How much are the Framers to blame for our system’s political dysfunction?

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy

The U.S. Constitution, as amended and evolved 231 years after it was written, can be blamed for a great deal of the dysfunction that currently plagues our system. But I’m not sure how fair it is to blame it all on the document or on the rich white guys who wrote it.

Kevin Baker, a long-time contributor to Harper’s Magazine, makes a bit of a Framer-blaming case in an essay in the current issue.

Here’s the link to his piece, titled “The Crisis of Our Constitution.”

Harper’s limits online access for nonsubscribers. And you could do worse than subscribing to the great old monthly publication launched in 1850. But I think if you haven’t read any Harper’s piece online for a while, you can get at least this one, if you want to see some fairly high-class Framer-bashing.

You might guess, and you wouldn’t be wrong, that the first few aspects of our constitutional system (as evolved) that get bashed are those that brought us Trump and gerrymandering and the permanent malapportionment of power in the U.S. Senate and foolishness of the Electoral College system. Baker does a great job of lining them up and shooting them down.

I’ve spilled a lot of ink (and now pixels) on Constitution-bashing myself, but I try not to cross the line into blaming the Framers, who were limited not only by the unprecedented nature of their task, but also by the political realities they faced. I’m not sure Baker supplies enough of that sympathy.

The three-fifths compromise, for example (according to which slave states were given credit for 3/5 of a person for each slave when calculating how many seats the state would get in the House of Representatives), is hideous, as were several other provisions designed to protect the interests of slave owners.

But the Constitution stood no chance of being ratified in a country divided almost evenly between slave states and free states, if the white males who completely controlled the South thought the Constitution would end the abomination of legalized human bondage.

Also, many other suboptimal aspects of our system that are rooted in our Constitution were not even intended by the Framers. Take gerrymandering, which gets considerable attention from Baker, and which certainly deserves bashing. But it wasn’t invented by the Framers, nor foreseen by them. It developed after the Constitution was ratified. This horrible, anti-democratic, hyper-partisan practice — certainly an affront to the notion that all votes should be given equal weight — was unknown and unintended when the Framers came up with their plan.

(Ironically, one of the fathers of gerrymandering and the guy for whom it was named was Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who was at the Constitutional Convention, refused to sign the final document and campaigned against its ratification, but later figured out how to take advantage of the power over district boundaries to favor one’s own party.)

Baker also attacks what might be called the permanent and most extreme malapportionment in our system, the equal representation of all states in the U.S. Senate. But Baker seems to understand that however deeply undemocratic and violative of the basic principle of one-person-one-vote that provision is, the Constitution would never have been ratified if that guarantee to the small states had not been included. (And I suppose if I were a small state, back then, I would have understood their concern.)

I’ll just do one more, and then saddle up my high horse and ride away. The one more is the ridiculous Electoral College system. But, here again, it’s not fair to blame the Framers for what it has become.

There were no national political parties at the time of the framing, nor were the Framers able to foresee the takeover of the entire political system by two big parties that would soon develop. They wanted an elected national executive, but, in the absence of national parties, how would that person be chosen (after George Washington, the one unifying leader of that moment, passed from the scene)?

According to Baker, the original vision was that the voters of each congressional district would elect someone from their district as an elector, perhaps a member of the elite who had the confidence of the masses and who was familiar with the national scene in a way that ordinary voters were not. Each of those electors would vote for two men (of course they would be men, and white ones), both of whom they thought were worthy of consideration to be president (and at least one of whom had to be from a state other than the elector’s own).

All of those named by such electors would be pooled together in the capital. And, if anyone was named on a majority of those ballots, that guy would be president and the runner-up would be vice president. If no one received a majority of the votes for president, the final choice would be made by the U.S. House from among the top three finishers on that electoral ballot.

If that sounds crazy to you, fine. But that was the plan. If you had no national parties, and if you didn’t want the House to choose the president directly, the crazy elector plan perhaps has some appeal. But it basically never happened as envisioned.

By the time Washington cleared the scene, the first national two-party system had developed, and those two parties rigged the game (without amending the Constitution) so that whichever party controlled a state, they could channel all of that state’s electoral votes to that party’s presidential candidate. That practice basically changed the system (without amending it) to what we have had ever since, the whole state-by-state winner-take-all-electoral-votes-and-electors-are-just-party-functionaries voting for their party’s nominee deal. It’s bad, but it bears little similarity to the system the Framers thought they were framing. It’s hard to hold the Framers accountable for what happened, but you can if you want to.

