By Sarath de Alwis –
Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride.
By open speech and simple
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain
Take up the White Man’s burden—
And reap his old reward:
(The White Man’s Burden – Rudyard Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism)
“The functions of the president are prescribed by the Constitution, but his real achievements are not set by the letter of the law. They are determined rather by his personality, the weight of his influence, his capacity for managing men, and the strength and effectiveness of the party forces behind him.”
These prescient lines were written by a historian and economist who wrote a treatise on the US Constitution in 1913. He called it an Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution.
Charles Beard in his preface explained how constitutions are framed and how constitutions should be read by succeeding generations.
The founding fathers recognized the power of different economic interests and skillfully deployed them to balance the different arms of the republic. Succeeding generations when resolving constitutional issues should seek to unravel the thinking of the founders. If we don’t do that, he warned ‘we become victims of history – clay in the hands of the makers of the constitution.’
How true? Are we not clay in the hands of JR Jayewardene?
There are lessons to be learnt from the cataclysmic circus enacted in Washington on 6th January 2021.
Admires of American exceptionalism celebrate it as a failed insurrection and a demonstration of its institutional resilience. Yet, others describe what followed as a tribute to the foresight of America’s founding fathers. Such facile postulations amount to nothing. Exploring American democracy is also a voyage in to cloud cuckoo land.
America is not a democracy. Over there, they don’t believe in the idea of one man one vote. Biden won Georgia because of very hard work by a determined lady names Stacey Abrams who registered more than 800,000 black voters over a period of ten years.
Universal franchise is not fashionable in the land that some regard as the oldest and the preeminent of the world’s democracies.
Don’t blame Trump. Donald Trump is the quintessential white American patriot. The mob erected gallows on the lawn opposite the ‘Capitol They carried the ‘Confederate ‘flag and not the star-spangled banner. They were white supremacists. They are the majority who voted for Trump. Trump got more white votes than Biden. He polled a majority, of the white majority.
The mock gallows with its scary noose was an unmistakable rebuke to the nonwhite people of America who made the Biden victory possible.
In order to read the Presidential Election accurately we must unravel the numbers that got voted out Trump and voted in Biden.
The nonpartisan US think tank – Council on Foreign Relations offers an excellent analysis of the 2020 Presidential Election by the numbers.
Biden polled 81,283,098 votes or 51.3 percent. Trump received 74,222,958 votes, or 46.8 percent of the votes cast. Both obtained the highest recorded numbers for the winner and the runner-up in a presidential race. The early poling and mail in ballots due to the pandemic helped the higher poll.
More than 159 million Americans voted in 2020 making it the highest voter turnout in 120 years. It amounted to 66.7 % of the eligible vote.
Biden’s majority in the popular vote was more than 7 million. That said, the real vote that got Biden into the Whitehouse was frighteningly razor thin.
Biden made it with slim majorities in the three swing states of Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. In Arizona the margin was 10457. In Georgia it was 11.779. In Wisconsin it was 20,682. All in all, Trump lost by 42,951 votes in the three pivotal states.
America is a Republic. It is not a democracy as we understand the term. It has a ‘CONSTITUTION’ that recognizes ‘corporations’ as persons.
Charles Beard pointed out that the US constitution was designed by an elite landed gentry to ensure their property rights. They had little patience with the liberties of the multitude. Their focus was on the wellbeing of the elite who took up arms against king George the mad king. Their slogan explained why they sought to break with the crown – no taxation with no representation.
In the current heated debate in Washington, Charles Beard seems to have re surfaced.
The Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah has made a disarmingly honest appraisal of the peculiar democracy practiced in the United States.
Responding to allegations of voter suppression in states such as Georgia and the call for a peaceful transition of power, senator Lee has made his position clear in brutal blunt clarity. “Democracy isn’t the objective” of America’s political system.
“Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the Constitution, perhaps because our form of government is not a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic. To me it matters. It should matter to anyone who worries about the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few.’
The Good upright Republican Senator qualified his remarks further. The purpose of the Government was the “official use of coercive force–nothing more and nothing less. The Constitution protects us by limiting the use of government force.”
The USA is not a democracy. It is a sovereign republic composed of 50 sovereign states. Its seat of governance is the territory known as D.C where they have the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme court.
A Frenchman named Montesquieu got it all muddled up. Contemplating the White House, The Capitol and the Supreme court with Domes and Roman pillars originated the pernicious myth of “separation of powers.” They have nothing of the sort. The current carnival demonstrates it.
Let us not make the United States of America in to a “pie in the sky’ land of democracy.
The mob said it with a mock gallows erected opposite the Capitol. There is more refined and horrifyingly logical argument put forward by the political scientist Bernard Dobski in Pamphlet Number 80 of the Heritage Foundation.
For the purpose of this essay I will reproduce the summary. I invite the curious reader to read the entire document.
Professor Dolski explains the United Sates Constitution in elegantly pragmatic terms. “America is a republic and not a pure democracy. The contemporary efforts to weaken our republican customs and institutions in the name of greater equality thus run against the efforts by America’s Founders to defend our country from the potential excesses of democratic majorities. “
He explains American republicanism as ordered liberty. The non-majoritarian parts of the community make legitimate contributions to the community’s welfare. Preserving their contributions is the hallmark of political justice.
“Preserving the republican freedoms, we cherish requires tempering egalitarian zeal and moderating the hope for a perfectly just democracy”
So, we too must watch unfolding events moderating our hopes for a perfectly just democracy.
There is a postscript. President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court of the United States to replace justice Thurgood Marshall, the Civil Rights pioneer who argued the famous litigation challenging the archaic rule – Separate but Equal.
Clarence Thomas is black, conservative and a textualist. His white wife Ginni Thomas in a tweet expressed her “LOVE” to the demonstrators just a few hours before the insurrection was mounted. Later she amended the post adding that her tweet was made before the violence !
America is a democracy like no other. Out land like no other can learn from Trump.