The Constitution was created with a system of checks and balances between the three sources of power: legislative, executive and judicial branches. The framers had a good understanding of the legislative branch as many of them came from colonial legislators. Many, if not most, distrusted a strong executive because they were leery of the authority of the crown (even though it was the English Parliament that was in control). The creation of the Electoral College in 1877 was made to keep control of who would be president within a small, select group of men who would officially determine the president, regardless of the public choice. Because the founders of the Constitution did not think in terms of political parties but rather in terms of safeguarding authority for the elites they didn’t anticipate much of what has since arisen with the rise of the two party systems. Their assumption was that the president could be controlled by the Electoral College because they, not the general electorate, were the body that officially put the executive in office.
States’ rights, first by the Democratic Party in the South and then by the Republican Party was, and is, a major source of elite power today. Following the death of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party was taken over by those benefitting from the new wealth of the Industrial Revolution. At the same time, a large movement of immigrants supplied labor for the new industries of the North. Much of the power of the federal government was directed toward foreign policy.
The Republican Party, initially the party of reform, slipped from the conservative version of democracy under Dwight Eisenhower to an increasingly authoritarian party of oligarchs starting with Richard Nixon in the 1970s and escalating under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Through racism and nativism taken from the country’s original efforts to form a new government of elite control, amplified and funded by the efforts of the Koch brothers, owners of the largest business in the US, they realized that by starting at the local level of government, it was possible to manipulate power upward to the federal level. The Koch brothers did this through creating libertarian organizations, supporting like-minded candidates and privatizing propaganda with misleading and dishonest news reporting. Through these channels, and by exploiting Constitutional loopholes around the Electoral College, they were, and are, able to control Congress, the presidency, and ultimately a stacked Supreme Court. This culminated in the election of the demagogue Donald Trump. The false charge of fraud made by Trump (and the majority of Republicans) as the reason for Trump’s loss was the rationale for the January 6th Insurrection and is being used in 19 GOP-controlled states to justify suppressing the vote among those unlikely to vote Republican.
The Constitution guarantees an official census every ten years. The GOP‘s use of extreme gerrymandering in this year’s mid-term election reflects this Congressional readjustment. Gerrymandering affects more than appointment of Congressional Districts. It is also used to determine state legislative districts. The outcome will likely determine one-party rule for the foreseeable future. The national election in November 2022 has the potential of being critical in the survival of democracy in the United States. Because of its prestige and power, the outcome for the US may well significantly determine the rise of authoritarianism and the survival of global democracy - and life itself.
The result of authoritarian rule usually results in a few siphoning off wealth, power and talent leaving the remainder of society impoverished with poor or nonexistent infrastructure. Wikipedia defines social mobility as the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between social strata in a society. Today the level of social mobility in the US (as well as public health, education, infrastructure and any other governmental functions for the public good) is among the lowest in the industrial world according to the Economist magazine (2022) and The Week (2022). Over the past 40 years, having traveled extensively around the world, my experience validates those conclusions. One reason the Republicans do not propose any legislation that benefits the public good is because they’re the hand lackey’s of the super-wealthy working to maintain their position of power.
What’s to be done?
The Constitution has the ability to change, through legislation, the Amendment process and judicial review to evolve democratically. Over the years it has done so as the right to vote was extended to African Americans, other minorities (Latinos, Asians, Native Americans), women, and 18 year olds.
All human change occurs in cycles. Unless you are billionaires like the Koch brothers, the most effective changes you can do are local. Run for school board, or county commission, or support someone that is. Attend meetings; create a blog or local group of like-minded people that will also support your positions. Support candidates either with time and/or money to the extent you can afford. Don’t give up hope. Most movements start locally and with the young. Let’s remember that the bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 started when a seamstress was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. It lasted over a year and led to the largest civil rights protest in US history and the beginning of the end of ‘Jim Crow’single party rule in the South.
Throughout the last two centuries, American society has become more progressively more democratic as the result of transformations in response to exploitation by the few. The first major reform resulted in the Constitution of the United States establishing the principal that the common person could rule themselves. The second reshaping of democracy came as the result of the Civil War which reformed the victimization of the slaves in the South. The third reform was in response to the new industrialists taking over the Republican Party and turning it from the party of reform to the party of the conservative elite. We are now in the fourth reform. It can be defined by the continual crises being created by the elite Republicans as handmaidens for the super wealthy. The difference today is that America is such a huge global influence that the stakes involved in the outcome of the current reformation are global.