The Weiner Component V.2 #47 – Modernizing the Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States was written during the period of May 25 through September 1787 at the Philadelphia Legislative Building. The State Legislature had taken their summer vacation and the building was available through the summer.


This was toward the end of the 18th Century, when ships moved in the oceans through the use of current, wind power blowing against sails, or muscle power being pulled in a becalmed sea by one or more large row boats.  Communication was very slow and most people spent their lives within a few miles from where they were born.  It was a time totally different from the 21st Century where national and world communication is almost instantaneous and people fly in jets across the oceans in hours.


The Constitution is the basic Document of Government in the United States from which all laws and powers are derived.  It consists of a statement of purpose or authorization by the then male, property owning population of the new country.  It consists of 7 Articles, the names of the founders, and, at present, 27 Amendments, the first 10 being the Bill of Rights, most of the rest made basic changes to the Constitution to meet the needs of the times.  This document was written in 1787 and was voted into existence shortly thereafter.  With  changes through the amendment process this Constitution is still the basis of the Federal Government of the United States.


It is past time to edit this document, to take out the remaining sections that still pertain to the preindustrial world of the 18th Century and those areas which limit the functioning of a true democracy.  In content the basic document is as pertinent today as it was then.  Those sections no longer pertinent today could be easily edited out making the document shorter and more precise.  Other issues such as the unfairness of the bicameral legislative body and gerrymandering which tend to make the document undemocratic could also be adjusted.


Article 1 deals with the legislature:

It authorized that the laws be made by a bicameral Congress.  The legislative bodies meet regularly because the changing conditions within the country require a continuing flow of legislation to meet the ever-changing needs of the country.  The Congress’s major job is to meet the ever-changing needs of the nation with new needed legislation.


The reason for the bicameral houses of Congress was because there were both large and small states among the original 13.  In the Senate every states is equally represented by two Senators elected by each of the State Legislatures while in the House of Representatives each state is represented by legislators elected directly by the people; their number being based upon the population of the state.  In order to be elected to the Senate for a six year term one has to be 30 years of age or older while to be elected to the House for a two year term one has to be 25 or older.  People then generally did not live as long as they do today.


The Electoral College is a group of elected officials chosen every four year to elect the President of the United States.  The number of Electors for the Electoral College that each state has is based upon the number of their representatives in both Houses of Congress.  This measure is now out of date and can allow, as it did in Trump’s case, a candidate who does not have the majority vote of the people the ability to achieve the presidency.  As the independence of each state, large and small, is no longer dependent upon their independence the Electoral College by an Amendment to the Constitution should be done away with and the choice of the new President should be directly dependent upon the majority of votes by the voting population of the United States.  This would be much fairer than the current system.


In point of fact people in the actual election vote for their candidate.  The political parties choose the electors who will then vote for their candidate.  Doing away with the Electoral College will just allow the initial votes to count directly for the choice of the Presidential candidate.


Originally the Founding Fathers never visualized political parties.  Instead they believed the “wisest,” best educated men would make up the two Houses of Congress.  The State Legislators chose the two most mature men in the State for their Senators and the male, property owning citizens chose from the best of the younger well educated men or man within the voting District or State for the House of Representatives..


In 1913 the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the Election of Senators, making the people within the states responsible for them, direct election of Senators by the citizens of each state.  The reason this came about was the rise of the corporations and monopolies from the post-Civil War on.  The new super-rich executives were able to bribe the state legislatures into appointing their lawyers to the Senate, which. In turn, became a body representing the monopolies rather than the states.  The 17th Amendment was a part of the Progressive Movement that was a reaction against the rise of the monopolies.


Even though a minimum number of people is needed for each Representative in the House at least one Representative is chosen from each state regardless of how small the population of that state is.  Eight states have so low a population that they have only one member in the House of Representatives while California has so large a population that it has 53 members there.  Originally and still the Senate gives each state equal representation in the Congress regardless of the population of that state while the House of Representatives is based upon population.  The representation in the House is adjusted every ten years when a census is taken of the entire population.


