Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Government We Deserve

A wonderful historian, J. Rufus Fears, once said that in a democracy, we get the government "that we deserve".  Whether you support or oppose Donald Trump, those words strike me as relevant at this time in American history. 

The election of Trump has caused both celebration of the potential for change, and horror based on his words and actions during the campaign.  Like many, my reaction to Trump is anything but apathetic - and I found myself asking:  how should I engage in response to a Trump Presidency?

For me the answer - and the premise of this blog - is to simplify and explain the constitutional and legal issues raised by Trump's words and actions.  To get the government we deserve - and to make good policy in a complex world - all Americans (Republicans, Democrats and others) should understand how our government works, and demand that our elected officials act as custodians of the Constitution, the law, our institutions, norms, and a stable world order.  

Consider the approach the Founding Fathers took when they created our Constitution.  They gathered the most thoughtful people of their time, and despite ideological disagreements, they purposely attacked governance questions from multiple disciplines: (i) history (they studied the experiences of past democracies and other types of governments from ancient times to the then present day), (ii) philosophy (they studied frameworks for human rights, political systems, and allocation of power), (iii) religion (although most were deeply religious personally, they studied the impacts of religion of political systems), and (iv) humanities (they studied how different groups of people with different interests interact, and what circumstances are optimal for making sound decisions and policy).   

Today, politicians jump immediately to surface level slogans without sufficient concern for objective truth, and then wage coarse and partisan attacks on social media.  Citizens, in turn, are not holding politicians accountable for the truth.  Peter Thiel famously said (regarding his disappointment with technology innovation and referencing Twitter) that "we wanted flying cars and instead we got 140 characters".  To borrow from Mr. Thiel, "we need virtuous custodians of our modern constitutional democracy and instead we too get 140 characters..." 

This is the first of a series of articles that I plan to write about topics such as the following:
  • What the First Amendment says, how it has been interpreted and how it may be applied to the tweets of a President.
  • A simplified framework of the federal conflict of interest laws and norms, how they are enforced and how they apply to the President.
  • How disputes between different branches of government are resolved under the Constitution.
  • The role of the media in a democracy, and the need for a common fact base from which to set policy.  
  • The Constitutional balance between majority rule and minority protections and tolerance.  
This blog contains my person views.  It is not in my character to write blogs, but I feel compelled by recent events to communicate.  I hope it's useful for you.  

- Andrew Cohen

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting concept, definitely looking forward to your future posts!