THE BORN LESAR
I don't think the founding fathers saw this coming
I've had it about up to here -- please note that I'm pointing to my eyebrow/lower forehead area -- with this notion that our nation's founding fathers had such tremendous foresight. I mean, geez, if they were such tremendous visionaries, don't ya' think they would have put something in the Bill of Rights about every man's right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and full access to 5G broadband download speeds? Really, c'mon, Tommy Jefferson and Jimmy Madison and George 'Quarter-face' Washington were certainly the Jay-Z of their times, but true foreseers of the young nation's first 250 years? Pshaw, I say. For all they knew, the country was gonna' stay with about 20 states, end at the Mississippi River, and go on forever with slavery, no women's voting rights, travel by horse-drawn carriage, and white wigs as a men's fashion statement. I get that last one. I think I'd rock some alabaster temple curls.
I've been hearing a lot about our American ancestors lately during discussions of the current presidential impeachment process. Some are arguing that this process by which we may remove a commander-in-chief was ingeniously laid out in the late 1770s by a group of a few dozen men who got together largely, I think, because they didn't want to be home with their wives and bowling hadn't been invented yet. Anyway, in those intricate rules they penned about our country's governance, they included procedures through which Congress could 'impeach' a president, again, I think, because 'shoot him between the lookers with a musket ball the size of a walnut' didn't present all that well on parchment. Just a hunch.
First of all, when the impeachment rules were written, the number of stars on Betsy Ross' flag was well under two dozen. Congress at that time consisted of all white men between the ages of 67 and 70 who owned at least three slaves and had a wife named either Mary, Margaret or Ethel. To get elected, you only needed the votes of your own family, your neighbors', some of your cousins', and perhaps from the blacksmith down the road who might lose your horseshoing business if you were to learn he voted for a different old rich white guy.
There was no way the forefathers could have guessed -- and this is where this 'visionary' tag is so inaccurate -- that the country would one day consist of 49 states and Illinois, and that the House of Representatives -- at 435 members -- is larger now than the entire population of Vermont when a far-sighted John Hancock first signed something he actually thought was a group birthday card for Alexander Hamilton.
Nor could the boys who gathered in Philadelphia for constitution writing and probably strippers have possibly known how the country's political system would grow from a tiny Whig convention to a national monstrosity in which more money is spent on every contested senate race than it took to make the Louisiana Purchase. Naively, the nation's forefathers (not to be confused with the nation's four fathers, who are credited by Ancestry.com with providing the genetic material for all of America's 330 million current residents), believed that their presidential removal rules would be simplistically interpreted and carried out, and not egregiously twisted into a political pretzel (heavily salted, with mustard). For instance, when the founding fathers prescribed that the senate should preside over an 'impartial' trial and then decide if the president should be booted out of the White House, they had no idea that Mitch McConnell would be a slippery slimebag who has as much intention of running a legitimate hearing as he does of leaving his wife for Nancy Pelosi.
Even back in the 1770s -- long before words such as 'partisan' and 'progressive' and 'Crooked Hillary' were added to the nation's political lexicon -- the men who turned a revolution from British autocracy into a fledgling democracy realized that the country's citizens might one day mistakenly elect as president a person who was unfit to serve, or who would violate the law after taking office. Rather than force the nation into suffering a full four years with a scoundrel in the Oval Office, these men took the time to develop a procedure whereby he could be expelled mid-term, and duly replaced by a highly capable, deserving vice president. Or in the current case, Mike Pence. They did their best, I'm sure, but these men knew only of their own era, of owning humans as property to be bought and sold, of communication with a neighboring community by horse and messenger, of surviving another night at home with Ethel and the 16 squawking children only by guzzling homedistilled whiskey brewed from cabbage leaves and pond water.
Had the founding fathers knew what the United States would become by 2020, how money would pollute the governing process, how special interests would rule the game, they might have spent more time on the impeachment rules rather than those boring parts about taxation, habeas corpus, Supreme Court jurisdiction and online dating. Then again, they could also have spent a skosh more time tinkering with those electoral college rules, so that a person who lost the general election by some 3 million votes would not have gotten into office anyway, thereby making this whole conversation moot, but, you know, why bring that up now? With more than 240 years of hindsight, it's easy to see that the impeachment process is not adequate for today's politically-fueled governance system, but -- like J-Lo and Shakira doing the Super Bowl halftime show -- we're just gonna' have to live with it no matter how nauseating it is. I would imagine that George and John and Thomas and the boys felt comfortable in their time that they had laid out proper rules for removing an inept or immoral president, and we can blame them for unforeseen changing times no more than we can criticize them for putting the Capitol in Washington, rather than, say, Denver, which would have been really strong foresight since Colorado wasn't admitted to the Union until 11 years after the Civil War.
The hope would be, even though the removal rules are somewhat archaic and born of a bygone era, that those in power now respect their intention and do their best to implement them not for the betterment of one political party over the other, but in the interests of preservation of democracy and the institution of the presidency.
Mitch? Nancy? You listening? George and Thomas are trying to tell you something.