Constitution has failed, minority rules, upheaval will follow
I got a bit upset by the impeachment thing. Who didn’t? The process was ugly, the result disturbing, the implications chilling. I didn’t quite see the demise of democracy, but I could hear it rumbling just over the horizon.
I wasn’t the only one worried. In a sad sense, Americans had reached a consensus. Everyone agreed that we had a problem. We just didn’t agree on what the problem was. Was it OK for a president to use foreign aid to induce another country to get involved in our election? Was it OK for Congress to investigate the executive branch? Did the president really need to comply with every subpoena that came along? To what extent might a president disobey laws? Can any presidential candidate use taxpayer dollars to get political help from a foreign government, or is that a privilege only for an incumbent? Can other candidates ignore subpoenas?
I wanted a solution. And solace. Surely some kind of legislation could clarify the Constitution, reiterate the responsibility of Congress, and draw a bright line around presidential obligations and authority.
I looked for someone who knows law, studies history, and served in public office. U.S. Representative Joe Courtney fit the bill, but he was busy. So, I turned to New London’s own Daryl Finizio, former mayor and current attorney who happens to be working on a book about the frailties and historical foundations of the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney Finizio did not cheer me up. He said, “Roosevelt told the greatest generation that they had a rendezvous with destiny. I believe the younger generation of today has a rendezvous with revolution.”
Dang! Sorry I asked!
We were sitting in his office, a parlor in his house with a desk no larger than necessary and a wall hung with more than enough diplomas.
No, he told me, legislation will not work. Neither will court decisions. The Constitution is clear about congressional oversight over the executive branch, clear that the president and cabinet secretaries must answer to Congress. They cannot ignore a subpoena. They are not above the law. If they are investigated and accused by Congress, they must answer for it.
The only remedy for crimes and misbehavior by the president, Finizio said, is impeachment and removal from office. Congress failed in that oversight obligation. In so doing, it opened the legal floodgates to more abuses. The president now has tacit approval to use foreign aid for his personal benefit. The president can ignore subpoenas and investigations. The president has transcended the Constitution.
The solution, Finizio, contended, is an overhaul of the Constitution. Major changes. New amendments. Dump the Electoral College, which twice in recent elections has let a minority elect a president. Either change how we elect the Senate — a majority of which can be elected by as few as 18% of voters — or remove it from the legislative process.
Currently there is a minority-elected president and a minority-elected Senate majority. That minority-elected Senate majority decided that the minority-elected president didn’t need to obey the law or answer to Congress.
The rules of our Constitution have caused the Constitution’s checks and balances to fail. They no longer work. The nation needs Americans to agree to overhaul the Constitution! Let’s go! Let’s do it! Right?
Fat chance. The people in power are not going to give up that power willingly. And who are those people? A minuscule minority known as “the people with the money.”
So, what will happen? What is that trouble Finizio hears just over the horizon?
It’s the inevitability of revolution. Finizio, scholar of history, says that the major changes to the Constitution happen only after cataclysm — first, the revolution of 1776, which resulted in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights; then the Civil War, which was the only way to resolve the issue of slavery the Constitution had allowed.
Finizio sees a country ripe for revolution. But it will be revolution brewed in the fiery cauldron of necessity, not ideology. The supposedly burgeoning economy is a mirage, a bubble in which 70% of Americans don’t have $1,000 in the bank. That bubble, inflated by a trillion-dollar deficit, will inevitably burst. Concurrently, climate change will be bringing all sorts of economic hardship, social upheavals, political strife.
And the nation is armed to the teeth.
The upcoming upheaval, he says, is necessary and inevitable to bring about real change. It is our rendezvous with destiny. The only question is whether it will make things better or worse.
Glenn Cheney, an author, lives in Hanover.
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