One cool detail I had never read before, until I read it in Baker’s piece in piece was this:

Hamilton and Madison (the two biggest players in writing the Constitution) both were shocked to see the whole system taken over by political parties that generally gave all of a state’s electoral votes to the winning candidate. Hamilton even penned an amendment designed to compel voters to choose electors district by district.

But that amendment went nowhere because the framers made the threshold for amendments so high,that we can’t even get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified.

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Comments (72)

  1. Submitted by Marc Post on 12/20/2018 - 10:29 am.

    While I am no fan of the Electoral College, it does NOT require a change to the constitution to make it work in a democratic way. It has failed our country too many times.

    Each state can determine how to cast its electoral votes. Not all states are winner-take-all.

    National Popular Vote is working toward a goal of making the popular vote for President a reality: It’s been enacted into law in 12 states.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 11:36 am.

      It’s not Constitutional to bypass the EC. Also, popular vote would destroy what’s left of this country and its elections. Smaller, less populated States would no longer have any say in national elections. Politicians would only campaign in the most populous states. The entire Midwest could be negated by California in a popular vote.

      • Submitted by Marc Post on 12/20/2018 - 02:03 pm.

        Your response is utter nonsense.

        “It’s not Constitutional to bypass the EC.”

        The EC is NOT being bypassed in any way. Had you followed the link and read for yourself, you would know that. (Give it a try.) Each State determines how electoral votes are cast. That’s what’s in the Constitution.

        “Also, popular vote would destroy what’s left of this country and its elections. Smaller, less populated States would no longer have any say in national elections.”

        That’s just flat out wrong. The ONLY election in this country that is not done by the popular vote is for President. Democracy is when all votes count equally. That’s what the national popular vote is about. It’s about honoring the vote of every person. Please explain how making sure every vote counts will “destroy what’s left of this country and its election”.

        “Politicians would only campaign in the most populous states. The entire Midwest could be negated by California in a popular vote.”

        Nonsense. The opposite is true. If the popular vote mattered, then every vote from every State would matter, not just Ohio, Florida and California. Candidates would have to campaign in every State because every vote would count.

        It’s a fantasy to think that a “popular vote would destroy what’s left of this country”. It’s called democracy. If anything, it will save this country.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/20/2018 - 11:45 pm.

          People who want to preserve the Electoral College in its current form make a conceptual error: They talk of “large states dominating small states,” which means that they still think in terms of states, when a national popular vote would make states irrelevant.

          It is precisely the Electoral College that creates the fiction of “red states” and “blue states.” In fact, all states contain both Republicans and Democrats, and if you are an adherent of the party that is not in the majority in your state, you may as well not vote for president. Such is the fate of Democrats in Utah or Republicans in Massachusetts.

          • Submitted by Marc Post on 12/21/2018 - 10:37 am.

            Spot on. The whole red/blue map thing is a delusion.

          • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/21/2018 - 02:57 pm.

            Nonsense. CA alone would negate all the votes in most of the Midwest. Politicians would only concentrate on the largest populations because their campaign dollars and message would the best return on investment. Why would any politician go to South Dakota when Los Angeles alone has roughly 10 times the population?

            Why should CA, NY, TX and FL get to be the ones electing presidents? Talk about disenfranchising voters.

            • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/21/2018 - 11:37 pm.

              You’re still thinking in terms of states and electoral votes. That’s the kind of distorted thinking that the Electoral College creates.

              Look at the electoral map. California’s rural areas are largely Republican, and all the Midwestern states have blue areas, mainly, but not entirely, in the cities.

              Neither California nor any other state can “swamp” the rest, simply because every single state in the union, without exception, contains both Republicans and Democrats. Similarly, the major cities can’t “swamp” the states, because all cities contain both Republicans and Democrats.

              My neighborhood consistently votes 80% DFL, but it is still about 20% Republican. Even parts of New York City went for Trump, although most people know what a con man he is.

              Let me repeat, Mr. Barnes. In a popular vote system, it wouldn’t matter where you lived. Your vote would count exactly the same as every other American’s vote, no more, no less.

              Under the current system, it is theoretically possible to win the presidency with only states east of the Mississippi, because winning the presidency requires an easily computable, fixed number: 270 electoral votes.

