The Constitution isn’t the cure for President Trump. It is the cause.Roundup
tags: Constitution, impeachment, Trump
Shira Lurie is a historian of early American political culture.
President Trump’s antipathy for the Constitution’s restraint on his power seems to grow by the day.
Last weekend, after reversing his decision to hold the Group of Seven summit at his own Miami hotel because of bipartisan criticism, Trump blamed the “phony emoluments clause” of the Constitution. In response, Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas tweeted, “Mr. President, we will hold you accountable because your disregard for the Constitution jeopardizes our democracy.”
Democrats have consistently hammered Trump on what they see as his unconstitutional actions, including his initial Muslim travel ban (the Supreme Court declared the third iteration legal), declaration of a national emergency to fund his border wall and, of course, pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political enemies.
It is, of course, good and necessary to fight these violations. But the United States’ hopes for defending itself from Trumpism do not lie in the Constitution.
While many Americans celebrate the Constitution as a document that protects individual liberty and empowers the citizenry, it was created for the opposite purpose. The men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 sought to design a new federal Constitution that would limit popular influence on government and ensure that elites would rule.
Back then, “democracy” was a dirty word that connoted disorder and mob rule. The convention delegates agreed on the need to restrain the democratic excesses that the American Revolution had unleashed. Rather than a government by the people, they would create a government by the best (meaning wealthy, well-educated) people who would govern to protect the interests of the propertied. After all, they believed that only those whose fortunes freed them from daily toil had the time, character and independence to lead the young nation to stability and prosperity.
To achieve elite rule, the Founders created large electoral districts for the House of Representatives to inhibit ordinary men from gaining election. No one but the wealthy would have the influence and resources to win the support of 30,000 constituents. The large districts would also, according to James Madison, provide “defence against the inconveniences of democracy” by ensuring that ordinary citizens would have difficulty uniting to influence their representatives.
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