The Weiner Component Vol, 2 – #2: Images of the 2016 Election

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stea...

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stearns, Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

In every Democratic Country, with the exception of the United States, the winner of the Presidential or Prime Minister Election is the one who receives the most popular votes.  All the votes count equally; every citizen has one vote that counts the same as every other vote.  The exception to this is the U.S. where the winner is the one who receives the most Electoral Votes.  It takes 270 Electoral Votes to win the Election in the United States.  There are 538 Electoral Votes possible, 435 for the members of the House of Representatives, 100 for the Senators from the 50 states, and 3 for members of territories belonging to the U.S.

 

The system was designed in the late 18th Century when the Constitution came into existence.  It was the first Democratic instrument of modern government.  Its intent was to be Democratic without being overly Democratic.  According to the original document of government, the Constitution, the House of Representatives would be elected directly by the property owning male voters and represent them, two Senators would be elected by each of the State Legislatures and represent their interests.  The President or chief executive would be chosen by an Electoral College made up of the same number of both members of the House and Senate.  The voters would choose the smartest men in their Districts to pick out the best man in the country to be President.  Everyone understood that George Washington would be the first President.  There is no mention of political parties in the Constitution nor was there any thought of them at the time.

 

The first political party was organized by Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, while the Constitution was being voted into existence by nine of the twelve states.  Rhode Island refused to participate in this activity.  The first political party, the Federalists, represented the Urban Business Class. 

 

The second political party was organized by Thomas Jefferson for the 1800 Presidential Election in order for him to become President.  It was called the Republican Party.  The Federalists satirically christened it the Democratic-Republican Party and shortly thereafter it became the Democratic Party, a name it still bares today. 

 

Jefferson favored the Yeoman (small) farmer.  In fact his rationale for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was so that there would be land available for the small farmers for the next hundred years.

 

In essence the Democratic Party has always favored the ordinary citizen above the merchant or business class.  During the Great Depression of 1929 the Democratic Party took on a level of responsibility for him where he couldn’t provide for himself.  That is still the major maxim of the Democratic Party. 

 

The Republican Party which officially came into existence in the Election of 1860 over the issue of slavery and has always favored business and the wealthy class.  It is an interesting commentary on the current society that they elected a group who favors the business class over the ordinary individual citizens.  They were able to do this because the form of our government is archaic, allowing a minority of the population to elect the President and allowing the states to gerrymander or shape their Election Districts in such a way that they favor the Republican Party.

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The Constitution has been amended numerous times in the past, clarifying or changing aspects of its original intent.  In fact the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, was agreed upon even before the Constitution was ratified by the original nine states.  James Madison wrote twelve amendments, of which ten were approved by nine of the states, a 2/3 majority.  The rest of the amendments, currently making a total of 27, were added through 1992.  An equal rights amendment, making women equal legally with males was attempted but never passed by the 2/3s majority.

 

All citizens of the United States, both males and females since 1972, upon reaching the age of 18 now have the right to vote.  It took more than one Amendment to the Constitution to do that.  But the votes are not counted equally and innumerable instances of voter suppression during elections occur today in the United States.

 

By law a census of the population is taken every ten years and the fixed number of seats in the House of Representatives is reapportioned according to changes in the population.  There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives and they are reapportioned every decade.  The next census will occur in 2020. 

 

Regardless of its actual population every state must have at least one representative in the House of Representatives.  Seven states have that number beginning with Montana which has a population of 1,023,579, with the number decreasing to Wyoming which has 584,153 citizens.    Five states have two representatives, three states have three, six states have four representatives, three states have five, two states have six, three have seven representatives, and four have eight representatives.  Four states beginning with Tennessee, which has a population of 6,549,352 have nine representatives in the House of Representatives.  Then single states have ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen representatives.  Two states have fourteen representatives. One state has sixteen.  Two states have 18 and two have 27.  Texas has 36 seats in the House of Representatives and California has 53 seats. 

 

Every state regardless of population has at least three representatives in Congress: one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate, giving them at least 3 Electoral Votes.  California, according to the Census Bureau in July of 2014, had a population of 38,802,500 people and a total of 55 Votes in Congress: 53 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.  Wyoming, with a population of 584,153, had a total of 3 Congressional votes: one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. 

 

There are fifty states making up the bulk of the United States.  Population-wise it takes 29 of the lowest populated states to make up the approximate population of California.  Their populations go from about 5 ½ million down to a little above ½ million.  Yet each of these states have two Senators.  This throws their representation in Congress well out of kilter with the high population states like California, Texas, Florida, and New York.  Combined their representation in Congress is totally out of proportion to the high population states, making their votes count for far more than the other states.  It’s this type of balance that got Donald Trump elected to the presidency even though Hillary Clinton had almost three million more popular votes than he got in the 2016 Presidential Election.

        

In addition within all the states there is a gradual movement from the rural areas to the urban ones where more new jobs develop.  Farming, incidentally, has become and is more and more mechanized requiring less and less people.  This means that the votes in the rural districts tend to count for more than in the cities because their number is always decreasing.  Depending upon the accuracy of the census these numbers are adjusted every decade.  A new census will occur in 2020.

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Another factor that keeps the vote uneven is that in the United States there are 50 plus elections.  Each state conducts its own separate election under its own specific laws.  This can and does lead in interesting and unfair situations.  In Texas, for example, in order to vote an individual needs a special type of official identification.  These can be easily gotten in the cities.  But a percentage of the state live and work in rural areas.  In order for these people to get the ID they have to take a day off from work and go into a nearby city, pay a fee, and get the ID.  But the facilities that issue these IDs do not keep regular hours, nor are they open every day.  The days and hours they function are not advertised.  Texas is a right to work state which limits union operations there.  A goodly percentage of the people working in the rural area cannot afford to take a day off or are they necessarily allowed to do so.  Since these laws were passed, not many years ago, the voting by minorities has dropped several hundred thousand.  When this case was first appealed the Judge declared that this law was a modern version of the poll tax and declared it unconstitutional.  It was then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court which was completely appointed by Republican presidents.  They upheld the law, declaring it Constitutional.  It can be appealed to the Supreme Court, but they now consist of four liberal and four conservative judges.  The probability is that they will not even take the case.

 

Before this law was passed Texas was becoming a purple state with a possibility of eventually becoming a blue or Democratic state.  By restricting minority voting in the state the Republican dominated legislature was able to turn it back into a red or Republican state.  This type of activity is going on throughout all the states where the Republicans dominate the legislature. There is a constant struggle between the Democrats and Republicans to expand and to restrict the vote.  Eventually the Democrats will win because the basic makeup or demographics of the U.S. population is changing.  The Caucasians or whites are no longer the majority of the population.  They are just one of the large minorities that exist in the country now.  And that number is gradually decreasing.

 

Another device for controlling elections in some of the larger states is by the use of gerrymandering.  Keep in mind that each state controls completely the elections held within its boundaries.  There is a fixed number of voting districts for the House of Representatives, 435.  Every ten years there is a census and the voting districts are reconstituted based upon population changes.  Consequently some states will gain seats in the House of Representatives while others will lose one of more seats.  In any case the state districts are redrawn after each census.  In Republican dominated states there is imaginative gerrymandering.

 

By going over the party registrations within the state each political party can determine which regions are strongly Democratic and which are mainly Republican.  By freely drawing the lines in an erratic fashion a district can be changed from being heavily for one or the other political party.  Both parties have done this.  But the Republicans have used this device far more than the Democrats.   

 

In fact since the 1965 Presidential Election when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson the extreme right section of the Republican Party has vigilantly worked to extend their influence on a state level.  By the Census of 2010 they were able to dominate the House of Representatives.  In 2012, even though one and a quarter million more Democrats voted for members of the House of Representatives the Republicans still had the majority of members there.  In terms of today’s House of Representatives Democratic voting blocs have been broken up by suddenly having their parts connected to three or four Republic areas with the Democrats becoming a minority in each of the new Republican dominated districts.

 

This gerrymandering has also carried over to the 2016 Presidential Election in medium sized states by establishing the Electoral Voting Districts which, in point of fact, are the same as the House of Representative Districts.  Donald J. Trump won the election even though Hillary Clinton had 2.8 million more popular votes. 

 

Trump had 306 Electoral Votes.  Several of his electors refused to vote for him.  Instead they cast their votes for other Republicans.  Clinton had 232 Electoral Votes.  The popular vote for Trump was 62,979,879 votes, 46.1% of the popular vote.  The popular vote for Clinton was 65,844,954 votes, 48.2%.  Clearly Hilary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential Election but Trump won the Electoral Vote.  Who should really be President of the United States?

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What is needed to fairly have rule by the majority are four Amendments to the Constitution, all dealing with one or another aspect of elections.

