Frank Fish: Time to think about changes to save our democracy

Angie Whitworth Pace of Tucker, Ga., reacts to election results favoring President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in East Atlanta on Saturday, Nov 7, 2020. (Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Now that Donald Trump has been defeated, let’s reflect on our “democracy” and the changes needed to make the United States a good example to the rest of the world, not the laughingstock we are today.

Many citizens still think that America is the envy of the world. And that our president is the free world’s leader. Neither is remotely true. Trump’s approval rating in European countries averages in the low teens, lower than Russia’s Vladimir Putin or China’s Xi Jinping.

Much has changed since the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787. We now have 50 states — not 13. We are the third most populous country on earth with the second largest land area. Women and nonwhites can now vote. We can communicate all around the world by telephone or live video. Our president can destroy any city in the world with the press of a button. We should be setting an example to the rest of the free world, not retreating from it, as Trump has done.

Why persist with government systems that are 230 years old? And many that are the antithesis of democracy?

The president is not a king or dictator. So why was Trump able to force his whims on the country on matters such as COVID-19, climate change, Iran, NATO, immigration and taxes? In 2019, major international surveys ranked us 20th on overall education system, 23rd on corruption, 25th on democracy and 27th on health care.

Why do our presidential elections take two years? National elections in the United Kingdom and France, for example, take between one and two months, with much of the campaigning done on free TV.

Why is it so difficult to physically cast a vote (sometimes queuing for hours outdoors in bad weather)?

Why keep the Electoral College, which twice this century gave the presidency to the candidate that finished second in the popular vote?

Why give each state exactly two senators when the population of California exceeds the sum of the 22 smallest states? Hardly equal representation.

Today, Sen. Mitch McConnell has more power than the House by refusing to debate bills passed there (currently about 400). In the U.K., the upper house must debate bills passed by the House of Commons, but can only hold up a bill for one year — and only one month for “money bills,” i.e., expenditures.

Why allow unlimited spending by candidates (and their backers) in national elections leading to 80% reelection of incumbents — even when their approval rating is less than 20%? Typical payback — Trump’s tax cuts gave 80% of the benefits to the top 10%.

Why allow the president to appoint Supreme Court members for life, resulting in the increasingly partisan group Trump is making it? Their appointment should be based on legal merit — best judged by their peers, as in Britain — and require mandatory retirement after, say, eight years, or at age 65.

Why is it so easy to get, and parade with, a gun? Why retain a 230-year-old law designed to help settlers defend against the British? Armed citizens are now a menace, with roughly 37,000 shooting deaths a year and twice as many wounded.

Why are we the only one of the 100-plus most developed countries (including China and Russia) not to have universal health care? And why is ours twice as expensive?

The answers are that we are have been sold the idea that “We are #1!” But actually our ancient system of government has been corrupted. It’s past time for a change.

While we lose the support of our allies, China and Russia get more powerful every day. Was that Trump’s plan? Or is he just an incompetent egomaniac who thinks he’s above the law?

Let’s halt the decline and make the U.S. No. 1 again.

Frank Fish

Frank Fish, Taylorsville, was born to a working-class family in England, studied mathematics in college, was a Fulbright scholar and worked as an information systems consultant in the U.S., U.K., Italy and France before retiring.

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