OpEd: Reality check: The system is not broken

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Political discussion in much of the U.S., including Vermont, has hit a low point not equaled in the 20th or 21st centuries. The cause of this ill will and lack of rationality is simple, and, easy to fix: IF, and it is a big IF, the people who did not win the last presidential election decide to play by the two hundred year old rules that have up till now kept our system alive and operating successfully, it will work. No nation has a governing system that has not undergone drastic revisions since we entered the game in 1787.

The Founders were a disputative lot and squabbled fiercely among themselves until they created a radically new plan of government. They created a Federal Republic with guarantees of public participation and protections for the individual rights and liberties of the citizens. They also provided for national expansion based on the admission of new states that would have complete equality with the existing states. The preamble to our constitution sums it up neatly. "We the people ... do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America." Two radically simple ideas: power flows up to the government from the citizens who created it, and the independent states who join this group will unite into one united state. The system worked because the people and the states have behaved according to the established rules. In 2017, for the first time, the leaders of one political party and their followers refused to obey the rules and did not accept the results of the constitution's electoral process. In the 20th century three very successful presidents were elected by 40 percent of the popular votes. This was because of third and fourth party candidates got enough votes to deprive the winner of a majority. Twice, in very close elections, the losers were patriotic enough not to cause a constitutional crisis by challenging the results. In 1960 there were enough "irregularities" in two states that Richard Nixon could have made a convincing case that he was robbed. In 2000's election the infamous "hanging chads" in Florida caused a confusing recount which only ended when the Supreme Court intervened. Al Gore accepted the decision. So we had one Republican and one Democrat who felt cheated but chose to obey the law in the interest of national unity and keeping the system intact. Their patriotism served the country well. It is a national disgrace that the anti-Trump resistance has devoted three years to obstruction in an attempt to overturn the election of 2016. Their endless series of unproven accusations have confused our voters and aided and abetted our enemies. "Russia, Russia, Russia" followed by "Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine" accomplished by a constant chorus of "Impeach, Impeach, Impeach" has accomplished nothing except to put our democracy in real danger of self-destruction for the first time since 1865. Not because of any foreign threats, but because too many people choose to undermine the system by not following the established rules.

Weiland Ross writes regularly for the Journal.



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