Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Rich and powerful are destroying democracy

The Constitution was, among other things, an attempt to balance the varying business and commercial interests of that time. Many of the compromises needed to achieve its creation were an attempt to balance competing interests of slave-holding cotton growers whose survival depended on cheap labor (slavery). They were a relatively small part of the population. On the other side was an emerging class that relied on trade and business growth for its success and who wanted a strong central government.

Hence, a major part of the explanation for a two-part Congress based on equality of states in the Senate and on population in the House of Representatives (with a special 3/5ths allocation to count the slaves). Both sides had great distrust of “the rabble” and of anything that even hinted of the concept of “direct democracy through a referendum of the voters.” That is how the electoral “college” came to be.

But the economic system and society that led to much of the Constitution has not existed since the late 1860s. Popular democracy has grown and flourished over the centuries. The founders provided a way to amend the Constitution to accommodate changing times but made it onerous. Yet, today those who call themselves “strict constructionists” argue fervently that we should only interpret the Constitution in light of the intent of the founders and assert they have cornered the market on knowing what it was they intended and what we should do 240 years later!

So, the Constitution itself became – unintentionally — an instrument for the destruction of democracy, where an 18th-century political Electoral College could be used in 2016 to determine our President.

A political class or group that believes the circumstances of a time long past should be the basis for a society’s political decisions, or that the person with the most votes should not win an election, is clearly out of touch with reality. As a result, on Friday, the man sworn in as president will have lost the election by almost 3 million votes!

Also, the founders never envisioned a Congress whose members would make it a lifelong profession. Public service was seen as a civic responsibility of the propertied and commercial classes that would be taken on for a period and who would then return to their normal careers. Now, in Utah, we have been informed that our senior senator, at the age of 82, may be intending to grace us with his wisdom by standing for his seventh term.

And then there is gerrymandering. Elbridge Gerry whose ignominious contribution to our history was to cut the population of states into areas known as congressional districts, favorable to your political party, a process so highly refined by BOTH PARTIES that today only a mere handful of congressional seats are described as contested. Most representatives reside in their uncontested gerrymandered districts fearing only a primary of their own party for failing the power brokers of their district.

In 2017 some would have us make decisions as if we lived in 1787. Others believe the wisdom of the populace is limited to a group of professional “pols.” Together they believe the rule of the majority should prevail only if it agrees with their agendas. That same group controls the means by which their dominance of the process is assured. Either change occurs or our democracy will not exist 50 years from now.

If you believe that our president-elect will bring that about that change, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Dr. Andrews was an educator of 40 years, teaching history, government and economics in high schools for 20 of those. He became an administrator and from 1991 to 1999 worked in Park City Schools as high school principal and district supervisor of construction projects.

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