Is it reasonable for the states with very small populations to have the representation they have in the Congress?  As a group their votes count more than those in the larger states in the choice of the President.  It might make more sense at this time to limit them to one Senator.


Alexander Hamilton organized the Federalist Party.  Hamilton saw the mercantile class, the businessmen, as the growing group and these people were the major beneficiaries of his policy. The first President was George Washington.  His Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton while the second Secretary of State from 1790 to 1793 was Thomas Jefferson whose vision of the new United States was different from that of Hamilton. He favored the small yeoman farmer. While Washington was apolitical he did tend to favor Hamilton’s policy.


Washington served as president from 1789 to the beginning of 1797, two terms.  The second president was John Adams who served for one term.  By 1800 Thomas Jefferson had organized a second political party, the Democratic-Republican Party and, in a dramatic election, won the presidency in 1800.  His policy would change the focus of the new government.  In fact he believed that the purchase of the Louisiana Territory would supply land for the small farmers for the next one hundred years.  The Federalists were never able to mount a successful Presidential Election again.  They went out of existence after the War of 1812.


On April 40, 1789, the first inauguration of George Washington occurred.

On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th state to join the Union.  It was voted in by only three percent of the population.

In 1791, the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution was ratified.  James Madison wrote Twelve Amendments, of which ten were passed.


In terms of editing the Constitution:

Article 1 pertains to the legislature, Section 2, Third paragraph: “counting slaves as 3/5s of a person for reasons of representation or taxation” can be excluded.

Section 9, Paragraph 1: Pertains to importation and taxation of slaves.

Article 2 deals with the Executive, Section 1, Second, Third, and Fourth paragraphs deal with the Electoral College.  If the Electoral College were to be done away with by having the people directly elect the President these paragraphs can be dropped.

Article 3 has to do with the Judicial System of the Country.

Article 4 details State rights.

Article 5 explains the process by which the Constitution can be amended.

Article 6 deals with prior debts, laws, and a required Oath or Affirmation to support the Constitution by all it officers.

Article 7 pertains to the ratification of the Constitution.

The second paragraph can be omitted.

This is followed by the names of the signers and the Amendments to the Constitution.


We are now in the 21st Century.  Do we really need the extraneous material that was included in a preindustrial document?


While major changes to the Constitution are difficult to do at one time it is past time to do away with the Electoral College.  In 1876 the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, won the election with the majority of the popular vote going to the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden.  In 2000 the Republican, George W. Bush, won the Presidential Election with the Democrat, Al Gore, getting the majority of the popular vote.  If Gore had won there would have been no unnecessary war against Iraq and the probability is that the Middle East would not have become as disrupted as it became and is still today.  In the Election of 2016 Hillary Clinton had three million more popular votes than Donald J. Trump but Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President.  So far his Presidency has been a disaster disrupting conditions in both the United States and the world.  For the first time since the Cold War and the Missile Crisis under John F. Kennedy the U.S. is facing the possibility of an atomic war with North Korea.  It seems that both countries have thin-skinned egomaniacs as leaders.


It is certainly time to get rid of the Electoral College.


The Weiner Component #170 – The 2016 Presidential Election

On Tuesday, October 8, the 2016 Presidential Election

James Comey

James Comey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

was held.  Surprisingly, the winner that emerged was Donald J. Trump.  Clinton went into the election clearly as the favorite.  According to a phone call with some of her staff she blamed her loss upon the FBI Director, James Comey.   


Early in his tenure as Attorney General, Eric Holder stated that it was essential that no government agency take sides in any political activity.  James Comey, the Director of the FBI, did that when he announced toward the beginning of July 2015 that the FBI was investigating the Emails of Hillary Clinton that were sent through a private server when she was Secretary of State.  This went against FBI policy, announcing an investigation while it was in process.  In essence, whether he meant to do it or not, Director Comey was both putting himself and the FBI in the middle of a Presidential Election and influencing its possible outcome.  This had not happened since the days of the first Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who used the agency for political purposes innumerable times.  It was, however, against the instructions of Obama’s first Attorney General and the practices of the institution. 