 

First: the Federal Government has to assume responsibility for the elections in all the states, having them all function with one similar set of rules from the census on.  The states with more than one Election District should be all divided geographically and not based upon the political registration of its inhabitants.  Thus gerrymandering will be permanently ended.

 

Second: we need some form of common registration in all the states and territories that will encourage the adult population to vote in all the elections.  Currently shortly after birth all babies born in the United States receive their Social Security number.  Upon reaching the age of 18 they could also receive their registration forms, pre-stamped, to be filled out and mailed back.

 

Third: the Electoral College has to be done away with.  Presidential Elections should be won by the number of votes cast.  One equal vote for every person voting, having them all count the same.  The winner being the individual getting the majority of votes.

 

Fourth: The 100 Senate seats to be divided up according to population.  Each of the 50 states to have one Senator.  The remaining 50 Senate seats to be divided up by state population.  While this would still give the smaller states an advantage it would half the advantage that currently exists.

 

This can be done as either a single Amendment with four sections or as four separate Amendments.  The probability is that the fourth section, dealing with the number of Senators per state, will not come about in the near future.  The two Senator per state concept is a sacred cow.

 

Whether the Amendment(s) will be passed sometime during the next decade or during the rest of this century is a moot question.  The current system is advantageous to the Republican Party and at this point they control 29 state governments.  It is dubious that these states would vote for one or more Amendments to the Constitution that could hurt their standing as a political party. 

 

However soon to be former President Barack Obama has called for and may lead a grass root rebellion starting with school boards and moving up to state governments in order to take back the Federal Government.  Donald Trump and the Republican dominated Congress may well cooperate with Barack Obama by the legislation they put forth and President Donald Trump signs. 

 

The next census is in 2020 that is two elections from now.  Trump and the Republicans may well discredit themselves with the American people by then.  The bleak seeming future could change fairly quickly, particularly with well over 20 million people losing their medical coverage.

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

Map of number of electoral votes by state after redistricting from the 2000 census. Modified by User:Theshibboleth for the font to be consistent with electoral maps. Edited with Inkscape. Reuploaded by User:King of Hearts to correct spelling (vs. Image:Electorial map.svg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #112A – How the United States Government Works

During the Grand Jury examination of the August 8, 2014 shooting of 6’4” eighteen year old Michael Brown by the 6’4” police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri the question was asked by one of the jurors as to which predominated, the state laws or the Federal laws. The Assistant District Attorney never really answered that question for the Ferguson Grand Jury. The Constitution gives that power to the Federal Government and the issue was ultimately resolved by the Civil War which solidly placed power in the hands of the Central Government of all the states.

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The basic document for the organization of the Federal Government is the Constitution of the United States which defines all aspects of our government. Initially, during and directly after the American Revolution, this country was ruled by the Articles of Confederation of the 13 states with most of the power resting within the governments of each of the 13 states. The central government was run by a Congress of the States and had very little direct power. Any measure that it passed had to be agreed upon by all the states involved. It had to no power to tax and had to rely on the states for anything it needed. To fill its monetary needs it had request funds from the states which would simply and individually send money or not.

For these and other reasons this system of government did not work well. A meeting was called to have elected representatives come to Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 until September 17. Its purpose was to amend the Articles of Confederation. This assembly occurred nine years after the start of the new nation. Not all the states sent representatives and not all the representatives stayed the full hot summer to work upon the reform.

George Washington, probably the most trusted man in the new nation, was elected chairman. They met during a very hot Philadelphia summer and had to be done when the meeting place would again be used by the state legislature. It was early determined to keep no record of the meetings and to keep the results secret until they were done.

They very early concluded that the Articles of Confederation were completely inadequate and could not be reformed to form a proper government. They determined that they had to start from scratch and develop a totally new government with the power to run the new nation. What emerged at the end of the summer was the United States Constitution. It required 9 of the 13 states to vote approval for the document to come into being. Not all the states initially voted to join.

Interestingly the one issue never resolved at this time was where did the ultimate power rest, with the states or with the new Federal Government? That issue was not resolved until the end of the Civil War. The power rests with the Federal Government.

Virtually everyone has heard of the Constitution but many people don’t quite know what is contains or how it works. They have not read it or remember what they learned in school about it. This lack of knowledge has caused all sorts of confusion and, at times, a lack of voting.

The Constitution begins with a statement of its purpose: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”. This statement is highly important; it explains the reason for the government.

