With the creation of the United States, our forefather’s primary goal was to establish a self-governed nation no longer under the rule of tyranny. Quite a lofty goal at that time, considering most countries were under the control of King’s, Queens, or some form of an aristocracy. Our procreators knew a set of checks and balances was needed to ensure the integrity of this union. Thus, the Founders established three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) with equal power, and they enshrined these principles into a Consitution.
No longer would this nation be ruled by a person or entity. The United States was to be governed “of the people, by the people, for the people,” where the leader’s role was to serve the people, not to rule them.
The British politician Lord Acton once said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was referring to people like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Queen Mary (aka, Bloody Mary), Joseph Stalin, and Adolph Hitler. They all desired world dominance and absolute power, leaving a black mark on history.
From the days of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, til now, the United States has seen 30 Presidents, with 20 being Republican and 10 being Democrats. In those 160 years, America transformed into a two-party system of Democrats and Republicans. In the 21st Century, term Republicans became synonymous with conservatives, as Democrats became synonymous with liberals.
It’s the strong alignment both parties have that could compromise the existing checks and balances, something our forefathers could never have anticipated. The challenge is, these alignments have the potential to pull the Supreme Court into the mix. While the individual members of the Supreme Court are not considered Democrats or Republicans, they considered conservative or liberal.
With that in mind, if a Republican President controls the House and Senate with a Conservative Supreme Court, or if a Democratic President controls the House and Senate with a Liberal Supreme Court, in either case, that party would have absolute power. The very thing our forefathers never wanted to happen would become a reality.
For that reason, it appears the checks and balances of the 18th Century may no longer apply for 21st-century government. Enhanced checks and balances are needed to prevent absolute control before this nation goes back to becoming an American version of a monarchy.
Checks and Balances for the 21st Century
Recently, movements have surfaced, targeting social injustice, and equality for all. Though these are admirable goals, for this movement to be successful, its message needs to apply everywhere, including politics.
That being the case, and keeping focused on political inequalities needing to be corrected, I will recommend enhancements to the current checks and balances that better align this process to the 21st Century, giving equality to both parties.
When Republicans face off against the Democrats for a Senate seat, the individual with the most popular votes is declared the winner. Every state is allowed two Senators; thus, it’s possible for both Senate positions, with each member serving a six-year term.
Any party with 51 of the 100 seats would own the majority of positions and thus be able to control the Senate. Having control of the Senate will also mean controlling 50 percent of the legislative check and balance.
In the enhancement, the rules of engagement would stay the same with one exception; no state would be allowed two senators of the same party. Any party can submit multiple candidates, but only one candidate from each party can be declared the winner. Election by popular vote would still apply.
In this format, no party would have more than 50 seats in the Senate, and having 50 Republicans and 50 Democratic Senators would ensure balance and parity for both parties.
The House of Representatives
From 1929 until now, there have been 435 members in the House of Representatives. Each representative is responsible for a district with each member elected by popular vote. All Representatives serve a two-year term.
Their people’s span of control in 1929 was 30,000 per representative. In 2020 that span of control surpassed 700,000 people. Any party with 218 representatives owns the majority, and thus control the House. That party would also control the other half of the legislative branch.
Though House expansion discussions have occurred for many years, there has been no increase in membership for nearly 100 years.
Assign two House or Representatives per district, thus doubling membership and effectively cutting the span of control in half. The House of Representatives would go from 435 to 870 members. The popular vote will remain in place to determine the winners.
Each party can submit multiple candidates, but no district can be represented by the same party twice. With this rule in place, no party could exceed 435 members; thus, in this two-party system, there will be 435 Republicans and 435 Democrats.
To become President of the United States, you need to win 270 electoral votes out of 538. Our forefathers deemed early on that popular votes were not equitable in determining the outcome of an election. The concern was the popular vote favored the urban region over the rural; thus, the electoral college was put in place to level the playing field.
Even though our forefathers adopted the electoral college process, it has its challenges. With today’s current distribution of electoral votes per state, a candidate need only win the eleven states possessing the most electoral votes to become President, which means that person could win with only 21% of the states.
Even though the electoral college was supposed to care for the inequities of the popular vote, it appears to have made matters worse with a candidate only needing 11 out of 50 states to win the election. The current electoral process allows the most populated states to dominate the outcome.
A straightforward solution would be to re-distribute the electoral college, where a minimum of 21 states is needed to win, which would be 43% of the total. This modification would still show a slight bias to urban regions, but at the same time give rural areas a more equitable presence in the electoral college. The winning party would control the executive branch of the checks and balances.
There are currently nine members of the Supreme Court, all nominated by the President, and approved by a simple majority of the Senate. Once appointed, the member can stay in office indefinitely.
Increase membership of the Supreme Court to 12 members with six being conservative, six being liberal. Newly appointed members must fill the vacated position by movement; thus, only a liberal judge can fill an equivalent spot.
By doing this, the Judicial branch will always be balanced and equitable in theory.
Putting checks and balances in place that’s fair and equitable to all parties is very difficult to do, but necessary. Our forefathers understood that from the very beginning, putting their version in place that has lasted nearly 250 years.
But with these changing times, having far more people living in a far more complex society, the checks and balances of the 18th-century fall short to 21st-century government, needing modernization to keep with the times.
I’m not advocating abolishing the current checks and balances, but instead implementing a more robust format, enhancing the existing structure with additional levels of checks and balances creating a multi-tiered cross-check.
The goal will always be a fair and just political system “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
On June 26th 2020, Paul Kozma discussed this article on the Dave Elswick Show.