The night of John F. Kennedy’s funeral — three days following his assassination — Lyndon Johnson met at the State Department with the world leaders who had traveled to Washington to pay their respects.
Although LBJ had been vice-president almost three years, he was not considered a vital part of the Kennedy Administration, and had been excluded from any significant role from the start. That fall, rumors had been circulating that he might be dropped from the ticket in 1964. JFK’s Harvard-educated Best & Brightest regarded Johnson as an embarrassing Texas throwback.
And now he was the most powerful man in the world.
We’re going to make the mistake of deploying one anecdote across sixty million people, but hey, we’re grasping at straws at the moment.
The anecdote is courtesy of Rob Flaherty, formerly a digital-communications hack for the Hillary Clinton campaign. He’s originally from Massachusetts, and Wednesday evening he tweeted this:
Anecdote alert: Guy in a camo hat at my hometown bar talking about how he voted for Trump but is pissed about conflict of interest stuff.
We’re going to presume here that “conflict of interest” did not pass Camo Hat’s lips, since that’s Elite Talk. And we cannot know which bit or bits of news reached the space below said hat, since there are already so many to choose from.
When we first read the Federalist Papers, in our early twenties, we were most impressed by the Founders’ understanding of human nature, and the nature of power. This was not an idealistic government built for the Shining City on the Hill — it was designed for the dirty, grubby people in the valley.
The part we all know is the Separation of Powers, with Checks and Balances. But the design was much more thorough than that: overlapping variations in terms, protection for smaller states, a notorious method to offset the power of the Free North against — let’s not kid ourselves here — the Slave South.
Where Congress represented the interests of States and Citizens, the Presidency was designed to represent the nation as a whole. And, as the most powerful position in their structure, the Founders were very particular about how someone might achieve that prize.
To that end, they created a hiring committee.
An interesting thing happened in America on November 9th, 2016. The day after the votes cast in our presidential election were tallied and it was determined that Donald Trump had carried the electoral college, 100,000 people rushed Healthcare.gov to buy insurance for themselves and for their families. The website, whose rocky grand-opening just a couple of years earlier was ridiculed as an example of government incompetence, is now looking more like a precarious lifeline for thousands of people who see it as their last chance to buy into a health insurance plan before the new Republican administration of Donald Trump rides into town on a promise to blow the whole system up. Read more »
Come January 20, two of the last three Presidents will have taken power without the consent of the governed.
This is a problem.
As we write Friday evening, three nights after the election, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by about 400,000 votes of 120 million cast. Because of an artifact of history, these numbers are legally meaningless. And, until 2000, for six generations — 112 years — they might as well have been. For six generations, for more than a century, the Electoral College was a ceremonial formality that, for practical purposes, merely codified the popular vote.
Until it wasn’t.