It’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The presidential election is 19 weeks from today.
On this date 103 years ago, pitcher Ernie Shore of the Boston Red Sox probably expected a quiet day on the bench as his team started a game against the Washington Senators.
But Boston’s ace, Babe Ruth, walked leadoff batter Ray Morgan. And, not thrilled by the strike zone, Ruth got into it with the umpire.
Not only did the ump throw Ruth out of the game, but Ruth responded by throwing a few punches.
Boston needed a pitcher – so in came Shore, who was no slouch on the mound himself. And the Red Sox manager came in to catch, because Ruth’s battery mate got tossed as well.
Morgan, figuring the new catcher was cold – tried to steal second and got himself thrown out.
And then Shore proceeded to retire the next 26 batters in a row – the only time that’s ever happened in the Major League Baseball history.
For many years, the game was listed in the record books as a perfect game. But the people who decide this stuff ruled that a perfect game really should be up 27 batters up, 27 batters down – no errors, no reaching base by walk, hit by pitch or catcher’s interference.
So Shore and Ruth are credited with a combined no-hitter.
The biggest change I want is, of course, the unceremonious ouster of the incumbent seat warmer in the Oval Office.
But Trump’s stay at the White House might have served a valuable purpose. (And, yes, I just inflicted pain on myself for writing that, but I’ll continue.)
Despite this nation’s deep political polarization, who really thought that the fundamental American political system was rife for a wannabe dictatorship?
In the last elections for president and both houses of Congress, Democrats received more votes than Republicans. Of course, because of the nature of our system, Republicans hold the White House and the Senate.
I understand that. Those are the rules we played by. If Hillary Clinton had won with 3 million fewer votes than Trump, I would have defended her election, too.
But instead of seeking to sway more Americans into supporting him with popular policies and conciliatory leadership, Trump seems to have driven through every loophole his henchpeople can find to enrich himself and entrench his power.
And that extends to the circle around Trump. In no advanced country would anyone as unqualified as Jared Kushner be allowed anywhere near the exercise of authority.
When I lie awake at night upset at the state of American democracy, it’s because of the fear that Trump could care less about its survival.
Lots of progressives talk about making changes to make sure an election like 2016 never occurs again.
Most of these center around eliminating the Electoral College and electing a president by popular vote.
There’s two problems with that.
One is that it’s not going to happen. The Electoral College is there just to thwart what we think should have happened in 2016 from happening. While Clinton won more votes overall, Trump was the candidate who got the most votes in more states.
It’s why a individual voter in Wyoming has more say about who’s in the White House than an individual voter in California. And it’s unlikely that Wyomingers are giving up the power.
Here’s the other problem: Changing the way we elect someone isn’t going to solve the abuses of someone like Trump.
Because in addition to him, Mitch McConnell’s Senate has been complicit in his power grab, So have the complicit judges railroaded onto the bench by McConnell.
And if – this is what’s most important – if these abuses were committed by progressive Democrats, they wouldn’t be any less heinous.
So people throughout the political spectrum might see the benefit of making the following two changes.
- Put some teeth in the Constitution’s emoluments clause
Thanks to reporting led by David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, we have a pretty fair idea of how much Trump’s businesses have benefitted from his presidency.
Actually, we don’t need to see the reporting. Trump violates the emoluments clause every time he takes a wretched swing at a golf ball on one of his courses.
That shouldn’t happen. That’s corrupting. And it applies equally if someone with a liberal bent – let’s say, for argument’s sake, Tom Steyer – was elected and conducted his presidency in a way that steered or encouraged his business to prosper.
So let’s make violation of the idea that the president should not have any business ties of any kind a sticking point. He or she would have to divest themselves and their entire family from those businesses within 60 days of inauguration or forfeit their presidency to the vice president.
2. Create an independent anti-corruption body to assess and, possibly, adjudicate the performance of elected leaders
And this might be a way to use technology to solve the problem.
The agency could decide on an objective set of principles to determine degree of corruption. Does the president fire a federal prosecutor who was investigating his business? Did a House member from Pennsylvania take money from government contractors for a reelection campaign? Does the senator from Missouri have relatives working in the St. Louis office?
Put these into algorithms and spit out an annual integrity score. If the score is below the standard for honest governance, it would trigger an inquiry from the commission’s members – non-partisan choices from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
If the commission finds an official acted corruptly, the matter is first referred to the appropriate remedial body – if it’s the president, for example, the House would get the case as grounds for impeachment.
But, if no action is taken, the matter goes to a referendum among the voters of that jurisdiction, national, state or congressional district. And that will be done by popular vote – if the president loses, the vice president succeeds him or her.
Because right now, there is no check on Trump’s abuse of power. He – or more likely, the people around him who actually know how government works – can run roughshod on normal presidential behavior and ethics.
And this Senate, as it proved in February, won’t hold him to account.
I want the Trump era to end now. But I also want there to be nothing like this time in our country ever again.
I don’t know that there’s any sure way to do that – but it would be a failure on our part not to try.