As a bemused public watches the clown car revue that is the developing race for the Democratic nomination for president, a few constitutional oddities have attracted our notice. It is bad when the wheels are coming off of the clown cars. To change the metaphor, as the paddle of our 24/7 news cycle stirs that witch’s brew cauldron of a presidential contest, more than a few newt eyes and lizard claws have floated to the surface. This makes dispassionate political analysis a challenge, and I think more of you should be expressing your gratitude for those of us attempting it. It is a lonely job, doing this.
Constitutional barriers, put in place to guard us all against whatever faction is being evil right now, are simply seen by progressives as barriers to them winning. And because winning is the only thing they are interested in, they are more than willing to tear down any barrier that gets in the way of that winning.
But Chesterton—good old Chesterton—taught us that no one should ever be allowed to tear down any fence unless they could explain why it had been erected in the first place. And this is why Democratic presidential candidates should be asked three questions about some of the outlandish proposals that are surfacing.
What are the arguments against packing the Supreme Court? What are the arguments against doing an end run around the Electoral College? And what are the arguments against allowing sixteen-year-olds the vote? When you can tell us why these fences were placed where they are, then perhaps you might have an intelligent argument for removing them. Until then, we should just treat these proposals, and any others like them, as the naked power grabs that they are.
So Keep Your Eye on the Ball
The real problem with all these “process reforms” that the Democrats are pushing right now is that if they don’t get the results they want from those reforms, they will immediately run around to the other side and start pushing in the other direction.
The left is feeling put upon because things are not going their way, and so they want to change the rules. And they will keep pressing to change the rules until things start going their way.
So the Democratic candidates are fanning out across the land, spewing unconstitutional and bad juju nonsense as they go. They want to raise the number of Supreme Court justices to fifteen. They want a number of states (whose electoral heft adds up to 270 votes) to make a compact with one another that would give all their delegates to the winner of the national popular vote. And they also want to turn to that vast reservoir of civic wisdom, our sixteen-year-olds, and have them help us save our democracy.
Packing the Court
Franklin Delano tried this one back in the thirties, and there was an outcry about it then, and FDR dropped the idea like it was a hot rock. For my money, it is still a rock, and it is still hot.
But for progressives, the fact that Donald J. Trump has placed two justices on the Supreme Court, and might place two more before his first term is up, is what they consider intolerable. That might mean that the Court starts slapping their ideas down.
Naturally the solution they have offered us, in the interests of fair play and all, is to jack up the number of justices that are on the court. And that means that their next president will get to nominate a boatload of Mensheviks, after which they will cry out for bipartisan support for the nominees.
What Trump ought to do (say I, drawing my black cape over my face) is say something like, “you know, I don’t usually like Democratic ideas, but this one is a beauty. Let’s make the Supreme Court great again. I am going to have our people in the House and the Senate get to work on legislation right now. Let’s raise the number of seats on the Supreme Court to fifteen. I may have to expand my list of potential nominees a bit, but I will be sure to run them all by Robert Jeffress first . . .”
The howls from the left would echo off the moon.
This is because they don’t want fifteen qualified jurists on the Supreme Court as a practical matter, helping to handle the load of all the cases and everything. No. They want to pack the court full of their reliables because they—and mark this carefully—are insistent on having their way.
And anything in their way—courts, elections, constitutions, mature voters—needs to go.
Disenfranchising Fly-over Country
A compact between high-population blue states to have all their electoral votes go to the winner of the national popular vote is nothing less than a conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional order of the United States. I trust that the courts would treat it that way, but whether or not they do, everybody who owns a gun should.
In order to abolish the Electoral College, the Constitution would have to be amended, and they know that this will never happen. What they are proposing in this interstate compact is way to circumvent the Constitution, and to do so by means of an open conspiracy. It is an awful idea that would completely alter and ruin our political process.
But also remember the caution I mentioned above. If this plan were instituted, and it somehow didn’t work (meaning that the progressive candidate for president still wound up losing), they would want to change everything yet again.
A great deal of hay is made out of the fact that Hillary won the popular vote and that Trump did not. But she won the popular vote because of her margin of victory in California alone. In other words, taking 49 out of 50 states, Trump won the popular vote. Do you think the rest of the country wants to cede this kind of power to California?
In addition, when presidents are elected by means of the Electoral College, this is the result of a system and a process which both they and their rivals entered into freely. They strategized and campaigned in terms of the rules. And the way our constitutional republic was set up, the national popular vote was (and is) an utter irrelevance. What the Democrats are proposing now is something akin to taking away Tom Brady’s Super Bowl ring because another quarterback in the NFL had more passing yards in the course of the season. The problem with this approach is that Super Bowl rings are not handed out on the basis of total passing yards. That’s not how the game is set up.
The graphic I have displayed with this post is a red/blue breakdown of the last election, precinct by precinct. What the Democrats are proposing is to shift to a system where all the candidates need to do is spend all of their money and all of their time campaigning in the blue areas. I cannot imagine a better scenario for instigating a civil war.
The Kids Are All Right
But being all right doesn’t mean you get to vote. The Democrats want the teens voting because they want fresh meat. This is also why they want open borders. They are open to anyone and anything that might increase their political clout. They believe that the young will be reliably in their corner when it comes to the polls, and so they are all for it. If they somehow got some intel that informed them about a radical conservative movement that was sweeping the nation’s young people, they would all immediately start stroking their chins and wondering aloud if perhaps sixteen is a tad early.
When the Constitution was amended to allow eighteen-year-olds the right to vote, those in favor of expanding the franchise at that time had a much stronger argument than what we are dealing with now. It went this way. If you can be drafted to go fight in a war in Southeast Asia when you are eighteen, then perhaps you should be allowed to vote for those people who are making decisions about all those wars in Southeast Asia. Okay. Makes sense to me.
But now the argument has to do with the need to find more voters who are ambulatory, and who are smart enough to work machines like what you find at the polls, but who are not informed enough to know yet that socialism is poverty on stilts. Socialism is a wasting disease, and nobody in the government school system, another wasting disease, is teaching the kids that.
And so, my friends, as these proposals make plain, and as any related proposals make plain, we are no longer living in a time of normal politics. The United States has left normal politics behind, and is now in an era of regime politics. This helpful distinction was recently noted by someone writing in Imprimis, and if we ask if the distinction applies to us today, the answer would have to run along the lines of boy, howdy.
In a time of normal politics, there is a general consensus throughout the country, and elections are held in order to determine whether we should go northwest or north by northwest. In a time of regime politics, elections are held in order to determine whether to go west or east. And because the stakes are so momentous, not only are elections part of that decision-making process, but so also everything else is enlisted into the decision-making process. If you want to call a nationwide sumo-wrestling contest a decision-making process.
And what this is means is that even though I believe that these proposals will all fail, the mere fact that they were not immediately hooted off the stage, the fact that “the base” of one of our two major political parties is demanding this kind of nonsense, and the fact that their candidates are catering to that demand, means that we are in for nine miles of bad road.