              Under a popular vote, we would not know the total needed to win until everyone from Maine to Hawaii had voted. We

              Under the present system, candidates ignore the small states, considering them either reliably blue or reliably red, and make countless visits to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Florida, and other large potential swing states.

              In a direct popular vote, candidates would have no idea who was going to put them over the top, since states would be irrelevant. They’d have to pay attention to North Dakota and Delaware, hoping to woo enough voters from the non-majority party to add to their national tally.

        • Submitted by Edward Thompson on 12/26/2018 - 02:49 pm.

          It is not accurate to say that the EC is usurping democracy, because in 48 of the 50 states, they elect their Electors by popular vote, making each of these individual states “democratic” (one person, one vote). Only Maine and Nebraska “pick” their electors, from the stock of House district winners (who, themselves, had won by a direct popular vote).

          Also, it bears mentioning that populist ‘direct democracy’ has a bad track record, almost ruining Brazil and Argentina in the 1950s (under Vargas and Peron, respectively), and Tanzania in the 1980s (under Nyerere). Single-party rule was in effect, because opposition parties were crushed, and these economies deteriorated quickly.

          A constitutional republic, with semi-independent states and a “federal” government (not a “national” one), helps protect against such democratic (‘Rule of the Mob’) catastrophes. Let’s not have short memories.

          • Submitted by Edward Thompson on 12/26/2018 - 03:42 pm.

            Correction: I should have said that Maine and Nebraska have “district plans” where district winners–no matter how many in each district voted–get the equivalent electoral votes. Their system is only fully “democratic” (one person, one vote) on the district level, not on a statewide level–as is true of all other states.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/20/2018 - 05:42 pm.

      If the states wish to voluntarily apportion their EC votes according to percentage of votes cast, they can. In fact, I highly encourage leftist dominated states to do so at the very next opportunity.

  2. Submitted by David Moseman on 12/20/2018 - 10:38 am.

    We mostly urban, educated elites are worrying about the Constitution because the Framers got one thing Right, The elite will try to overrun the others. They had two experiences to draw upon for their new form of government; the failed confederation and legislatures answering to an autocratic Governor or King.

    The system they created tried to prevent the Elite from overpowering the rest. The house made up of representatives of equal numbers of voters could resist the power of a Statewide and state based Senate.

    The Electoral College went even further giving power to less populous states.

    Now we urban elites are forced by the Framers to listen to the grievances of the rural few. And they elected Trump. How can we balance the pull of Globalization with the benefits of a simpler life?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/20/2018 - 11:02 am.

      You seem to imply that being “urban” is equivalent to being an elite.

      Come and visit my urban neighborhood and see how elite my neighbors and I are.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/20/2018 - 11:28 am.

      If you look at who the Framers were, and if you consider the concerns they voiced about purely democratic rule, it’s hard to conclude that they were overly concerned about the Elite “overpowering” the rest of the country.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 12/22/2018 - 10:41 pm.

      Hey man, who you callin’ elite?

  3. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 11:32 am.

    The Electoral College was designed so smaller population states still had a voice. Without it, many States would simply be ignored and have no say at all. The US system isn’t a direct democracy which is a good thing.

    The Framers weren’t all rich, many died in abject poverty after the Revolution.

    I’d also reminder everyone that many northern states had slaves before the civil war too. It wasn’t just Southern States being the slave states.

    As for the amendment process, it’s good that it’s so hard to pass them. If it was easy, the Constitution wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on given the whims of political parties these days. In fact, the 17th was one of the worst decisions in US history. The Senate was intended to represent the States, not the people. Now States have no representation which leads to the all powerful federal govt.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2018 - 01:05 pm.

      We might actually have a democracy where all citizens’ had an equal say in governance.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 02:26 pm.

        The US isn’t set up that way and never was. You’re just upset Hillary lost. Only a few times in US history has the popular vote not matched the Electoral College. You already have an equal day and the EC helps protect that. The minority always have a say in our Constitional Republic. Under a direct democracy, that’s not the case. It’s mob rule only then.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2018 - 03:27 pm.

          In other words, you don’t believe in the democracy that we’re supposedly promoting in other countries.

        • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 12/20/2018 - 05:25 pm.

          Well, in 2016, the “mob” was in the electoral college and voted for Trump.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/20/2018 - 11:57 pm.

          “Direct democracy” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It refers to a system of government in which everyone votes on every question or law without the intervention of legislators.

