A People’s History of the Peaceful Transfer of Power

Supposedly the election of Joe Biden to the White House was the first U.S. election marred in any serious way — marred by Republicans, members of the military, and clownish rioters at the Capitol. While I wish Democrats also cared about keeping any of the promises they were elected on, I don’t think they take what happened on and about January 6, 2021, too seriously — quite the reverse. But I don’t think there was a pristine election system to be marred.

Democrats themselves think the previous election was determined by the president of Russia who controlled the U.S. president as a servant for four years, by which standard they ought to view the 2020 election as a major step up. Of course there’s no evidence that this is true or that they actually believe it, but there is plenty of evidence that an election system with world-leading low turnout, godawfully bad candidates, the winner of the majority of the votes being declared the loser, unverifiable vote counting, widespread vote suppression, and a history of scandal and violence, was not and is not as many steps away from a public coup as is generally imagined. In fact, there’s clear evidence that Russiagate started as a means of distracting from the rigging of the 2016 Democratic (but hardly democratic) Primaries.

George W. Bush was installed once by the Supreme Court following a Brooks Brothers Riot in Florida, and a second time by miraculous shifts in unverifiable vote totals. At least two serious coup plots were put together against Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of them exposed by Congressional investigation and then hushed up. That lack of accountability is a general theme in U.S. presidential history, with Nixon’s sabotage of peace in Vietnam, Reagan’s hostage deal with Iran, Bush the Elder’s role in Iran-Contra, and all variety of such unpleasantness generally swept under the rug.

John F. Kennedy not only came in with a dubious vote count in Chicago, but went out with a spray of bullets almost certainly originating within the U.S. government, which also prevented by similar means the presidency of Robert F. Kennedy. Three other U.S. presidents have been assassinated. The U.S. Capitol, that imagined scene of pristine peace and harmony for centuries prior to January 6, 2021, in fact saw Congressional beatings and the arrangements for deadly duels between Congress Members leading up to half the country breaking off and the president being elected by the other half, and after a brutal and idiotic war that took three-quarters of a million lives, the Reconstruction period was ended by a deal that installed a new president in a manner that had nothing to do with “democracy.”

Many U.S. presidents were elected by wealthy white males. Some were elected with some further section of the population permitted to take part. Eleven of the first 12 themselves enslaved other human beings. The exception was white supremacist John Adams. Washington, D.C., is named for the wealthiest enslaver of his day, and located in the swamp it’s in because powerful slave-owners wanted it there and wanted to be able to bring slaves there. George Washington, or Conotocaurious (his Iroquois name meaning Town Destroyer), was the first of every president up through Lincoln who supported the continuation of slavery. Presidents numbers 13, 14, and 15 were Northerners who did not own anyone but fully supported the practice of doing so. President #16, the Great Emancipator, was openly racist, supported forced colonization, blamed black people’s presence for the war (and told them that directly), and fought a war for years before self-emancipating blacks and slagging northern support for war led him to declare the cause to be freedom. With Andrew Johnson (#17) it was right back to a president who had owned slaves, as had #18 Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson did so much to deny freedom to black people that Congress impeached him (though the ground for impeachment was the firing of the Secretary of War). Grant oversaw and tolerated a rise in racism, segregation, and terrorism. Rutherford B. Hayes (#19) was actually selected (not elected) as part of a deal to end Reconstruction.

Since women — at least white women in states (not “territories”) — have effectively been allowed to vote, there have been 18 presidents. During the Voting Rights Act era of increased voting access for African Americans (1965 – 2022), there were 10 new presidents installed. One of them, Gerald Ford, was not elected at all, not even to the vice presidency. One of them, Richard Nixon, was such a liar and a cheat that he had sabotaged peace in Vietnam in order to get elected promising that he had a secret plan for peace — a plan that is still secret to this day — and he was driven out of office by impeachment and a looming vote to remove him. Another pair and their offspring (Reagan, and the two Bushes) rolled in on a deal to keep U.S. hostages in Iran until after an election, operated above the law with more secret Iran deals and vicious Central American wars, required Supreme Court (on top of Electoral College) intervention, and generally set a rather shabby standard for a nation that proclaims itself the leading guru at a “Democracy” Summit. And whatever you think of the tales of Russiagate, and regardless of whether you think any living human other than Hillary Clinton could have pulled off a loss to Donald Trump, the fact remains that Trump actually lost the vote and was installed by the Electoral College after having campaigned on imprisoning his opponent and threatening all sorts of fascistic violence.

So, the long dignified history of world-grade model elections comes down to three rather unfortunate representatives of the human species, one of whom made a terrific former president: Carter, B. Clinton, and Obama.

And you could fit into a Congressional coat closet the entire U.S. population that thinks the Democrats are going to seriously attempt to keep these promises from the Joe Biden campaign website: “Biden will: Introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. . . . Enact legislation to provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small dollar donations. . . . Restrict SuperPACs. . . . End dark money groups. . . . Ban corporate PAC contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who they lobby.”

In case it helps the nonexistent effort, here’s what I’ve been proposing for years be added to the U.S. Constitution:

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be entirely publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.

State and local governments shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for state or local public office or any state or local ballot measure.

The right of the individual U.S. citizen to vote and to directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be violated. Citizens will be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 18 or upon becoming citizens at an age above 18, and the right to vote shall not be taken away from them. Votes shall be recorded on paper ballots, which shall be publicly counted at the polling place. Election day shall be a national holiday.

Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press. During a designated campaign period of no longer than six months, free air time shall be provided in equal measure to all candidates for federal office on national, state, or district television and radio stations, provided that each candidate has, during the previous year, received the supporting signatures of at least five percent of their potential voting-age constituents. The same supporting signatures shall also place the candidate’s name on the ballot and require their invitation to participate in any public debate among the candidates for the same office.

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