In America, the Constitution is sacred—the foundation and the symbol of America’s meteoric rise. It is ironic that the British— sticklers for traditions—summarily changed the House of Lords when it became a hindrance to the people’s will. America—with no regard for traditions— continues to cling to it. We seem to forget that a ship that would take us to farther shores is any day preferable to the Titanic.
LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY
The separation of powers has created a system in which neither the President nor the Congress is accountable. And this irresponsibility has been exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s descent into party politics. To get votes, the parties bait the public with misinformation and lies and a phony agenda. The public is sedated by speeches, party conventions, creative ads and the barrage of well-orchestrated attacks on the opponents. It is like a soap-opera. The elections have become a form of public entertainment. This circus goes on for over a year. The public ends up paying a huge price in the end.
Once the Republican party wins the election, it switches to its real agenda: huge tax cuts for the rich, and reckless spending to ‘defund’ the safety-net. Reagan and GW Bush promised fiscal responsibility, and then went on to bankrupt the treasury. Yet the voters overlooked the Republican fiscal record in the 2004 election; they were more focused on GW Bush’s ‘born-again’ religion, and how impressive he looked in the debates.
The fixed four-year term of President adds to lack of accountability. A president with a secret agenda, and a majority in Congress, can deliver to his patrons. While a four year term is too little for building a nation, it is big enough for destroying the nation. GW Bush proved it by increasing the country’s debt by about 8 trillion. During his tenure, he hid behind lies, his cronies, and controlled press conferences. He declared Iraq war because he saw “mushroom clouds.” What option do the people have? They can keep wringing their hands and wait for his term to end. The provision for impeachment, for all practical purposes, is as good as non-existent.
In parliamentary democracies like England, Bush would have been thrown out in six months. It is this fear of being dumped on the street that makes the British Prime Minister act with sanity and restraint.
FREQUENCY OF ELECTIONS AND LACK OF TERM LIMITS
The House members are elected every two years, and so are 1/3 of the Senate members (who have a six year term). There are no term limits. This feature, along with the primaries, has greatly contributed to the elected officials’ irresponsibility to the electorate. The need for fund-raising is relentless; the members have turned into year round fund-raising machines. Fraternizing with and working for the donors, they corral the electorate with words.
SEPARATION OF POWERS HAS BEEN TURNED INTO TYRANNY
In the minds of the Framers, only the separation of powers could save the people from the tyranny of government. And it did work for a long time. Since 1980, however, the GOP has figured out a way out to turn this shield into sword with the magic wand of ideology.
Here is how it works: if the President and the Congress share the same ideology, then there is no separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. And if the majority (five out of nine justices) in the Supreme Court also shares the same ideology, and the three branches are pursuing the same agenda, there is absolutely no separation of powers. That’s how the communist and fascist regimes pursue the same agenda at all governmental levels. And that’s exactly what is happening in America. Example: When a Republican President proposes to raise the debt-ceiling, and the Congress keeps raising the debt-ceiling without asking questions, there is no separation of powers. And if the Supreme Court’s five Republican justices uphold an anti-environment law on ideological ground, the separation of powers is dead. During 2001-2006, there was no protection—either from the Congress or from the Supreme Court because the majority in Congress and on the Supreme Court had the same ideology as the President. This ideological unity among the three branches of government is a perfect set up for tyranny. It happened in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [558 U.S. 08-205, (2010)] in which the Supreme Court struck down campaign finance reform law on ideological grounds: the Republican party is opposed to any campaign finance reform. Such tyranny is the direct result of the irresponsibility created in the first place by the separation of powers. And this has been going on since the time of Reagan. In a court of nine
justices, five make the majority. GW Bush’s won in 2000 elections largely as a result of the rightwing majority in the Supreme Court which stopped the vote counting in Florida and handed over the Presidency to Bush. It is for this reason that GOP uses every tactic to delay confirmation of judges in the Senate, and to load the courts with rightwing justices. Senate refused to allow even a hearing to Obama’s nominee for a year and waited for 2016 election when Trump nominee got confirmed. Similarly, when Rehnquist and O’Connor left, GW Bush appointed Samuel Anthony Alito and Justice Roberts to Supreme court—both Republican conservatives, and members of the Republican Federalist Society. With five Republican justices on the Supreme Court, the Court has consistently decided cases along party-ideology lines. “We, the people” referred to in the Constitution got a double whammy—first no accountability—and now tyranny. Is this democracy?