          Ancient Athens was a direct democracy, if one was lucky enough to be a non-enslaved adult male, and precinct caucuses and New England town meetings are two more of the few real-world examples of direct democracy. Obviously such a system becomes unwieldy with a population of any size. That’s why not everyone who goes to their precinct caucus moves on to the district or state conventions.

          What we and other Western countries have is “indirect democracy”; that is, we vote for city council members, state legislators, or members of Congress to make decisions for us at various levels of the government.

          By the way, neither of those is a synonym for “national popular vote,” and “representative republic” is a term coined by right-wing propagandists within the last few years to create a favorable connotation for the adjective “republican” and a negative connotation for the adjective “democratic.”

          Don’t schools teach civics anymore?

    • Submitted by Ole Johnson on 12/20/2018 - 04:00 pm.

      Completely agree with the shade thrown at the 17th Amendment. The Senate is supposed to be where state interests are represented. The House is where the people’s interests are represented.

      Directly electing Senators makes the Senate just another place that represents the people. As a result people get upset because big states have the same power as small states.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/20/2018 - 09:16 pm.

        Senators were not popularly elected because the Framers did not think the masses were trust worthy, and i made for another avenue for the elites to run the show. That method led to massive corruption due to men of great wealth bribing state legislators.

        But I’d just as soon get rid of the upper chamber in any case.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/20/2018 - 04:17 pm.

      “I’d also reminder everyone that many northern states had slaves before the civil war too.”

      The northern states prohibited or outlawed slavery; in fact, Missouri was the only state north of the Ohio River. That, of course, changed with the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, which effectively overruled state prohibitions on slaveholding.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 09:08 pm.

        The northern States still had slavery right up until the Civil War. You can deny that all you want but it’s a fact of history. It wasn’t nearly as popular or widespread as in the South but it was in fact happening. And when the Constitution was debated, written and signed, many of the Framers owned slaves. For about the first 80 years of this Nation’s history, there were slaves in most , if not all, of the northern states to some degree.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2018 - 09:26 am.

          I would suggest you look into the matter a little more closely and avoid the apologetics for slavery. The Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in the area north of the Ohio River. Until the Dred Scott decision voided the Missouri Compromise, state laws were allowed to prohibit slavery. Slaves in northern states were brought there by their owners, typically on a temporary basis.

          Dred Scott based his lawsuit for freedom on the fact that he had lived in free territories (Fort Snelling). Such lawsuits were common, and were generally successful, as slave owners tended not to contest them (a lawsuit was an easier way to emancipate individual slaves than manumission).

          This, of course, does not mean that business people in northern states did not profit from slavery. God bless capitalism, right?

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/20/2018 - 09:13 pm.

        Sounds like that ruling impeded states’ rights. Must have angered Johnny Reb.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/20/2018 - 09:11 pm.

      The EC was formed to keep the ignorant masses from voting for president, not to protect small states.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/21/2018 - 04:53 pm.

        As I’ve pointed out before, our original tiered system of governance was partly dictated by the transportation and communications technology of the time. Popular national elections simply would not have been practical.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/20/2018 - 12:06 pm.

    Maybe we could have a “check and balance article” advocating the genius of the republican form of Government that our founders advocated rather than the”Mob Rule” regularly supported by the writer of this article.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2018 - 03:29 pm.

      Neither Eric nor the regular posters on this list have advocated abolishing the Senate or the Executive, which are both checks on the popular vote.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/20/2018 - 12:38 pm.

    In retrospect, it seems naive for the Framers not to have foreseen partisan divisions. The Constitution was cobbled together in a way that tried to accommodate both agrarian and commercial interests, which were more disparate then than they are now. The stark economic, political and cultural differences between the states (again, more pronounced then than they are now) meant that giving them such power over governance was only going to exacerbate political dysfunction.
    Furthermore, the Framers had the example of England, with sharp partisan divisions and an increasing dissatisfaction by the urban mercantile with their lack of direct representation. It is hard to imagine the Framers not being aware that any institutionalized compromise of interests would be tenuous, at best.

    Incidentally, Eric, I think that’s enough with the Gerry-bashing. My man Elbridge was an early proponent of independence who signed both the Declaration and the Articles of Confederation, but declined to sign the Constitution because it did not include a Bill of Rights (he liked the overall idea of a stronger central government, however). Gerry was also a diplomat who acquitted himself honorably and courageously in the XYZ Affair (it took real stones for a representative from a petty little republic like the United States to stand up to Talleyrand). Yes, he signed the (justly) notorious Gerrymandering law, but unwillingly, under strong pressure.

