Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.

Just Listen

Election2016 -Declaration of Independence v. US Constitution

Trump = Declaration of Independence, Clinton = US Constitution - pick one

Posted Sep 24, 2016

Like many I’ve been looking for a way to figure out what I think with regard to candidates Trump and Clinton.  I’ve been looking for a different framework, because the “ping pong” effect of listening to each of them and becoming more disappointed than encouraged in what I hear has been running havoc with my brain.

What follows has helped me develop some perspective.

Trump represents the Declaration of Independence. Clinton represents the U.S. Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence was signed July, 1776. The U.S. Constitution was signed September, 1787 following the Revolutionary War which went from 1775 – 1783.

The Declaration of Independence begins:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The U.S. Constitution begins:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Declaration of Independence was a way of declaring America’s independence from an oppressive England. In essence, Trump is amassing his following from people who want to declare their independence from a political system that appears to be so dysfunctional and mired in gridlock (as too be exasperating vs. oppressive), that it appears to have lost its way in regards to serving the people it represents. By declaring an independence from the past and also throwing the constitutional bathwater out with the declaration of independence baby Trump has created a fanatical following. Say what you will about Trump, but even though he doesn’t seem presidential he certainly appears more like a leader than a manager.

The U.S. Constitution was a set of rules and laws of government that served (and continues to serve) as a blueprint for getting things done in the war weary and war wary young United States of America.   It may have stood the test of time for so long because it was drafted following a long, costly and awful war that the founding fathers wanted to prevent from happening again. That intention possibly enabled them to create a document that was relatively free from special interests and personal agendas. Clinton is more like the Constitution than the Declaration of Independence and appears to be more about getting things done than declaratively taking a stand.  In fact, for her entire political life, she has been on the defensive which has deeply impacted how she is perceived as tenacious and never giving up.  However, that has not translated into her appearing presidential.  She comes off more like a manager than a leader.

What would you want to trust your future to if you had to choose one or the other, the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution?

My answer like yours is that we want and need both.

I would however make the following “amendments” to that decision.

First, I think we need to re-write the Declaration of Independence as the Declaration of Interdependence.  Why? Because in 1776, the early colonists were united enough so that they already functioned as a group (something that is not the case in contemporary America) and could focus on how important autonomy and individualism were. But times have changed and I think it’s clear that even if we don’t agree on many or even most things, we are all in this together.  As such perhaps it’s time to consider drafting a Declaration of Interdependence.  Here is my crude and unscholarly effort at a first draft.

Second, with regard to the U.S. Constitution, perhaps the time has come to propose another Constitutional Convention.  We don’t have to throw away the original which has served us quite well.  We may just need to retrofit it to fit modern times. What would happen if we committed to having such a convention and went through the original U.S. Constitution line by line and examined each through the filter of:

  1. Context – the original context for the original version
  2. Meaning – the intent of each line
  3. Spirit – the spirit of each line
  4. Relevance – the relevance of each line to addressing issues of that time
  5. Current context – having this inform the meaning, spirit of each line in a revised Constitution  

So there you have it.

Declare your independence from everything in the past, Make America Great Again and vote for Trump without a plan for making it happen or commit yourself to actually getting stuff done (and as anyone knows in the business world, it’s the managers who get everything done and not the leaders) and vote for Clinton.