• Sheri McGuinn

The Slippery Slope Away From Democracy

I want this blog thread to be about making the world a better place. It started with good news reports, of people making a difference, and I want to continue that and make this generally an uplifting read. However, to make the world a better place, speaking out is also necessary. It is when we are silent that problems grow worse. If I speak out here about a problem and you know of something being done to correct it, please do respond and tell us.

An internet search turned up no new articles about migrant children. I wanted to know if things have improved, so I contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, figuring they are heavily involved and would know. They reported that court orders continue to be ignored and children are still being separated from parents.

My concern with this goes beyond the welfare of the children.

This country was founded on a separation of powers. The founding fathers wanted to avoid a situation where a president could have absolute power. The separation they devised requires the legislators to make the laws (not bureaucrats); the lower courts to deal with alleged lawbreakers and the Supreme Court to judge whether or not laws are constitutional when they are contested; and the executive to administer those laws and rulings. This separation is key to our survival as a democracy.

There are long-standing issues that have been eroding this separation. These include some core issues in Congress that impede good law-making. For example:

  • Adding unrelated items to major bills, often because it will make people vote for something they don't support to get something they do support passed.

  • Lobbyists having more influence on law-makers than their constituents.

  • Gerrymandering - the redrawing of voting districts for the advantage of whoever is in power.

To those problems, now add extreme partisanship - where, instead of reading the bills carefully and deciding how to vote based on what is best for one's constituents and the citizens as a whole, legislators vote on party lines. Unfortunately, that has also included manipulation of the Supreme Court in favor of a particular party. (The most blatant example being the refusal to consider nominees of a president in his eighth year in office.)

The judges on the Supreme Court are supposed to make decisions based on law, not their personal beliefs. With our Chief Justices being chosen based on beliefs rather than track records of impartial, considered rulings based on law, we are left with crossed fingers, hoping they will rule by law once they are appointed - for life.

As for the executive branch, it has expanded its powers well beyond the original intent - consider Vietnam, for starters - a war never declared by Congress, never officially a war. Then there is the vast bureaucracy of the agencies that make rules that, if broken, can put people in prison - think IRS here, for starters.

So, well before Trump there have been problems. That doesn't mean there's no cause for alarm when he blatantly disregards judicial rulings and holds Congress in contempt.

The slippery slope away from democracy has gotten steeper and our speed is picking up.

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© 2019 Sheri McGuinn