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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ikerd

Election 2020: A Fight for the Future of Democracy?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

I have been reluctant to share my political perspectives in previous posts. I haven’t wanted those interested in my views about food, farming, and rural issues to quit reading my posts because they disagree with my political views. On occasion, however, I have felt specific political issues were sufficiently important to the common good to risk offending someone who otherwise is like-minded. To fail to do so would be to ignore the proverbial “elephant in the room.”

One such occasion was in 2016, following the election of Donald Trump as President. I was concerned, but I still hoped that the oath of office would remind the President and Congress of their constitutional responsibilities. I wrote: “President Elect Trump will place his hand on the Bible and take the same oath of office as all presidents before him: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ All members of Congress take a similar oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution.’”

The Constitution was carefully crafted to ensure a balance of co-equal powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Past U.S. Presidents have been restrained by the Supreme Court or by Congress whenever they have abused the powers granted to them in the Constitution. This President has declared that he has the authority to define what is in the “national interest”—without consultation or consent of the Supreme Court or Congress. The Democratic House of Representatives has impeached him for abuse of power and contempt of Congress. The House made a clear and compelling case that the president withheld funds appropriate by Congress from foreign government to pressure the leaders into assisting in his campaign for reelection. However, a Republican Senate is unwilling to remove him from office or even censure his actions. They claim he acted in the “national interest.”

Congress has granted President Trump the authority to act as the sovereign ruler of a monarchy rather than as the president of a constitutional democracy. The Supreme Court had already proven unable or unwilling to restrain his claims of “executive authority” to do pretty much anything he pleases. The constitutional balance of power—among the President, Congress, and Supreme Court—no longer seems capable of restraining the power of this President. The only means of restoring the constitutional balance of power is to elect a president in 2020 who will actually preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the Unites States—which our current president has proven ethically unwilling or psychologically incapable of doing.

The trend toward despotism began with the Reagan administration, with the relentless Republican refrain, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government IS the problem.” Democratic administrations have since had opportunities to refute this refrain by demonstrating that only government can solve some kinds of problems while other kinds can and should be left to the private sector. The legitimacy of government in the minds of the voting public has degenerated to the point of threatening our democracy. We are now confronted with a presidential election in which we are forced to choose between monarchy and democracy.

I am supporting Elizabeth Warren for President because I think she is the candidate who is best prepared, ethically and intellectually, to fulfill the constitutional responsibilities of the presidency. The American Declaration of Independence clearly states that the fundamental purpose of government is to ensure the equal and unalienable equal rights of all—including right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To win, I believe Democrats will need a record turnout of new voters—primarily among young people, minorities, and women. These groups have the most to lose under a ruler who refuses to secure, or even acknowledge, the equal rights of all people. Warren is the only candidate with a comprehensive, coherent overall plan for the transformational, structural change that will be required to reclaim and sustain Democracy in America—as envisioned by the founders of this still great nation.

Elizabeth Warren cannot win the Democratic nomination or presidential election without the full support of other Democrats--as well as disenchanted Independents and Republicans. She will need the support and enthusiasm of the new “progressive movement” that has been organized and led by Bernie Sanders. Sanders has said his candidacy is not about him. It’s about “a movement - a political revolution - to transform our country, economically, politically, socially and environmentally." He calls it "a fight for the future of democracy." One way or another, Warren and Sanders will need to find a way work together. As I see it, Warren needs the Sanders movement to win the presidency but Sanders needs a Warren presidency to transform his movement into political reality.

The other major Democratic candidates appear to be good people and capable leaders. Any of them would serve as a constitutional president rather than an unrestrained monarch. However, none of the others seriously challenges the “government as usual” that has characterized the U.S. government from the Reagan through Obama administrations. We need a president who will faithfully carry out the duties of President as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.

The basic functions of government are spelled out in the preamble to the Constitution: “to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The legitimate economic functions of government must ensure that the economy serves the “general welfare.” Promoting growth in the GDP or the stock market does not ensure liberty and justice for all, certainly not for “our posterity.”

Any candidate who depends on large corporate or private contributions to fund his or her campaign will not be free to pursue the public interests when it conflicts with the economic interest of their large donors. Any candidate who doesn’t support higher taxes on the wealthy, health care for all as a basic human right, universal access to higher education, a living minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and a government that works for everyone, not just the rich and powerful, will not bring about the revolutionary, structural change we need to reclaim the future of our democracy.

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