I’m unsettled this weekend after the inauguration of our 45th president in 228 years. My thoughts are scattered and dark, and I find myself disturbed at so much of what I hear.
A businessman who has never held public office is now our President.
And yes, he is our President. I didn’t vote for him. But I didn’t vote for Mr. Obama either. He was still my President. I voted for Mr. Bush in both of his elections, but I didn’t vote for Mr. Clinton in either of his.
But he was still my President.
If you are an American citizen, by birth or naturalization, the President of the United States is by definition your President. That’s just how it works. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. I think insisting that he’s #NotMyPresident just enforces the divide that’s already tearing our country apart. Repeating that you didn’t vote for him, or that he lost the popular vote, or any of the other dozens of comments I’ve heard lately just aren’t helping matters. Neither is making up new names for the President, or refusing to speak or write his name until he dies.
I recognize that people are scared about what’s going to happen under a Trump administration. Some friends are worried their marriage may somehow be erased. Other friends want that to happen.
I’m concerned too, even as a privileged old white guy. A web acquaintance said he was “not optimistic about this presidency.” That’s a quaint way to phrase it. Many parts of this administration show all the signs of being a tremendous train wreck.
Our president is yelling at reporters during press conferences.
But what’s bothering me the most is the division I hear and see in so many personal interactions. I think it’s worse now than it was in 2009 when Mr. Obama was inaugurated. Granted, I don’t get out much, so whatever I hear is coming through various social media channels, and we know how reliable those can be. But I’m reading things on Facebook and various forums that scare me.
People on the right brag about a promised wall that will probably never be built, but ignore Mr. Trump’s 34 promises that he broke on the first day.
People on the left are dragging Mr. Trump’s ten-year-old son into their anger.
Another acquaintance hypothesized about possible bridge-building efforts by Mr. Trump, similar to what President GW Bush attempted with No Child Left Behind in 2001. He asked, “if the President in unable to bridge the gap, and we have reason to believe that is the case, then who can bridge it and how? Or are we locked into a cycle of increasing division leading to separation and/or war?”
I read a lot of what would now be called dystopian fiction in my younger days. Back then it was probably called military fiction. They were basically TEOTWAWKI stories, where some cataclysm – usually nuclear war with the Soviet Union – had destroyed civilization, and people were trying to survive. Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist series, William W. Johnstone’s Ashes series, Richard Austin’s Guardians series, and books like Team Yankee all figured heavily in my reading lists in the early 80s. One reviewer on Goodreads said, “Nuclear war fiction was the YA dystopian novel of the 1980s – everybody and their brother was writing them and they naturally varied greatly in quality.” Another blog post called these books “post-nuke pulp.” That’s a fair assessment.
But I loved them.
I’ve also been more than occasionally enthralled by the Civil War. One-third of the Several States seceded, declaring that they were no longer a part of the United States. The division then seemed distinct: you were either for slavery, or against it. You loved Lincoln, or you hated him. The Union was indivisible, or it wasn’t.
History taught us the lines weren’t as clear as we’d thought.
Likewise, the division today isn’t nearly as clear.
One person may claim to be a Christian, but be against marriage equality. Another might support a crackdown on illegal immigration practices, but support gay marriage. Someone else might be against abortion, but in favor of some federal funding for Planned Parenthood. I’ve got friends on both ends of the political spectrum, and plenty spread out in between. It’s troubling to hear so many of them talk past each other, never really listening.
That steady diet of “post-nuke pulp” thirty years ago mixed with my overactive imagination and enticed my writer’s mind through a dandy little scenario for a second civil war.
Let’s assume that Mr. Trump completes a four-year term as president, but chooses not to run again. At the moment, I’ve got doubts that he’ll finish this term, but I also predicted that he wouldn’t even take office when he learned of all of the restrictions he’d be facing in the Golden Cage. So Mr. Trump doesn’t run in 2020, and the Democrats sweep the election in a similarly stunning fashion to the GOP’s 2016 victory.
The Democratic nominee doesn’t matter for purposes of this exercise, although I’ve already heard Michelle Obama’s name being bandied about.
In an effort to prevent another controversial election decided by the Electoral College, the Democrats draft several Constitutional Amendments. That action isn’t uncommon; there have been at least sixteen amendments proposed since the turn of the century. The amendments might call for abolishing the Electoral College, or repealing Presidential term limits. The hotly debated amendments are not adopted by Congress, or are, but aren’t ratified in the artificially short time-frame Congress offers. That in turn causes enough state legislatures to call for an Article V Convention, which Congress calls, with no small amount of debate and interference by the GOP.
The Article V Convention, sometimes referred to as a Con-Con, ends up being a “runaway convention,” not unlike the 1787 Convention. The document that comes from the Article V Convention is drastically different from the 1787 Constitution and is in essence a brand new Constitution. Some rights are curtailed or abolished. Other new rights are created or explicitly included based on Supreme Court decisions.
The 1787 Constitution ratification section set forth that the document would go into effect when ratified by nine of the 13 states, or what amounted to two-thirds of the states. It also states that proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by special state ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states.
Two-thirds equals thirty-four states; three-fourths is thirty-eight. What would a new Constitution require for ratification? I could make a case for either number.
The process to this point would be contentious, to be sure. Markers called in. Backstabbing. Alliances birthed and aborted.
But ratification is where things really turn south, in my twisted little mind. What happens when the states that voted against ratification refuse to recognize the new document, for whatever reason?
Article 7 of the current Constitution says “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” The Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789, even though North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified it. North Carolina waited until November to ratify, and Rhode Island until May of 1790. Were they bound by the Constitution prior to ratification?
Would states that refused to ratify a new Constitution be bound by it? If not, what do they become? If the 15 states refuse to ratify, and instead declare their loyalty to the 1787 Constitution, what would that look like? Would a Democratic president use military force to preserve the union at all costs?
It would be a bloody action.
Let’s hope I’m just speculating.
I decided a week or so ago that I would change something in my writing. I’m going to change the way I refer to people, as an experiment. I’m adopting the New York Times house style of using Mr/Mrs/Miss when speaking of any political leader. The first time I mention someone, I’ll use their title, like President Trump. Thereafter, it’ll be Mr. Trump. Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton.
Because I’m an adult, and I’m supposed to be a professional. I’m taking journalism classes, and I’m calling myself a writer. And professionals use proper titles for people. It’s not just about respecting the person. It’s about manners and being polite. I suppose you could even call it “political correctness” if you wanted, because that’s just another way of saying, “Don’t be rude.”
So I’m going to work on addressing people professionally, because I want to set a good example.
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