The outcome of that investigation was that Clinton had been careless but had done nothing prosecutable.  The investigation did, however, cast a shadow over her campaign. 


Shortly before the election, while early voting was going on in many states, in a different case, an investigation against Antony Weiner communicating inappropriately  with a 15 year old girl in another state, presumably more Clinton Emails were found.  Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, who was one of Clinton’s close aides, had apparently used Weiner’s laptop computer.  Abedin didn’t know how the Emails got onto the computer.  Even the number of them on the computer was unknown.  The FBI needed a court order to look at the Emails, consequently none had been read.  Only their existence was known.  Comey issued this information to the Republican heads of all the Congressional committees in a letter.  They, in turn, released this information to the press with fictitious statements as to what the Emails contained.  Donald Trump in his campaign quoted the unread emails.


Three days before the election Comey announced that the Emails had been duplicates of those seen earlier. There was no case against Clinton.  But the damage had been done.  Several million people had already voted.  Comey had taken the FBI to a new level, it had become a political organization.


Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.  But Trump had 290 Electoral votes to Hillary’s 228.  The American Democracy does not count each vote equally.  When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution there were thirteen states which had been incorporated together under the Articles of Confederation.  In essence there were thirteen sovereign independent little nations that had acted together during the Revolutionary War and continued to act together under the Articles.  But each was sovereign; they could go their own way at any time.  The delegates under the Articles had very little actual authority to do anything.  When any major decisions about anything had to be made they had to go back to their state legislatures for instructions and, as a final step, all had to agree for the measure to be passed.


Before the Revolutionary War the large Southern Planters all owed English merchants millions of dollars which they refused to pay now that they had won their independence.  The prewar situation had been such that these rich planters could order anything they wanted through these English merchants: furniture, building materials of all sorts, clothing, whatever, and the merchants would supply whatever they asked for and deduct the costs from their clients slave raised crops or lumber or whatever else they got from the planters.  The planters generally exceeded their crop profits.  Eventually massive amounts of monies were owed.  After the Revolutionary War the planters considered themselves debt free.  Some of the English merchants sued in American state courts, but they always lost their suit.  No American jury would give them anything.


In the new country in Massachusetts the tidewater merchants who ran the government needed to raise a certain amount in taxes.  Transportation at that time was very poor and Inland farmers who raised grain all had stills and turned their excess grain into whiskey, which was much easier to carry to places where it could be sold or traded for needed household goods or whatever else they wanted.  The coastal lawmakers placed the tax on whiskey.  What occurred was called Shay’s Rebellion of 1786 – 1787.  Daniel Shay argued that if the Southern planters could make their debts disappear so could the inland farmers.


The problem was solved when former General George Washington called out the National Guard.  These were tidewater civilians, many of them veterans of the Revolutionary War, who formed up and went inland.  As the soldiers appeared the Rebellion disintegrated.  Some men were arrested and taken back to the coastal city areas.  Washington eventually pardoned all of them but they had been away from their farms for months.  Thereafter they paid their taxes.


This was probably one of the main reasons for the Constitutional Convention which met in the state legislative capital in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 through September 17.  They claimed that they were going to amend the Articles of Confederation.  But they met in secret, taking no notes during their meetings.  After quickly coming to the conclusion that the Articles of Confederation by themselves could never be effective as a document of government they decided under their Chairman, George Washington, to write a new document.  This was the Constitution.


The group, under Washington’s leadership, was essentially made up of the leading men of property.  Among other things they had their own self-interest at heart.  They wanted a government that was strong enough to protect them and their self-interest and free enough to gain the support of the entire population. 


In the process of working out the Constitution they faced a number of problems.  One of these was that among the thirteen states there were large and small states.  The small states wanted their rights; they did not want to be overshadowed by the larger states.  This brought about the idea of a bicameral legislature.  Each State would be given two Senators, older and more stable men who were 35 or older, and a House of Representatives, younger men who were 25 or older and elected every two years.  The Senate would be elected every six years and their election would be staggered into thirds every two years so the government could maintain a continuation of whatever it was doing. 


