Sat, Jul

Democracies are Like Fig Trees


AT RANDOM--“Democracy is like growing a fig tree. It must be pruned for it to bear the best fruit. As it grows older, the pruning gives the tree its own unique and distinctive shape. But let it go too long without pruning, the tree will grow wild and the fruit it bears will be small and un-sweet.”

From James Preston Allen’s personal journal, Second Thoughts 1997 – 2016


As of this writing the American voters have cast 63,541,056 votes nationally for Hillary Clinton for President. That is 1,677,041 more votes than Donald Trump and the counting hasn’t stopped.

Yet, those crucial votes were not cast in the Rust Belt states that gave the presidency to the Republican candidate—a man who is ideologically more orange than red. This orange-man candidate won most of these states by a percentage point or less.  America is truly divided.

The flipping of the three Rust Belt states that hadn’t gone Republican since the 1980s was the big election surprise—and the decisive one. And, the most embarrassing thing of all is that the majority of the political pollsters got their predictions wrong.

This nation is not only divided by the embarrassingly crass language of the Electoral College winner (I’m still having a hard time calling him president-elect), but also by his astoundingly right-wing and bigoted cabinet choices. We will see if the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate can stomach confirming these picks or if the Democrats have the courage to filibuster them.

As the shock of this election wears off and the anger erupts into mass demonstrations in cities across this nation, some still hold out hope that the Electoral College will come to its senses and switch their votes—a highly unlikely scenario. But if it did happen, it would be an unusual Constitutional challenge in a year of unusual challenges.

Here, in the much bluer part of America 61.6 percent of California voters chose Clinton over Trump. Clinton’s tally was even higher in Los Angeles County with  71.4 percent choosing the former Secretary of State.

Closer to home, Trump only won 6 of the 36 precincts in the majority Republican territory of Palos Verdes Peninsula and one in Long Beach. In the greater San Pedro Harbor Area, Trump won zero precincts. Still, it hurts deeply to see the reigns of this nation being politely transferred over to a corrupt, crass blowhard like Donald Trump from the otherwise competent and intelligent control of President Barack Obama.  It clearly pains Obama to explain this to our foreign allies as much as it pains us to explain it to ourselves.

Our form of democracy is a curious one. It’s a compromise handed down to us by the founding fathers. The compromise allows a candidate to be elected president, even after losing the popular vote—for the fifth time in our nation’s history. At least that will be the case unless 61 electors on Dec. 19 decide to become “faithless” to their party and make Clinton the winner.

This from the National Archives and Records Administration explains why:

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.

So here we are:  one of the least-qualified individuals is to be sworn into our highest office and there appears to be nothing—short of him being indicted for any of the numerous past corrupt business deals—to stop him.

As one blogger put it, “On 9/11, we were attacked from outside our country, on 11/9 we were attacked from inside.”

However there’s resistance brewing. The group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) announced its protest during Trump’s inauguration, “Stand Against Trump, War, Racism and Inequality,” and there are more planned around the nation on the same day, including one in Los Angeles.

The outrage and the growing number of protests are reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s inauguration to his second term in office in 1973, the backdrop of a horribly divided nation after 15 years of war in Vietnam.  That wound in our democracy was only triaged with Nixon’s  impeachment and resignation, but our nation never really healed.  One can only hope that our Congress, the media and our people have the courage to hold Trump to the highest test of democracy, and that test is the one of fair and equal governance.

In the end, we the people must be prepared to “prune this tree of democracy” once again for the price of liberty is eternal vigilance! We can only hope that he doesn’t chop it down because he’s short on the wood he needs for building the wall.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) 


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays