While a complete democracy is neither desirable nor practical, yet the United States has irrevocably moved steadily closer and closer to outright democracy since the first days of her founding under the present Constitution. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments which were debated and selected from an original thirteen and sliced down to a nice round number, ten, gave the first step in that direction by delineating the rights which were included in those guaranteed the people as they were gifts from the creator mentioned so specifically in the Declaration of Independence which many of the Founding Fathers believed was a part of the founding documents which defined the society and its governance just as much as the Constitution. As time progressed the Federal Government gathered unto itself more and more powers stealing them either from the States respectively, or from the people. This was from the government which supposedly was restricted by Amendment X which read, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Founding Fathers were divided into two groups, the Federalists and, of course, the anti-Federalists with one group desiring to balance the governance in favor of the most local governance as possible while the others believed that centralized powers were required in order for the governance to rule the entire nation. The first attempt to fashion a weak central governance over the newly liberated English colonies, the Federated States of America, was a dismal failure as without any powers to raise money and left at the mercies of the charity of the individual States the government very soon ran aground and became high, dry and out of funds. So, the United States of America’s Constitution was America 2.0 and made with powers given the central government unconscionable the first time around. Had the Federal Government continued to be restrained and restricted to its original powers then the United States would probably be in better shape and the European powers would still have militaries of sufficient size and capabilities that they would not be dependent upon the United States to be the sole determining force of NATO and the European Union would have died long before the Euro became the bane of Greece and the lucrative coinage for Germany. But the changes that put the final knife into the Constitution slashing it and tearing it and signaling the end of that Amendment X and the State’s rights it presumably protected came in along with the end of many individual rights for the individual American just before World War I began on July 28, 1914.
Earlier in that fateful year Amendment XVI established the income tax with the promise from the politicians that it would only tax the most wealthy one percent of the population and would never be permitted to become a burden on the average person and on that promise likely being the clinching argument allowed it to be ratified into law on February 3, 1913. As any American will attest, the income tax became far more than burdensome on the average person but also grew to such a point and the IRS which it founded gathered such information that the government through provisions and added regulations eventually could tell the average person their expenditures throughout the year and was rumored jokingly that the IRS could look up the color of the guest towels hanging in your bathroom. Now the Federal Government can tell you a whole lot more than the colors of items you have purchased, the extent and particulars of your every investment and virtually anything anyone might care to know about your life, your purchasing habits, your diet where you go on weekends for fun, where you vacationed the last ten years, the make and mileage on your vehicles and just about any other detail imaginable, and people worry about their privacy. Privacy in this world died a long time ago somewhere right before data mining and agreements between governments arranging for each to spy on the other’s citizens and then provide the information upon anybody that the other requested which eventually led to the decisions to forget the middle-man and simply for each nation to spy on their own citizens making everything so much easier and less complicated.
A short time later the Amendment XVII was ratified on April 8, 1913 establishing for the direct election of each State’s Senators instead of allowing each State to decide the methods their Senators were chosen. Previous to this Amendment to the Constitution most States chose their Senators in a various number of procedures with the two most used being the Governor choosing the Senator as each came up for election and possibly having to present them to the State’s legislature or higher branch of the legislative branches to have them approve the selection with some States requiring a larger vote for approval than a simple majority. The other method was for the Senator to be selected by the legislative branch of the State government and in most cases have them approved by the Governor under the same rules as legislation was passed or vetoed by the Governor. This Amendment took away the individual State’s ability to have their voices heard in the Federal Government making the Senate simply a less populous House of Representatives having both wings of the bicameral legislative governance chosen directly by the people. The reasoning presented was that the people were more knowledgeable as a group or mass intelligence than any combination of State Governors or legislatures in choosing the Senators. There was also the claim that State level politicians were too corrupt which was laughable as the majority of Federal legislative politicians were simply the most competent of the people in State governance. This was amidst the populace movement where the average citizen was presumed to have better sense when the whole was allowed to speak as through elections. What was completely ignored was that the Founding Fathers had planned for the Senate to be the legislative branch representing the States’ governance such that the Senate would guard over State’s rights and protect the powers of the State and limit the influence the Federal Government could have over them. This change brought on the slaughtering of the States individually and collectively such that they have long ago seen their powers slowly but inexorably misappropriated, stolen even, by the Federal Government which now faced no opposition from the individual States. This also allowed the Federal Government to control the individual States by demanding that the State acquiesce to the demands and whims of the Federal Government in order to receive funding such as requiring that the States meet caloric and vitamin requirements and curtail the choices offered the children otherwise not receive a large amount of Federal school funding which is earmarked for the lunch and other food programs. Further, the Federal Government has come up with this wonderful manner in which to place onerous demands on the States through unfunded mandates. These are programs that each and every State is required to carry out according to Federal regulations or even actual laws but for which the Federal Government no longer funds the program dumping the entire mess upon the States to finance. The numbers of these programs increases every year and this is partially due to the Federal government attempting to release itself from onerous financial obligations which were laid out in legislation for some program every State is required to carry out and funds were set aside for the first so many number of years and were presumed to be funded further by the Federal Government but somehow down the road the Federal funding ceased but the mandate continued and the States found themselves on the hook to finance program after program as the Federal Government cut off the flow but did not cut out the requirements.
Both of these Amendments to the United States Constitution were ratified but under suspicions of fraud. One was found to have received the final ratification a few weeks or a couple of months beyond the set time allotted for ratification to be permitted, Congress claimed that somehow this had been covered by some extension despite no such allowance stipulated as possible by the Constitution and the other was not ratified by sufficient States falling a couple short. Well, World War I struck on July 28, 1914 and the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 was sunk by a German U-boat and American lives were lost as a result. There has been debate ever since the sinking as to whether the RMS Lusitania carried weapons or explosives for use in the war which was vehemently denied by Britain and the United States as well as the other allied powers and the debate has persisted and apparently will continue forward. Meanwhile, President Wilson argued against joining the war while simultaneously demanding that the U-boat attacks not target indiscriminately and especially avoid any further attacks upon civilian craft like the RMS Lusitania. Wilson was already stoking the public to allow an American effort join the efforts while also campaigning on a platform that he kept the United States out of the war. United States President Woodrow Wilson finally demanded a Declaration of War and the Congress responded giving him his desired declaration of war on April 6, 1917. As the initial Declaration of War identified only Germany as the nation the United States had declared war upon, this proved to be untenable; so after President Wilson again requested a Declaration of War and Congress did comply as they declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 17, 1917. The United States never actually declared war against all of the forces fighting against the allies who also consisted of the Central Powers, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. World War I came to an end on November 11, 1918 and by this date the horrific pandemic known as the Spanish Flu had broken out and some of the troops brought the virus home with them which caused the pandemic to break out and spread across the United States. By this time the two Constitutional Amendments numbers sixteen and seventeen were faint memories pretty much lost in the fog of the decade which followed them with the war and the flu who had time to be concerned about the potential of inconvenience of two little Amendments. Unfortunately, as was learned many years later these two little Amendments proved to be anything but minor little legislative additions to the Constitution but rather major changes in the breadth of Government powers and the depth of their effect to be felt years later. These two Amendments may have been the most influential pair of legislative action ever passed and ratified since the Bill of Rights was passed. These Amendments laid the framework by which power became centralized in the Federal Government and provided the funding through direct taxation of the people and stripping the States of choosing their own representatives within the central government thus liberating the Federal Government from any limitations by the States nor could they protest directly the absorption of the powers which had previously been within the control of the individual States and subjugating the States beneath the Federal Government’s heel without recourse.