The House would be elected directly by men owning property and represent the property owning yeoman; the Senate by the State Legislatures and represent them.  The President would be elected by an Electoral College, the members of which would be the wisest men in the region and they would pick the best man in the United States to be President. This would be done every four years.  There was no thought at this point of political parties.  If no one person received enough votes then the House of Representatives would choose the President.  Everyone agreed that George Washington would be the first President.


Under this system the votes are not equal.  Today they count for much more in the smaller states than in the larger ones.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, the number is fixed.  Each State has two senators and currently anything, depending upon population, from one to 55 representatives in the House of Representatives.  The number of electoral votes is fixed to the number of senators and house members; that is 535 electoral votes. 


In the 2016 Presidential Election the people elected Hillary Clinton with 1.4 million addition votes for Hillary Clinton but the Midwestern States gave the election to Donald J. Trump.  It was not a fair election.  It’s time to again amend the Constitution.  All citizens now have the vote, both male and female, property owners and renters.  All votes should be equally counted.


There is another interesting point to be made.  The House and Senate are fixed at 435 House members and 100 Senators.  The population of the United States grows every year.  Every ten years a census is taken of the populations and the number of House of Representative Districts are reassigned on the basis of the population changes or reapportionment.  Each state legislature then redraws the new legislative districts within each state’s boundaries.  In many cases, particularly when the Republicans control the majority of state governments, the voting districts are gerrymandered to give the majority state party the voting advantage.  They can take any shape as long as the line is continuous. 


In 2010 the Republicans gained control of most states.  They gerrymandered the Election Districts to their advantage, giving them control of the House of Representatives from 2011 on.  In the 2012 Midterm Election about 1 ¼ million more Democrats voted for members of the House but the Republicans still ended up with the majority of House seats that year.  Gerrymandering can fragment strong Democratic districts attaching them, on a piecemeal basis, as small parts of Republican dominated districts.  This is blatantly unfair.


The Constitution has been amended numerous times.  Its initial object was to create, for the first time, a late 18th Century a Democratic Document of government.  It was the first time a Democracy came into existence since Ancient Athens.  The 15th Amendment in 1870 gave every male, regardless of color, the right to vote.  The 17th Amendment in 1913 made the people of each individual state responsible for electing their senators.  The 19th Amendment in 1919 gave women the right to vote.  The 24th Amendment in 1965 did away with the poll tax.  The 26th Amendment in 1971 reduced the voting age to eighteen.  If you were old enough to fight and die for your country you were old enough to vote.  It’s time for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution.  We have had three Republican Presidents who have stolen elections: one in 1876, one in 2001, and one in 2017.  Every vote cast for the President should count equally.  In a true Democracy the People are supposed to rule.


Another major problem with the 2016 Presidential Election was the fact that voter turnout was the lowest in years.  The Republicans tend to do well when voter turnout is forcibly and/or voluntarily reduced.  In this election, despite numerous lawsuits to stop the process, there was a lot of voter suppression.  In the State of Texas in 2014 it exceeded 200,000.  In 2016 it could have been higher.


In addition the two major candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both the two most disliked Presidential candidates in United States history.  Clinton was polled at a negative 60% level and Trump, at a 75% level.  Fifty-four percent of the population voted; forty-six percent of the population stayed at home and did not vote.  Still even though Hillary Clinton had the majority of votes she had far less than President Obama received four years ago.


Donald J. Trump was guilty of everything he accused Clinton of being and doing.  He has just settled a fraud class action lawsuit about Trump University which was scheduled to begin on November 28, 2016.  Trump had previously denounced the Judge as being of Mexican heritage numerous times.  The Judge had recommended that this case, that was filed 2010, be settled out of court. On Friday November 18, Trump settled this and two other Trump University class action suits for 25 million dollars.  Without admitting guilt Trump will be paying each of the class action participants about half of what they spent at Trump University.  If any or all the cases had gone to trial Trump could also have been guilty of fraud and have been impeached for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” by the Republican dominated House of Representatives and found guilty in a trial by the Republican dominated Senate.