    So lay off him.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/20/2018 - 01:06 pm.

    I hate to fall back on cliché, but I’m still impressed by the job done by the Founding Fathers in devising the Constitution. The United States of America could just as easily have dissolved in the 1780s, with the utter failure of the Articles of Confederation, into the hodgpodge of small-minded, parochial and perpetually-warring states that characterized Europe for much of its history, and still plagues parts of Africa, Central America, etc. That doesn’t make the process or the final result above criticism, some of it very well-justified, but for a first try, and given the social and political constraints under which they worked, I think they did remarkably well.

    Keep in mind that the Framers, some more than others, were philosophically and intellectually children of the Enlightenment, and the model for much of the Enlightenment’s political thinking and writing was ancient Athens, long held up as an example of the world’s first functioning democratic state. The Founding Fathers themselves fit quite well (and not coincidentally, I think) with the model of an elite examined at some length by Plato in “The Republic.” While we debate whether or not all of those labels are entirely accurate, we should also keep in mind the somewhat anti-demoractic points that: A) Athens relied on slave labor; B) ancient Greece was pretty much a poster child for female subjugation; and C) it’s the electoral college that gave us the Current Occupant, bringing with him, as he has, the very swamp-reinforcement he campaigned against.

    With all that, there is one area where I find I agree with Mr. Barnes: I’m OK with the Constitution being difficult to amend. Making constitutional amendments easy to do leads to something approaching constitutional chaos. The U.S. Constitution can be reasonably reproduced in a pamphlet, and the Minnesota Constitution is not much different. The Constitution of the state of Colorado, which is relatively easy to amend, has been altered many, many times, and runs to 300+ pages, depending upon the size of the type used to print it.

    The main themes and principles of a national government, I’d argue, should not require a document that’s encyclopedic in nature.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2018 - 03:32 pm.

      And note that many of those posters supporting the power of the States (as opposed to individuals) are essentially advocating a return to the failed Articles of Confederation.
      Been there — done that.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 09:18 pm.

        The AoC did have some problems but it was mainly scrapped because of the lack of power of the central govt. (Hamilton got into his duel much too late imo). The US was supposed to a collection of individual states (laboratories) which would run their own affairs as they see fit.

        The Constitution went too far (which is why Jefferson actually preferred the AoC). It gave the central govt too much power and that power has been illegally grabbed and expanded many times over since. IF we were to go back to it’s original meaning, the entire welfare state would be gone (SS, Medicare, Welfare, Food Stamps etc etc), even the US Army would be abolished as Article 1 Sec 8 clearly forbids the creation of a standing army. Constitutional issues would be decided by Congress, the President, the people and the States instead of the SCOTUS.

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 12/21/2018 - 09:48 am.

          Without Hamilton’s brilliance and foresight, our country would have foundered in short order, even with the new Constitution. We became a financial power because of the systems he set in place, systems that even his staunchest political enemy Thomas Jefferson couldn’t undo. Remember, he was also Washington’s aide-de-camp, and was instrumental in running and winning the Revolutionary war. Hamilton is likely the main reason we have a United States at all.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2018 - 10:01 am.

          “Article 1 Sec 8 clearly forbids the creation of a standing army.”

          I don’t know who told you that, but it would be worth making a special trip to laugh in their face. Article I Section 8 explicitly grants Congress the power to “raise and support Armies.” Appropriations for an Army must be made at least every two years.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/21/2018 - 02:33 pm.

            Another reason why the Constitution is a major improvement over the A of C. Washington was unable to raise troops directly — he had to request state militias to serve. Once they were under his command, he again had to go to the states for the money to pay them (the A of C gave the power of taxation exclusively to the states). As a result, the desertion rate was high.
            Fortunately, Lafayette paid his own troops, which were the most effective fighting force on our side, and basically won the war for us.

            One advantage of the Constitutional election system (which gives the governance of elections to the states) is that it makes the whole system so fragmented and complex that even the Chinese couldn’t figure out how to hack it, beyond getting into a couple of data bases (but not changing them).

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 12/20/2018 - 06:46 pm.

