Forget the wall; we need to rebuild the foundations of our democracy

Caleb Walsh illustration

President Trump wasn't so much "disinvited" to deliver his State of the Union speech at the Capitol — no, Speaker Nancy Pelosi "informed" him that, due to his government shutdown, she would be unable to pull off such a major event safely. Good for Nancy!

Trump still fails to grasp that we have a government of divided powers: He runs the White House, the speaker runs the Capitol. Pelosi is reminding him of something he should have learned by the sixth grade.

Now doubling down on the wall, Trump and his so-called "base" are crying foul and trying to scare everyone with reports that last year 17,000 criminals were apprehended at the border. If you have three minutes, you can debunk this bit of cheap demagoguery. The serious drugs are smuggled in at border crossings, and even by air and sea. (Meanwhile, Trump is cutting the Coast Guard budget.)

There is no crisis at the border — in fact, illegal entries have fallen to their lowest numbers in half a century. Of course the United States needs an immigration policy that cleans up the road to citizenship and better regulates migrant labor while recognizing the need for asylum. Trump's wall is no answer at all — especially now that Mexico isn't paying a dime.

The real crisis is here at home, now that we hear that Trump wants to deliver Putin his biggest wish by taking America out of NATO. You heard that right: NATO, the foundation of world peace since the 1940s. On top of that, the CBO predicts that a trillion-dollar deficit is on the way.

The recent election underscores another profound deficit: Our democracy is failing. James Madison and the Founding Fathers thought their system — majority rule tempered by minority rights — would produce fair representation. The framers, who needed the support of slaveholders and small states to gain approval, compromised and set the table for minority rule.

Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the popular vote by just under 3 million votes, but she lost the election. That's minority rule. In the 2018 midterms, the disparity was even more pronounced: Yes, the Democrats took back control of the House, but because of the way states draw district lines, they didn't win as many seats as they should have. Democrats carried the total national vote by about 12 million votes in the midterms — but actually lost seats in the Senate!

We have lived with this deal for more than two centuries, but consider the costs. We needed a Civil War to end slavery and ensure the right to vote, but those voting rights are still being denied to many more than a century later. And let's not forget we have a Supreme Court that also reflects minority rule.

We're off the rails, but at least the list of reforms we need to get back to what our Founders intended has been made completely clear.

Let's end where we began, with Trump's monthlong shutdown, followed by a three-week reprieve with no real plan after that. Economists now estimate that the negative impact on the economy is twice what they first predicted.

Trump always finds a way to deflect all his self-inflicted bad news, but he really outdid himself a couple weeks back, managing to be insulting, embarrassing and completely oblivious all at the same time. I refer to his tasteless (pun intended) hamburger feed for the Clemson football team — the single strangest White House gathering ever and perhaps the most emblematic of this moment. Behold, America, the junk food presidency. ♦

Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.