8 Reasons January 6th was a Constitutional Failure.
Coup attempts happen when government becomes dysfunctional.
While rioters were still in the Capitol building on January 6th, seeking to stop the results of an election process they disliked, people were rushing to proclaim "This is not who we are!" Well, sorry, but I think it might be exactly who we are--it’s just the latest example in the Trump era of saying the quiet part loud. This part of Trump’s appeal, he says the things he’s not supposed to--not because he’s a truth teller but because he’s shameless. He made the conservative movement realize that they didn’t have to pretend to love their fellow citizens, they could be shameless too. When those Trump supporters disliked losing, they weren’t going to be quiet about it out of respect for democratic norms, they made sure the whole world heard their displeasure.
A man like Trump doesn’t come to power in a functioning government. Ours isn’t one of those. Here are eight reasons why:
1. The Electoral College
I’m not going to write a lot about the Electoral College because most people know about how it distorts results by now. It is worth remembering though that Trump would have never come to power if we had simply chosen our President by popular vote in 2016.
2. The Gerrymandered House of Representatives
After a violent attack on the capital, it was fair to wonder if Republicans would come to their senses and stop sowing doubts about the 2020 elections. Of course they didn’t though, 138 members of the House of Representatives still objected to the results immediately after their chambers had been cleared of rioters. Why would they pour more fuel on this fire? Because they represent gerrymandered districts. Their districts have been created to be safe for a Republican but not necessarily safe for them personally. This pushes congressmen hard to the right--they don’t want to give a potential primary challenger any evidence that they are a so-called RINO (Republican In Name Only). You can look at who did and did not object to the results and understand who is afraid of a primary challenge and who is more concerned about a general election. Even though gerrymandering warps parties, don’t expect it to be given up, because it works. In North Carolina, Democratic candidates won seven of 13 districts in 2010. After redistricting, in 2012, they won four of 13 districts.
3. The Undemocratic Senate
Remember a 1,000 years ago when Donald Trump got impeached? But then he just kept being the president anyway? This is in part because the distribution of senators is even more skewed than for congressmen/women. Even if people are in gerrymandered districts, they are still represented proportionally--each congressional district contains about 711,000 people. Senate seats can’t be gerrymandered because they are statewide--and that is the problem. Wyoming only has 579,000 people--meaning they have one senator for every 289,500 people. California has 39,512,000 people--meaning they have one senator for every 19,756,000 people. In order for people in California to have equal representation as people from Wyoming, California would need to have 136 senators--more than the entire current senate.
To remove a president from office you need a supermajority, 67 votes, in the Senate. Because of the way senate seats are distributed you only need senators that represent 7% of the population to get 34 votes against removal. Removal was never going to happen.
There have been suggestions to make the Senate more representative. However, that wouldn’t address an issue that was highlighted on January 6th, that senators with presidential ambitions can make bad faith use of the Senate’s rules to boost their profiles. It’s worth noting that many countries don’t have two legislative bodies--why would they? It just makes getting anything done twice as difficult. Abolish the Senate.
4. Lifetime Court Appointments
In 2016 Donald Trump had not yet turned the Republican party into a death cult. Many people voting for him held their nose as they did so. Voters knew he was noxious, but he promised to get them conservative judges. They knew they would get at least one Supreme Court justice as Mitch McConnel had blocked Obama from filling a vacant seat. Sure, a blow hard would be President, but that was only for four years--a supreme court justice--that was for life.
It wouldn’t solve everything, but if the Supreme Court had term limits (one suggestion is 18 years) it would lower the stakes of appointments, make them schedulable events and remove judges that have grown out of touch.
5. Anyone Can be President
Unfortunately, what they say in schools is true: anyone can be president--maybe that shouldn’t be the case. Here are some limits we could have.
In 2016 I repeatedly heard that Trump had declared bankruptcy 4 times, but apparently it was actually 6 times. Trump currently has a billion dollars in debt. How is that even possible? Who even gave him all that money? We don’t know who he owes it to. He could offer pardons or government contracts as payments. He should have never been eligible to run.
One of the few limits on running for President is age--you have to be at least 35. Donald Trump was the oldest President ever elected until Joe Biden was elected. Both these guys are just so damn old. Can’t we have an upper limit on age to be the President?
A fluke helped prevent ruling families from taking control of our country at its inception--most of our Founding Fathers simply had no sons. The only early president to have a (white) son survive to adulthood was John Adams, and indeed his son John Quincy Adams would go on to also be president.
In the 21st century though, political dynasties have come in style. While Donald Trump has been the worst president for Americans, for people outside of America George W. Bush is still probably the worst (and he lost the popular vote too!).
While Trump is not related to any other presidents, he benefited from other relatives of presidents running. During the 2016 primaries Jeb Bush was a weak candidate who had to ask audiences to clap for him. He made a great punching bag for Trump. The fact Jeb was the son of one president and the brother of another made it look like Trump was taking on the establishment rather than bullying a minor candidate.
During the general election Trump’s false machismo, fuck the elite pitch couldn’t have had a better foil than Hillary Clinton. She was a private citizen at the time, but the fact that she was the wife of a former president made it look like Trump was again taking on the establishment. I could write a whole separate article about how criticism of Hillary Clinton was sexist and unfair. That’s not the point here though. Whether the criticism of Clinton was valid or not, people didn’t like her, and if she hadn’t been the wife of a former president, she probably would have never got the Democratic nomination.
There should be a law that sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands of presidents shouldn’t be eligible to run for president. We don’t need any other Trump family running for president.
7. Endless campaigns
Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, well over a year before the election took place. At the time only a handful of Cassandras thought he had a chance of him taking the Republican nomination, let alone becoming the president (including, possibly, him). But the fact that he kept saying outrageous things lent him two advantages. One was that his bad behavior got him on TV, in fact he go $2 billion dollars worth of free media coverage. While Trump would complain that the coverage was negative, he shouldn't have had it at all. The other advantage was that the other primary challengers didn’t take him seriously, and figured he was only ahead because the traditional candidates were still divided. Except as the number of primary candidates dwindled, Trump just got stronger.
Trump might have had blunder after blunder, but one disaster seemed to make people forget about the last one. The long campaign was in the end, to his advantage. Trump seemed aware of the advantage of a long campaign and registered to run in 2020 as soon as he was inaugurated. Campaigning always appealed to him more than governing.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The official campaign period in the UK is 25 working days, or roughly five weeks. They also ban political advertising!
8. Lame duck period
Trump lost back in early November. Nothing good was ever going to come from letting him have three months as a lame duck. The lame duck sessions actually used to go on till March, but they were shortened by the 20th amendment in 1933. It’s time for them to be shortened again.