The change in how Senators were to be elected directly by the people simply made the Senators nothing more than super representatives with two permitted per state. Now the United States had entered the point of no return sliding almost completely into democracy and definitively no longer a republic. Benjamin Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation, “Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” and Benjamin Franklin answered bluntly and directly to the heart of the query stating, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Never in the history of founding of nations has the situation been so accurately assessed nor has the problem been predicted as how the Governance will be altered eventually unraveling the delicate balance between the individual States and the Federal Government. It is said that one can assess any Governance by a simple measure; just determine which side is the more fearful of the other and should the Government be more fearful of the people than are they of the Government, then you have freedom but if the people are fearful of their government than the government is of them, then you have tyranny. With all the branches which are appointed to make the general rules and stipulations and requirements from the people now directly elected with the exception of the President, the United States is teetering on the edge and about to fall beyond the cusp and into the electing of the President directly ending any vestige of a republic. The direct election of Presidents has been proposed and one of the most dangerous legislative suggestions which recently was rejected for yet another time by the Oklahoma Legislature which would have demanded that the Electoral representatives for the State vote for the winner of the popular vote by the entire nation while ignoring the will and votes of the citizens in their own state. Should that legislative effort win in sufficient states which would provide an electoral victory then all any candidate would need do is campaign in the cities and areas with the greatest concentration of people to assure himself victory in the popular vote and completely ignore the less populated areas such as Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Maine and all of the rural areas in every state. This idea is simply the latest manner to circumvent the Constitution and make the Electoral College an abstract and ancient methodology to be forgotten except by those few who major in ancient manners for electing leaders in city-states and nations; a major just slightly more useful than Indo-Chinese Love Sonnets of the Ming Dynasty.
So, as we can see the United States has slowly but inescapably moved towards a total democracy. There have been calls in the last couple of decades as computers have made this possible for the United States government, as a final act, provide everybody over the age of eighteen a voting tablet which is dedicated to one function and only one function, listing the legislative issues and bills currently up for voting and tallying every citizen’s vote. Each citizen of voting age would be permitted to cast their vote on anything plus they could present legislation they desired to see placed before the people and seek a qualifying number within a reasonable time to continue to be eligible to remain on the list of proposed legislation. This number would slowly rise over at most two months and at that predetermined time, if the proposed legislation has attained the highest level of approvals it would qualify as a piece of general interest and the suggestion would be listed as a Bill and then have two weeks for everyone to vote. Should a Bill be passed it wound be passed on to the President much as things work today. Do not expect such to occur soon as it would require career politicians to vote such into law and thus make their chosen profession obsolete.
Still, the United States today is much closer to being a democracy than it is to the republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers and once those populists on the extreme left or the Federalists on the extreme right get their way, then even the President will be selected by straight majority voting. All it would probably take is for a popular candidate which one side felt was undeniably the best choice to win the popular vote but lose the election. Then another ridiculous exhibition of populist insanity would boil over and press through some version of directly electing the President and the United States will have completely been transformed into a democracy. Nothing happens in a bubble and everything has its originating source. The movement to a democracy rather than a republic is that with a democracy it is possible and made more likely for government to become a case for mob rule in which the mob would be the more populous states which is those with the most cities, the most megalopolises. When the cities are given the rule, then what happens to the needs of rural America? We are seeing the effect of cities ruling as the most dominant force in government in California where the water allotments were made over the years to favor the cities over the farmers. Now there are stretches of farmlands which are just acre upon acre of brown dusty soil with dead crops which simply were not provided with the necessary irrigation water at the most critical growing part of the season and these crops and lands are now almost worthless. The family farms will cease to exist due to not being able to pay for their last seeds which never had a chance to grow and will be forced fiscally to sell their lands to the mega-farm industry. This all because the people in the city pressed their allotment of water over that of the less populous farmers were able to and the farmers simply lost their last crop and now are finished. This was a sad example of how straight democracies can destroy an entire segment of the population simply by pressing the mob’s desire for green lawns, full swimming pools, green parks and water amusement parks and a myriad of other needs for water in the big city. The farmers had a similar need but lacked the muscle to lobby the government either at the State or Federal levels and thus lost their crops and many will lose their farms. Once the industrial farm corporations gain ownership of enough of the farmlands, then they will have the lobbyists and they will have the clout to get the irrigations water turned back on and limit the lawn watering city dweller to only be permitted to water their precious lawns on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. They may scream bloody murder but at least the farms will return to producing food and not just dusty soil. This entire water battle has and will play out across the United States over time and perhaps teach some of us the values of indirect governance over straight mob rule democracy.
Beyond the Cusp