I am not sure that many folks today understand the wisdom of those men of more than two centuries ago who wrote our United States Constitution. People seem confused or have no knowledge about what is going on in our government today. The emotion of the moment seems to be more important than the “why” of how the government functions. There is a common thread of this confusion. Why are the representatives in the House of Representatives elected to shorter terms and more frequently than the senators in the Senate? Why is there an Electoral College? Why are there three co-equal branches of our government? Basic public education in times gone by instilled this information in students before they entered into adulthood and began participating in the electoral process. I am not so sure that this happens today.
Why are the representatives in the House of Representatives elected to shorter terms than the senators in the Senate? The House of Representatives is to be the “people’s house.” It is to be a reflection of the general population of the country. The short two-year terms are so that as the views of the voters change the representation in the House will change to reflect that on a frequent basis. The Senate is not designed to be a representation of the general population, but is to be a representation of the states. Two senators are elected from each state. The senatorial election process was changed by amendment, but the design remains the same, as senators are elected from each state to six-year terms with the terms staggered so that one third of the total number of senators are elected every two years.
The wisdom of this design is currently on display in the impeachment process of our current President. A totally partisan display of power has resulted in a vote to impeach President Trump by the House of Representatives. Due process was completely ignored and much of this process was carried out in complete secrecy by the Democrats. The Democrats successfully voted in a totally partisan manner for impeachment. However, the process must be completed in the Senate. The Senate is controlled by Republicans and the House Democrats seem to now realize that the Senate is also capable of a completely partisan trial. This is exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid. By making the process difficult, they thought that impeachment would be rare and for such extraordinary offenses that partisanship would be laid aside.
Why is there an Electoral College? In the colonial United States there were some relatively large cities and much of the rest of the country was rural. As the United States has matured the development of our demographics has remained remarkably similar. We have numerous large cities and much of the country is rural. The Founding Fathers did not want the highly populated cities and/or states to rule the country at the expense of the less populated areas. Much has been made of the fact that President Trump did not gain the majority of the popular vote in the 2016 election. However, the loss of the popular vote was 100 percent due to the voting in the New York City area, the Los Angeles area and other large cities. The foresight of the founders was accurate in that they did not want the country dominated by just the big cities. Let us remember that one of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, only received roughly 40 percent of the popular vote and yet became president because of the Electoral College.
Why are there three co-equal branches of government? The Founding Fathers understood that from the beginning of civilization humankind has always had a quest for more and more power. In our governmental system, Congress cannot dictate alone new law as the president must agree. If the president does not agree, then his veto must be overridden by a supermajority in House of Representatives and the Senate before it can become law. If the Congress and the president agree on a law and the general public finds the law onerous, then they may petition the courts for relief and the courts may choose to nullify the law. All of this is designed so that out of control raw power can be held in check. Consensus and gridlock were built into the system and it is formally called “checks and balances.”
Before condemning the process, Americans should take time to understand the wisdom behind the dictates of the Constitution.
Dale E. Landrith Sr. is among a group of authors of the conservative column “Another View.” He came to Maine in 1982 to manage Manset Marine Supply in Rockland, which he eventually came to own. He lives in Camden.