Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rigged Democracy

September 17th is Constitution and Citizenship Day. Thanks to a 2004 law every educational institution in the America must provide some programming on the history of the day. Having been educated long before the law went into effect, my schools didn’t have a focus on the day that the Constitution was created in 1787, some 11 years the Declaration of Independence. It would take another 11 years to fully ratify it. The Constitution replaced the Articles of the Confederation. It’s a pretty nifty piece of thinking and writing given that it still governs the United States 229 years later. As we move into the final heat of the 2016 Presidential election, the role of the constitution is more important than ever.

Article II clearly states the qualifications for the office: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

That’s it. A candidate for the Presidency doesn’t have to be an expert in anything. He/she need not to have served in public office or done anything other than being born a citizen, be 35 years old and lived in the U.S. for 14 years of those years. That’s it.

The major party candidates seem to have made the 2016 race about why their opponent is unqualified for the office rather than what they stand for. It’s a strategy that has made cable television and internet publishers happy, nearly ruined the value of social media and it’s changed no minds of campaign loyalists.

This isn’t another lament of politics 2016 style. What’s troublesome is the recent narratives from each camp. In August during a particularly difficult time for the GOP standard bearer he announced that if he loses it’s because the system is rigged. “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” he told The Washington Post in an interview.

Secretary Clinton says in speeches reported by The Washington Post that Trump is “'temperamentally unfit’ to lead the most powerful nation in the world. … Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different — they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.” President Obama, major GOP leaders and columnists all over have echoed the narrative that Trump can’t serve in the position he seeks.

I’ve previously written that Clinton’s attempt to nullify Trump with the same tactics that 16 other GOP hopefuls tried unsuccessfully to do is a risk. I’ve previously written that Donald Trump’s elementary school tactics are an embarrassment to the political process and to the country. I think all of this is bad form, bad politics and bad for the nation. But it’s Democracy and we’ve got what we’ve got until November 8, 2016. America will survive this election cycle.

What happens in January 2017? This will continue to be a divided country. With the candidates indicating that Armageddon is around the corner if their opponent is elected – there is little hope that anything could change. Being divided is tough enough – but not having faith in the electoral system or stating that the candidate is unfit is potentially devastating. It undermines the basic tenet that make democracy possible: faith in The System.

In 2000 when the conservative Supreme Court justices ruled for George W. Bush – then Vice President Al Gore fully endorsed him and asked his followers to support the new President. Gore didn’t say the system was unfair – though he could have. He didn’t say the decision was hypocritical – though he could have. He put the nation first and his concession speech was probably his best speech ever.  He said: “Our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. … We put country before party.”

We celebrate the 229th anniversary of the writing of the Constitution. It is what makes America great. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton put country before party to keep democracy alive, vibrant and relevant to these Divided States.

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