      Bringing in Enlightenment thinkers and their influence begs the question of flaws there as expressed by the small number of them concerned about the problem of the monopoly of private property that was thought to be a future source of corruption in government and market systems predicted by both them and some modern economists to follow. Read more about it in RADICAL MARKETS: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society by Eric Posner and Glen Weyl.

  7. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 12/20/2018 - 02:18 pm.

    It can’t be our society’s polarization and inability to have civil discussions that brought us Trump. Yeah, it must be the Framers.

    I mean, even look at the degrading tone of the author of this article. Let’s all sit and bash white men and a sixteenth-century society.

    If you actually want change, you must sit down with someone from across the aisle and listen. But bashing is more fun.

  8. Submitted by John Webster on 12/20/2018 - 02:56 pm.

    The best history of how the Constitution came to be is “Plain, Honest Men” by the late Prof. Richard Beeman. It’s an engaging narrative, full of relevant facts, which led me to this conclusion: the Constitution written in 1787 was the best that any group of well-educated, mostly public-spirited people could do given the political realities of the time. It’s a document that embodies the compromises that were needed to bring together all factions enough so that the United States could become a single nation, not just a weak confederation of independent states.

    It’s true that amending the Constitution through the ratification process is difficult. But the Constitution has also been fleshed out – effectively amended – through the workings of Supreme Court decisions.
    To take just one of many possible examples, the right to abortion nationwide resulted from a judicial decision, not through a constitutional amendment. The meaning of the Constitution inevitably changed somewhat as circumstances changed, and as public opinion changed. Another example: the 14th Amendment when ratified was intended only to deal with ending slavery; its reach has expanded to recognizing equality of rights in many other areas of life.

    If I could amend the constitution in only one way, I would end the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches and have a British-style parliamentary system, which would rarely result in gridlock, but result in far more accountability for elected legislators, who couldn’t blame the other house of congress, the President, the filibuster, etc. for not being able to deliver on their campaign promises. I know that is the most hopeless of pipe dreams, and we’re stuck with our current system unitilthe end of time or until we have another revolution.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/20/2018 - 06:55 pm.

      It would be nice to have a vote of ‘no confidence’ on the chief executive.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 12/20/2018 - 09:25 pm.

      The Constitution hasn’t changed, how people interpret it has. That’s because people don’t understand how the English language worked back then nor have they read the writings of the Framers.

      Take the 14th, it was clearly argued on the floor of the US Senate that no children of any foreigner would become a citizen by being born here. “…[E]very person born within the limits of the United State, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States, but will include every other class of person.” … foreigners… aliens … etc.. none of them were ever intended to get birthright citizenship but people have added their own spin on that amendment to include anyone in the world who can give birth on our soil. There are even SCOTUS rulings on it as well.

      The Constitution was written to be a never changing document that covered any scenario because it recognized the individual rights and restricted the power of the federal govt specifically.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/21/2018 - 09:41 am.

        But the great Antonin Scalia taught us that Congressional debate matters not, it is only the plain text that matters.

      • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 12/21/2018 - 09:54 am.

        But that is not what the Amendment says. It says “all persons”.

        “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2018 - 09:57 am.

        “Take the 14th,” please!

        By dredging up what someone may or may not have said on the floor of the Senate, and claiming that proves your point, you are ignoring the first rule of statutory interpretation: What is the plain language of the law? The plain language of the 14th Amendment is that all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to its laws, are citizens. Whatever Senator Howard (the source of your quote) said his intent was, the Amendment did not include that intent. Senator Howard’s remarks are meaningless.

        Birthright citizenship in the US was the law before the 14th Amendment made it explicit.

        • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/21/2018 - 10:56 am.

          “Whatever Senator Howard (the source of your quote) said his intent was, the Amendment did not include that intent. Senator Howard’s remarks are meaningless.”

          Now do abortion.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2018 - 11:13 am.

            I’m not pregnant.

            I’m also a male.

          • Submitted by Tim McCarthy on 12/21/2018 - 12:10 pm.

            The 9th ammendment should cover it. Also, there are a lot of unenumerated rights. You didn’t think there were only ten did you?

            • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/24/2018 - 09:07 am.

              Atta boy.

              See, RB? Lots of unenumerated rights.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/24/2018 - 12:07 pm.

                As my Christmas gift to you, I will point you to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). As you read it, you will note that it has nothing to do with statutory interpretation or the Ninth Amendment’s acknowledgment of unenumerated rights, and everything to do with the Fourteenth Amendment and an implied right of privacy.

