The U.S. Senate went nuclear and the U.S. President bombed a sovereign nation in the same day.
The founding fathers, being students of the Enlightenment, read the works of Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Hobbes, and Rousseau — thus creating rules for our nation to play the game of representative democracy. Over the course of American history, amendments have been passed and revisions made. The U.S. Constitution is extremely amazing because it is a living, breathing document filled with defects of character just like any human. However, the constitution is only as strong as the rules it upholds. The founding fathers recognized the many paths tyranny could walk, and so they put in place safeguards like emoluments clauses, powers reserved to specific branches, and protocols for supreme court appointments.
Since the election of 2016, the constitution playbook has been tested. President Trump is not the country’s first wealthy leader, but his real estate and business dealings are pushing the boundaries of the emolument clause.
Recently the Washington Post reported that a liberal watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against President Trump citing this clause. However, this lawsuit is unlikely to lead to impeachment, and the case is difficult to “win.” Basically, the emolument clause is as difficult to say as it is to prove.
On April 6, 2016, the Senate went “nuclear,” changing the rule from 60 votes to a majority of votes to confirm a supreme court nominee. Interestingly, the Senate is probably the most changed component of the U.S. Constitution. For the first 125 years of America’s existence, senators were appointed. It wasn’t until the progressive era reform movement of the 1900s, that the 17th Amendment was ratified, granting the direct election of senators. Previously senators were appointed by state legislators, which caused problems of political puppetry and vacant seats. This week, however, the Republican-held chamber changed its own rules to expedite the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. The Republicans are changing the rules and very little is being done to stop them.
Also on April 6, President Trump dropped missiles on a sovereign nation without congressional approval. Although many people (both private and public citizens) support the president’s decision to take action against a country that has been suspected of using chemical weapons on its own people, the president did not follow the rules. Many Americans went to bed after hearing Nikki Haley’s impassioned speech at the UN thinking a diplomatic or unilateral solution was imminent, only to wake up to learn that President Trump had bombed a Syrian airbase. President Trump did not allow for the political process to unfold — the democratic rules were ignored.
American representative democracy is fragile, special, and delicate. Like a garden in July, it needs constant weeding and care. Unless the American people want the words etched in the Capitol building to say: by the president, for the politicians, and of the corporations, every American citizen needs to be a constant gardener.
Furthermore, regardless of which political “team” an American citizen roots for, every person has the responsibility to make sure the “game” is played by the established rules.