By Marilyn Singleton, MD, JD:
The goal of the recent sometimes-unruly protests over the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America is unclear. Is it to make President-elect Trump preemptively resign? Is it to ensure that he never takes office—by any means necessary? Is it to exercise the protesters’ self-defined right to vandalize the property of others?
Of course, we’ve never had a flawed person as president. Not the progressive icon Woodrow Wilson who re-segregated the White House. Not the revered Franklin Roosevelt who herded Japanese citizens into internment camps. Not the two incredibly popular womanizers Bill Clinton and JFK. And we’ve never had a rock-star-Beyonce and F-word, N-word Jay Z at the White House of hyperbolic-story-telling president like Barack “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” Obama. And of course, there were no flaws in the Democratic candidate who never denounced the Democratic National Committee’s unfair treatment of Bernie Sanders or the heads up on questions in the primary debate.
Is the protestors’ beef that the election was not fair? There have been no reports of voter intimidation. Is the protestors’ beef that the election was not democratic? It seems the complaints about Mr. Trump are conflated with the meme ungraciously perpetrated by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in an effort to boost Hillary Clinton’s ego: she won more popular votes. That is a totally irrelevant, ignorant, and divisive statement perhaps meant to foment resentment and ill will.
Message to protesters: the candidates were campaigning for each state’s electoral votes (the number of congresspersons and both senators), the system set forth in our Constitution. The Electoral College treats the states as equal sovereignties and keeps large states from swallowing up the small states.
It is the fight for electoral votes rather than popular votes that results in no one ever having to campaign, for example, in deep dark blue California where the ballot offered the choice between two Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. The skewed voting patterns of California’s 18 million registered voters could account for Clinton’s extra votes.
Majority rule sounds moral but majority rule is not automatically democratic. As Ben Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner.”
Our country’s founders knew that the “divine right of the majority” was just as bad as rule by “the divine right of kings.” In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued that direct democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” In a direct democracy, the individual, and any group of individuals who are in the minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of the majority. If the majority votes to take away your land, you lose your land. If the majority votes to outlaw your business, you lose your business.
Madison concluded that a representative democracy—which he called a “republic”—is preferable to direct democracy as a form of government. Madison reasoned that representatives would not be caught up in the heat of the moment of some passion-infused issue raised by a group. Our representatives would refine the views of the public and create laws designed to uphold the basic inalienable human rights consistent with democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, protection against unwarranted intrusion by the government, and equal protection under the law.
Publius (either James Madison or Alexander Hamilton) noted in Federalist No. 55 that a republican government assumes that man’s virtuous nature outweighs our political jealousies. If that were not so, “nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”
Another safeguard against governmental abuse of power is our three separate branches of government that can change the acts of the other branches. Sadly, the federal government has morphed into a species of mob rule. Its pronouncements and regulations have ballooned, largely unknown to anyone but those who wrote them and the poor schnooks who must abide by them.
Many pundits are calling for president-elect Trump to decry the protests and tell the protestors to stop. Why would they listen to the person whom they despise? Where is Hillary Clinton’s voice of reason peddling love and kindness?
To echo Oprah Winfrey (whose equanimity outraged some protesters and Hollywood types), “Everybody, take a deep breath. Hope lives.”
Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) Board member. She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers.