Letters to the Editor: The Constitution isn’t destroying democracy. The people we elect are
To the editor: In his letter commenting on political polarization, reader David Weber places the blame on the Constitution, saying that “almost every part of it was badly done.” The fault lies not in the writing of the Constitution, but in practices adopted later.
The House of Representatives was designed to have members chosen depending on a state’s total population. Based on the 1790 census, the first House members each represented about 34,000 people.
By the 20th century, the size of the House had become unwieldy, and in 1929 the number of representatives was capped at 435, which set states up for unfairly disproportionate representation. This arbitrary cutoff created part of the problem.
Next, the electoral college was not planned to be winner-take-all, but for electoral votes to be awarded proportionally as well. This winner-take-all method further skewed the imbalance.
Then, in 1889 and 1890, Republicans pushed to have six underpopulated states admitted to the union specifically to throw more votes their way, gaining 12 more senators and 18 more electors. None of this is laid out in the Constitution.
The one fault in the writing of the Constitution was that the framers depended on the majority of politicians being decent, honorable citizens with good intentions. They could never have conceived of a Congress where almost half its members no longer believe in democracy or following the Constitution.
This is why we are truly in a fight for the soul of our country.
Dodi Palmer, Long Beach
To the editor: Weber expresses his preference for European laws that ban “hate speech,” claiming such countries “stumble alone just fine.” In fact, they don’t.
In her book “Hate: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship,” Nadine Strossen wrote: “Although the 1965 British ‘hate speech’ law was passed to quell growing racism against minority groups, the first person convicted under that law was a Black man who cursed a white police officer. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, leaders of the Black Liberation Movement in Britain were regularly prosecuted under the law.”
Strossen also noted a 2015 case in France in which 12 Palestinian activists were fined and criminally convicted for wearing T-shirts with the message, “Long Live Palestine, boycott Israel.” There are many other examples of similarly egregious prosecutions under “hate speech” laws.
In 2015, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance warned that the laws are being enforced “to silence minorities and to suppress criticism, political opposition and religious beliefs.” Other organizations have stated that counter-speech, like we have in the U.S., is much more likely than censorship to prove effective in ultimately eradicating the potentially harmful effects of “hate speech.”
I’ll stick with our 1st Amendment.
Stephen Rohde, Los Angeles
The writer is a lawyer and constitutional scholar.
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