As far as I know there is still a 40 million dollar fraud suit by the State of New York which could also include participation by other states that were involved.  Also there is a criminal investigation going on concerning Trump’s Tax Free Foundation by the State of New York.  Forty-one other states could also participate in this case because Trump, among other things, tends to ignore state government laws, particularly dealing with his Foundation.  The IRS is also probably involved in this since the monies involved were tax free and probably shouldn’t have been.


As a side comment: What I find interesting is that the FBI could investigate The Clinton Foundation, which has a more positive rating than the Red Cross but not bother with the Trump Foundation where the evidence of wrong-doing is blatant.


Hillary Clinton has been demonized since she was the First Lady in Arkansas in 1979.  She was then called the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock by several Republican writers.  She has been demonized continually since 1979 for essentially pushing for anti-Republican reform.  Presumably Hillary Clinton has never been a proper wife but has been as aggressive toward reform as her husband.  Obviously this behavior, to Republicans, is not being a proper lady. 


Where people believe, whose lives are very busy and don’t pay too much attention to the Federal Government other than on election years, is where there’s smoke there has to be fire or if it wasn’t at least partially true the Republicans would never bring it up.  What has been created is a negative myth about her.  Every one of us has made some mistakes over our lifetime or have done some stupid things but these acts do not define us.  Our entire lives do.  Hillary Clinton has worked, and in many cases successfully, to improve conditions around her, particularly for women and children.  To her “Women’s rights are human rights.”


The negative myths about her are just that, negative myths created by the Republicans to put her in her place.  Kevin McCarthy, Charlie McCarthy’s younger cousin, announced over the weekend of November 12th that the House of Representatives’ agenda does not include hearings on Clinton, which were promised for at least the next two years if she were elected President.  They may eventually amend the agenda to hold hearing on Donald J. Trump.  If they could dump Trump then Mike Pence, a good Republican, would be President of the United States and the House could probably do anything it wanted.  That could be the best of all possible worlds for them.


The Weiner Component #28 – Interpreting the Constitution: The Election of the President

Map of number of electoral votes by state afte...

In June of 1776, a year after the American Revolution started, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted the following month on July 4th.  The Declaration defined the rights of man and demonstrated how the King of England had ignored these rights and forced the colonists to revolt.  The document was a democratic statement, designating that all people were equal and all people were given the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 

 The war ended in November 1782 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.  The new nation consisted of thirteen independent states loosely bound together under the Articles of Confederation in 1781.

 In 1786 the legislature of the government of Massachusetts in Boston, which was located along the highly populated coastal region of the state, passed a law taxing the inland farmers in order to raise money for the state’s expenses.  These farmers, who were largely under represented in the government, revolted and refused to pay the tax, arguing that if the Southern planters, who had been dependent upon English merchants before the Revolution could during and after the war refuse to pay their debts to these English merchants then why couldn’t they do the same thing and refuse to pay the taxes.  This was called Shay’s Rebellion, named after a Revolutionary War veteran, Daniel Shay. 

 George Washington called out a force of the National Guard and the revolt dissipated by the time the troops reached the area.  The fear of this possibility in the future brought about among property owners, who were the voters, a desire for a stronger central government.  In May of 1787 the Philadelphia Convention met.   Fifty-five delegates came representing twelve states.  They were conservative and moderately wealthy.  They wanted to create a strong government that would be able to protect their interests.

 In essence they believed in “life, liberty, and the protection of property.”  In order to do this they needed a government that was seemingly democratic without really being democratic.  They wrote, over the summer, a constitution that emphasized “life, liberty, and protection of property.

 This document was democratic in form, drawing its authority from the People in the country and establishing a government based upon direct representation in the House of Representatives where those elected would serve for a two-year period, a Senate that was elected by the legislatures of the individual states for a period of six years, and a President who was indirectly elected by the people for a period of four years.  The powers of the President were vague, while the powers of Congress were specifically enumerated.  The only individuals directly elected by the People were the members of The House of Representatives; everyone else was indirectly elected. 

 Some of the states had a Bill of Rights in their own Constitutions and they wanted one added to the National Constitution.  This was promised and shortly after ratification James Madison wrote twelve measures of which ten were passed by three quarters of the states.  These became the Bill of Rights.

 There was no mention of political parties in the document.  Nor had most of the founders envisioned them; but Alexander Hamilton initially created the Federalist Party and was its first head; and through it the electors from the twelve states choose George Washington as the first President of the United States.

.Before the first election could be held a census of the population had to be taken.  The number of Representatives in each state for the House of Representatives had to be determined by population.  Each state was then divided into representative districts.  From these there were elections for each member of the House and also elections for electors who would choose the President.  It was a known that George Washington would be the first President.  Each state, regardless of population, would have their legislature choose two Senators, who would represent the interests of the particular state.  The President, with advice and consent from the Senate, would choose the members of the Supreme Court.

 The voting franchise or who could vote was/is determined by both federal and state law.  The initial voters were male property owners, which limited the number of people who had the franchise.  From 1812 on the property qualification was done away with; all white males qualified for the franchise.  It should be stated that from this time on virtually anyone could get property since the government sold its land for almost nothing.  By 1828, with the election of Andrew Jackson, most white males in the United States had the vote.   The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 gave the vote to all males.  The Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 specifically gave the vote to non-white males.  In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote.

 We have come a long way from the original intent of the founding fathers with our Constitution.  First, there are two basic interpretations of the reason for our government: (1) Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and (2) Life, Liberty and the Protection of Property.  The first position represents the Democratic Party and the second one denotes the Republican Party.  The struggle between the two has existed throughout the history of the nation.  Do we need one or some of both positions?

 The other purpose has to do with elections, particularly the election of the President of the United States.  Should he continue to be chosen by the Electoral College or should it be directly by the majority of votes by the people of the United States? 

 In 1913 the Seventeenth Amendment changed the Constitution by bringing about the direct election of Senators by the people of the country.  There had been numerous abuses in the State Legislations dealing with the election of Senators.  This Amendment corrected that by having the people vote directly for the Senators.

 The President of the United States is still elected by the Electoral College.  The people vote for electors and the electors vote for the President.  There have been two instances where the men elected received the majority of electoral votes but did not get the majority of the popular vote.

 One was in 1876 where Samuel J. Tilden received the majority of the popular vote but was defeated by Rutherford B. Hayes who got the majority of votes from the Electoral College; Tilden got 184 electoral votes while Hayes received 185.  The other instance was in 2000 where Al Gore won the popular vote but George W. Bush gained the majority of the electoral votes; Gore had 50,999,857 popular votes and 271 electoral votes, Bush received 50,456,002 votes and 274 electoral votes.  In both cases the majority of the voters wills were thwarted.

 Would a reversal of these electoral decisions have made a significant difference?   Both of the winners were Republicans.  Hayes agreed to end Reconstruction if he was elected.  It’s from this time that “Jim Crow” began in the South.  It reached its peak in 1896 with the case of Plessey vs. Ferguson that established that “separate but equal was constitutional.”  This decision was not changed until 1954 in the case of Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education where the Supreme Court reversed itself and declared that “separate but equal” was inherently unequal.

 If Tilden had become President would it have made a difference?  The answer is yes.  The integration of the former slave population would have been different.  How much more positive that difference would have been is not known; but the probability is that it would have been better for the entire country.

 In 2000 if Al Gore had been able to assume the presidency it is highly unlikely that the U.S. would have gotten involved in two wars after the 9/11/2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City.  The Iraq Wa,r after “weapons of mass destruction” that did not exist, would never have happened; and thousands of Americans who died in that war would still be alive today.  Al Gore would never have had George W. Bush’s bellicose attitude and both economic and military conditions would be far less severe.  The National Debt would be considerably lower. 

 In the 2012 Presidential Election the Republican Party in a number of states, particularly those where they had a majority in state legislatures and governors, tried, with a measure of success, to limit democratic votes.  Isn’t it time for another Constitutional Amendment allowing the people to vote directly for the President of the United States?  Or do we have to wait for another massive mishap before we consider this proposition?  


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