The document itself contained seven articles. The first establishes the government’s legislative powers, establishing a bicameral law making body, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House was to be elected directly by the People for a period of two years while the Senate was to be elected for a six year term at the rate of 1/3d of the Senate reelected every two years by the state legislatures. The House represented the people directly and the Senate represented the States. The minimum age for the House was 25 and the Senate, 30. House representatives were apportioned by population with each state having a minimum of at least one, while each state had two Senators. The Vice President headed the Senate with no vote except in cases of a tie with the second in command being the President pro tempore, the leader of the majority party. The House had to sole power of impeachment while the Senate served as the jury in such cases. All tax bills were to originate in the House of Representatives allowing the people to indirectly tax themselves.

Every bill after being passed in both Houses of Congress had to be signed by the President in order to become law. The President can sign the bill, veto the bill, or ignore it. After ten days an unsigned bill automatically becomes law.

Article 1 also enumerates the powers of Congress: lay and collect taxes, regulate commerce, coin money, declare war, raise and support a military, and establish the primacy of the Federal Government over the states.

It is important to keep in mind that only Congress can pass laws. The President can issue executive orders but generally they last only during his tenure in office. Another president can cancel them by a stroke of the pen.

Article 2 deals with the executive power, establishing a President and Vice-President for a four year period. The means of election is stated, requiring that the individual be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years of age. The people vote for electors whose total number equals that of all the Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Upon the removal of the President by death or for any other reason the Vice-President succeeds him.

The specific oath of office is stated. He is commander and chief of the military and can grant pardons. His appointments and treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate. He is to give Congress the State of the Union information and recommendations from time to time. The President can be removed from office on Impeachment for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

From what has been stated the overall powers of the President have been specifically defined over the years by the way the men who have held that position have acted.

Article 3 deals with the judicial power of the United States. It requires a Supreme Court and such other Federal Courts that Congress establishes. It sets the judges tenure as lifetime and the Constitution as the basis for all court decisions. The document defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the specifics and structure of the Supreme Court and the entire court system is left to be defined by Congress.

Article 4 deals with citizens and state’s rights throughout the nation and with new states coming into the Union.

Article Five has to do with amending the Constitution.

Article Six Pertains to business contracts, the supremacy of Federal law over state law, and having all elected and judicial officials taking an oath to support the Constitution.

Article Seven deals with ratification of the Constitution. It required nine states to ratify the Constitution for it to come into being.

While the process of ratification was going on some of the states complained that there was no Bill of Rights within the document. The founders promised to add one after the Constitution was ratified.

James Madison wrote twelve Amendments to the Constitution. Following Article Five, it required a 2/3d vote for the Amendment to become part of the Constitution. Twelve states had ratified the Constitution. Nine states approved ten of Madison’s twelve Amendments and they became the first ten Amendments to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Seventeen additional Amendments have been added to the Constitution since its inception making the total present number 27.

In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

In 1868 the 14th Amendment was passed. It extended civil rights making all people equal.

In 1870 the 15th Amendment specifically extended Black suffrage.

In 1913 the 16th Amendment legalized the income tax.

In 1913 the 17th Amendment authorized the direct election of Senators by the people.

In 1913 the 18th Amendment authorized the prohibition of liquor and the 21 Amendment in 1933 repealed prohibition.

In 1919 the 19th Amendment gave women the vote throughout the United States.

In 1951 the 22nd Amendment limited future Presidents to two terms.

In 1965 the 24th Amendment made poll taxes illegal for anyone to vote.

In 1971 the 26th Amendment moved initial voting from 21 years of age to 18.

The Constitution of the United States is, with some exceptions, a general document. The interpretation of what it means has shifted over the years as the country has gone from a rural nation with some cities to an industrial one with some agriculture. It is a flexible document whose interpretation has been largely defined by the way it was run and by the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, which has the final say upon what it means. And what it means has changed over the years.

By being flexible the Constitution remains as valid today as it did in 1789 when it was first put into existence.

This document was originally set up with a system of checks and balances. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives serve as a check upon each other since both have to pass the exact same bill in order for it to become law. The President by signing or vetoing the bill serves as a check upon the Congress. The President is essentially an administrator and can only suggest that certain bills be passed by Congress. The Supreme Court has, among other things, the power of judicial review which was created by its third chief justice, John Marshall, in the case of Marboro v. Madison and has functioned ever since. Also the Supreme Court can make the final decision about what a law or any part of a law means.

In addition it is important to remember that only Congress can make and pass a law. The President is the Chief Administrator in the government. He can issue an Executive Order but he cannot make laws only Congress or the People can do that.  Congress by passing a law and the People through Amending the Constitution.