Analysis of the Constitution
The imagery used to represent the power structure of our government is a triangle. Congress introduces and enacts law; the Executive proposes and executes law; and lastly the Federal Judiciary and lower courts interpret and determine the legality of law. The structure and powers given to the three branches provide “checks and balances” to maintain separation of power and avoid autocratic take over. The Founding Fathers chose a bicameral legislature, rather than a unicameral, as a compromise.
The House of Representative gives direct representation to the people of a state by districts. A Representative is supposed to be responsive to local issues and is the most direct representation in our government. Section 2 states “The House of Representative shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the People”. Therefore, the whole House runs for re-election, making the House immediately answerable to the electorate. The powers given to the House are taxation (power of the purse) and power to impeach (the House is to act as a grand jury in voting on probable cause in impeachment proceedings).
Section 3 establishes that each state should have two Senators. The term for a Senator is six years, therefore one-third of the Senate runs for re-election every two years. Originally, this position was not elected by the voters, but appointed by a state governor or legislature. Senators represent their state’s interest as a whole, rather than by district.
Section 7 describes how each house may pass a different bill but a compromise bill has to be passed by each house and be sent to the President for passage. Section 8 contains Congress’ enumerated powers and ends with a very important “elastic clause” or “necessary and proper clause”, which gives Congress the right to pass laws on issues that are not directly addressed in the Constitution. This clause has allowed Congress to enact laws for the United States from the 18th century to the 21st century.
Congress’ approval ratings have been poor in the 21st century. The fault does not lie in the Constitution but in failure of Congress to compromise. We have had obstructionism, stalemate, and tribalism rather than progressives from both parties that bring about reform. At present Congress is reactionary, looking back rather than forward. Recent polls indicate that the United States is a centrist country. We The People have to get out the vote for 21st Century progress.
Article II, Section 1 bestows the power to carry out the laws enacted by Congress, executive power, to a President for a term of four years. The presidential election process they established was a compromise between popular vote and states rights. The Authors of our Constitution distrusted pure democracy for fear of mob rule, and small states did not want to weaken the impact of their vote in selecting the executive of a central government. The Electoral College is made up of delegates from each state. These electors elect the President. A “winner take all” requirement allocates all the delegates to the winner of each state. We have seen in recent elections that this process devalues the popular vote, We the People.
Article II, establishes the power to impeach. Impeachment begins in the House of Representatives, which acts as Grand Jury. If at least two-third of the House votes that there is probable cause then the process moves to the Senate for trial under the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Senators act as Jury.
Article III established the Federal Court System. The Supreme Court and lower courts are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. We the People do not vote for Federal Judges, but we do vote for the President that appoints and the Senate that approves.
The Delegates to the Constitutional Convention fought for Independence from a king. To prevent rule by an autocrat, power was divided among three branches of government, “Separation of Power” through “Checks and Balances”. Separation of Powers is threatened by a current climate that places party loyalty above maintaining constitutional norms. Examples are: Prior to 2016 election, Majority Leader of the Senate withholding a hearing for a Presidential nominee to the Supreme Court; the executive branch is attacking our justice and law enforcement systems: the Attorney General is violating human rights; the Speaker of the House refusing to bring a compromise bill sponsored by a Republican and Democrat to a vote without approval from the Executive (the Executive branch proposes, not pre-approves).
All elections are important. We the people need to fully participate in choosing candidates, beginning by voting in primaries and then voting every two years for a district Representative and one-third of the Senate. We have to elect people who will enact laws that create a more perfect union in a global 21st century.