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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/6/20

Founding Fathers' fateful decision gives Trump a free pass; the way to evade removal

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I am a great admirer of the Founding Fathers and the many things that they did for their country and its people in rejecting monarchy and establishing our democracy, But, as historians have pointed out, they weren't perfect.

Here's one example of that. They, after much deliberation, decided to create the US Senate with two senators from each state, regardless of their populations. Yes, that was a very big mistake but, then again, they could not foresee that it would, at some time in the future, adversely affect this nation's democracy.

We are living in that moment right now as we have watched the US Senate conduct an impeachment trial that, instead of being a fair trial with witnesses and evidence, was anything but that. If the Founders could witness what has just happened they would see what their decision is doing to our democracy and majority rule.

Based on the solid facts and evidence presented by the Democrats in House Committee hearings and subsequent Senate presentations, this president could not be more guilty of abuse of power and blatant obstruction of Congress. But, because of the way the Senate is configured, with two senators from each state, he will be allowed to escape removal.

Let's discuss how and why the Founder's made this decision and how it is adversely affecting our democracy.

Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years and each senator shall have one Vote." Further that each state will have two senators, regardless of the size of its population ."

Back, during those trying times, the Founders received both strong support as well as strong opposition when deciding what they should do. They heard from many different areas, from larger states to smaller ones; and even the issue of slavery by Southern states was a significant part of the deliberations. To a great degree, the end decision was largely based on a political compromise.

The Founder's had no way of knowing how large this country would become in the future and the great degree to which the populations of its states would vary. They likely thought that, as the country grew in size, any such imbalance in representation would be rectified by the actions of intelligent, dedicated legislators. How mistaken they were in thinking that this country would possess mostly rational-thinking, competent legislators in its Congress.

To see just how totally unbalanced this representation in the Senate is: the combined population of this country's three most populous states, California, Texas and New York is close to 90 million and they have a combined total of 6 senators. The three least populous states, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming have about 2 million people, and they also have a combined total of 6 senators. So, the three states that are 45 times larger in population have the same number of senators as those three tiny states.

Let's also take a look at this condition from a slightly different view that makes the continued existence of this imbalance almost incomprehensible:

We have a condition in America in which some 55 million people who live in its smallest states, about 20% of the entire population of this country, possess as much power and representation as the states in which 276 million people live. What kind of system of governing in such a huge, complex nation like this is that? Is that one in which the majority rules, where the wishes and power of the people determine the direction of the country; is this an example of how a democracy functions most effectively?

This has now become a largely unworkable situation because, based on the Senate rules that allow senators from tiny states to possess and use the same degree of power as senators from the most populous states, that's just plain ludicrous.

If the Founders could have predicted the future it is highly likely that they would have made the entire process of impeachment the responsibility of the House instead of the Senate. That legislative body could conduct a thorough investigation after which all the House members, who truly represented all the people of America, would vote to decide if a president was guilty or was not.

It's no wonder why this Senate has now become so very dysfunctional, why it remains in a perpetual state of gridlock. If this legislative body's decisions were based on majority rule many of the problems currently facing this nation would no longer exist.

Now, there are those who would say that such a change in the Senate is unwarranted, that everything is fine just as is and, besides, the same Article I of the Constitution provides for fair and equitable representation of the people, based on states' populations, in the U.S. House of Representatives. So, the Senate should conduct the trial.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on OpEdNews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)
 

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Michael Payne

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To conclude, if this impeachment process had been done by a Senate that had been reconstituted in relation to states' populations, which would reflect the wishes of the majority of Americans; or, if the Founders had had the foresight to give that responsibility to the House of Representatives, then the chances of Trump getting a free pass and the ability to evade removal, would have been zero to none.

So, while Trump has been acquitted by controlled Republicans, in no sense of the word has he been exonerated. What just happened is a dark stain on the soul of this nation's democracy. It's now up to the uncontrolled Americans to find him guilty as charged and remove that stain, along with him.

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 4:23:04 PM

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Lance Ciepiela

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Yes, the Founders were 'wise', indeed, in setting up the Republic - 'if you can keep it", said Benjamin Franklin. By authorizing a Senate in the Constitution, with two senators from each state, regardless of the size of a state, they had assured completely that all the states would be 'equal', and not just the states that had the larger populations would be more equal than the others and dominate over the smaller states and thereby destroying the Republic. The Constitution is recovering 'smartly' from the W Bush era ('they acted with deceit and with falsehood') 'after 9/11' ('explosives used say Commissioners') when 'impeachment was off the table' by Pelosi and W Bush had never been 'impeached', 'investigated', or 'prosecuted' under our laws and treaties and he does remain 'above the law' in 'a nation of laws'. Obama, of course, slid by swiftly in his two terms, without question, or even a mention of 'impeachment' by the Republican majorities he faced in the House (led by Boehner) and the Republican majorities in the Senate (led by McConnell) for the 6 years of his eight years in office. For Trump ('acquited' at 37:17 minutes) , however, he got himself 'impeached forever' by the House in his third year in office, by Pelosi (at 24:55 minutes), and he had a trial in the Senate and the 'impeachment' clause' in the Constitution had been restored, upheld, and followed, by both Parties, Democrats and Republicans, in the second decade of the 21st Century. #RedMeat.

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 8:37:58 PM

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Michael Payne

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Reply to Lance Ciepiela:   New Content

We agree on most things but not on this. When the monumental decision of whether or not to impeach an American president and remove him from office, and the state of North Dakota with 762,000 people possess the very same power as the state of California with 40 million then that is a system that makes no sense whatsoever, it is beyond any comprehension. It is a mockery of democracy. The Founders were right on most everything but boy did they blow that one.

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 10:04:45 PM

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Lance Ciepiela

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Republicans were able to conduct a sham impeachment trial because the authors of the impeachment clause of the Constitution did not anticipate senators who would act to protect their political party instead of their branch of government. The Constitution structures a balance of government branches to disperse power. It does not structure a balance of political parties. #MakeBelieveTrial. Now you own it all, Republicans - not only everything Trump has done in the past, but everything he does in future. You own traumatized children in cages, dictators being praised, racists being honored, citizens living in fear as they realize the criminal in the White House has now been strengthened in his resolve to put his own self interests above that of the country.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:16:31 AM

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Anton Grambihler

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The selection of the Senators needs to be returned to the State Legislatures as before 1913.


Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 6:22:46 PM

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Kevin Parker

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Unfortunately, it would take more than a Constitutional amendment to change the makeup of the Senate. The one exception to the amendment process that still applies states "no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate." (Article V) So each of the small states would have to agree to reduce its representation. Good luck with that.

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 9:52:23 PM

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Michael Payne

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Professor Orts of Wharton has a different view than yours in this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/heres-how-fix-senate/579172/

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 10:33:25 PM

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shad williams

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Unfortunately, it would take more than a Constitutional amendment to change the makeup of the Senate.

I agree that it would take more than a Constitutional amendment and that is unfortunate since some other extrajudicial act would need to take its place.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 4:14:25 PM

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Harold Novikoff

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The extreme inequality of representation in the senate between large and small states pointed out in other comments reflects a basic flaw in our constitutional plan. The states were originally politically independent of one another. Our nation was founded upon a loose assembly of these states, divided primarily on the issue of slavery. In many ways, we are still a loose assembly of states of diverse cultures, which limits our ability to solve common problems and act as one nation of united principles, with liberty and justice for all, except in extreme emergencies.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:43:23 AM

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Fred W

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You all might find this article interesting:

wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism

About halfway through the article there's a map showing which countries in the world have two houses, and it's a large majority.

It may be true that the US decision was partly based on slavery issues, but that's not true for most other places. The main issues seem to be recognizing "states rights" and having a "conservative" body that won't be so easily swayed by transient ideas. Somewhat like the rationale for lifetime Supreme Court and some other judges appointments.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:43:58 AM

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Michael Payne

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I repeat, I love the Founders. But their decision about two senators for each state regardless of population was indeed heavily influenced by the issue of slavery. Like it or not my hero Jefferson and his fellow Founders were slave owners and that was, without a doubt,very much an issue when they listened to those smaller Southern states who insisted that size of state should not be a factor.


The Founders are responsible for this current total misrepresentation of the people of America which has allowed this low level human being Trump to escape removal and to have the opportunity to turn our democracy into an authoritarian government with him in total control.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 2:57:03 AM

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shad williams

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Your faith to ultimately work in the system amazes me.

Of course I have a slightly different opinion of the Founding Fathers including the nearly first dozen slave holding presidents. Who could blame them for being slavers? The catholic church advised the Spanish ruling elites that it was okay to wrench Africans from their homes, and treat them like property and collateral for loans. The black slave rush with god and jesus and the great banks on their side. So there can be no peace...yet, regarding the composition of houses of congress. I digress, yes there were slaves of other ethnicities and skin color...irrelevant.

I proposed that the entire system be torned down and rebuilt by the people, throw it into complete chaos just like those Africans were thrown into chaos. The question is what sort of people are going to do this? More slavers? Will the adjustments in senators eliminate the slavers? Nyet. There is no mechanism for a build-out from chaos. There is no mechanism to force American men to act with justice. Balkanization, so be it.

Failing this argument, and indeed it does fail, I have to ask are small state senators cheaper to buy than large state senators? And second, whose government do you think it is anyway?

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 3:32:36 PM

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Michael Payne

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We have a system that no longer works, this country, in so many ways, is falling apart and I see very few if any really trying to do anything positive and constructive to stop the bleeding. This country is now a mere shadow of its former self. Many of us are ready to just give up. Sorry to be so negative but this madness seems to be without end.

Submitted on Friday, Feb 7, 2020 at 4:38:16 PM

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