court appointments, even changes to electoral law. And then all bets are off as to whether minority rule can ever be reversed.

What Ms. Applebaum says in the paragraph above is utter nonsense. If anything, the last election included, shows the system is still working as designed. If we didn’t have the electoral college system in place the election would have been decided by the 100 largest counties in the nation (which include most of the major cities). Most of the rest of the country would have been totally ignored and disenfranchised.

There are 3,100 counties in the United States. Hillary Clinton won only 500 to President Trump’s 2,600.  In my opinion, if the Electoral College didn’t abide by state’s winner-take-all electoral votes system, Hillary Clinton’s loss would have been massive. President Trump was extremely lucky to have pulled off the win that he did given that more people are moving to cities than rural areas.

It’s fine to feel like a loser when you’ve lost. But it’s not okay for someone, who is supposed to be highly educated, to spread such drivel.

Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post


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