                That’s as far as you get with hijacking this thread.

                • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/24/2018 - 04:40 pm.

                  I’m sorry you find the flip side of your opinions disturbing, RB. But thanks for the Christmas gift. In return, I wish you much joy of your dance.

  9. Submitted by Gerry Anderson on 12/20/2018 - 04:47 pm.

    It’s no secret that Mr. Black is very left leaning. Getting rid of things in the Consitution that you don’t agree with is a symptom of the problem. If you don’t get your way, force others to believe the way you do. Anyway you can.
    This Consitutional Republic has lasted longer than any in modern times thanks to the ability of very smart men 250 plus years ago. Must be a reason.
    Me, for one, is very happy we are not a true democracy. As was the case 250 years ago, the vast majority of people are ignorant on what it takes to run a country, either by choice or apathy. Watch some of the shows where questions are asked about government. Most have no clue. But they get all the pop culture ones right.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/20/2018 - 05:14 pm.

      ” As was the case 250 years ago, the vast majority of people are ignorant on what it takes to run a country, either by choice or apathy. Watch some of the shows where questions are asked about government. Most have no clue. But they get all the pop culture ones right.”

      The election of President Donald J. Trump, explained in 51 words.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/21/2018 - 12:59 am.

      It’s really quite enlightening to juxtapose this comment with that of Mr. Moseman earlier. Which is it? Shall we rail against the elites or the rabble? Also quite telling to discover how many neglect to assign either descriptor to themselves.

    • Submitted by Tim McCarthy on 12/21/2018 - 12:17 pm.

      “If you don’t get your way, force others to believe the way you do. Anyway you can.”
      That’s a poor quality of strawman. False premise, false conclusion.

  10. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/20/2018 - 09:22 pm.

    The Electoral College is such sheer genius that no other country, any where, has come close to copying it.

    Silly foreigners.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/21/2018 - 10:21 am.

      Yeah well since the the whole of Europe isn’t much bigger than the Great State of Texas, they really wouldn’t need an EC, would they?


      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2018 - 11:55 am.

        Did you know that there is no President of Europe?

        Did you know that “countries other than the United States” includes many, many countries not in Europe?

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/21/2018 - 12:30 pm.

        Texas: .27 Million sq. miles

        Europe: 3.9 Million sq. miles


      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/21/2018 - 09:02 pm.

        Another perspective: Population Wyoming 579,315, population California 39.54M, Wyoming really dosen’t need 2 senators, same as California gets?

  11. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/21/2018 - 07:39 am.

    Are the Koch brothers elite? How about Sheldon Adelson? or Bob Ulihlein? I think it’s pretty safe to call those fellows part of the elite. And they seem pretty comfortable with the EC.

    As we say on the street, it’s working out for them.

  12. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/21/2018 - 10:48 am.

    IMHO: The statement above pretty well describes the situation
    “which led me to this conclusion: the Constitution written in 1787 was the best that any group of well-educated, mostly public-spirited people could do given the political realities of the time.”

    Also IMHO: This statement is 100% incorrect “The Constitution was written to be a never changing document that covered any scenario because it recognized the individual rights and restricted the power of the federal govt specifically” It seems the framers provided a way to
    change the constitution, its called Article 5. .

    Final point: Supporting the opinion above, “Keep in mind that the Framers, some more than others, were philosophically and intellectually children of the Enlightenment, and the model for much of the Enlightenment’s political thinking” there is nothing stopping us, meaning the voters and politicians of 2018 from changing and altering the constitution as it exists, to paraphrase Ray; “philosophically and intellectually Enlightened” however we find ourselves the same predicament as the founders, only with a lot more people and differences of opinion. We find ourselves bound by those that look at the constitution as Biblical in nature, written in stone, and those that think it is a living document that should be changed to adjust to our changing and more enlightened world. Are we not free to chose, or must we live to a text ascribed 100’s-1000’s of years ago? Have we learned nothing to little since then? And, if we have, why are we bound to ancient documents to not utilize that “enlightenment” for a better country/world? Seems the framers cast of the yokes of the past when they created the country! Are we not freemen and women?

  13. Submitted by Howard Miller on 12/26/2018 - 12:35 pm.

    Once again Mr Black, through his thoughtful writing, proves why a paid subscription to Minnpost is one of the best media subscription values among our many media choices available today in the USA

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