In 1776, the Declaration of Independence of the British colonies in America was proclaimed. On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States, inaugurating the greatest ever experiment in governance. Before these historic moments, the voice of a king, queen, or dictator determined the fate and behaviour of persons and the masses. Their legitimacy was styled “The Divine Right of Kings”. In America, however, the will of the people expressed by voting in elections would form the only true basis of the legitimacy of all authority. The voice of the people would now become the voice of God.
The American Constitution also gave effect to the doctrine of the separation of powers. Article 1 declared all legislative power to be vested in Congress. A single person could not now do what kings and queens used to do.
Through Article 3, the third great branch of national government was established. The judicial power of the United States was vested in a Supreme Court.
On May 31, 1913, by passing the 17th Amendment, America made a leap forward in good governance by changing the provisions for the election of a Senator from state legislators to the people voting directly for them, two Senators for each state.
The Senate of the United States has the power to impeach and remove from office any public official, including the President and the Chief Justice.
Up until recently, the great strength of the U.S. Constitution has been its strict adherence to the separation of powers.
In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade. The argument was based on the spurious reasoning of the primacy of the right to privacy superseding the right to life. This invasion of the Legislative branch by the Judiciary proceeded unchecked.
That year, the Executive Branch was not so lucky. In 1972, President Richard Nixon was re-elected in a landslide victory at the polls. However, it came to light that associates of Nixon had been involved in a minor robbery at an until-then unknown place named the Watergate Hotel. Nixon at first denied any knowledge of it, but later it was discovered he had lied. The Senate prepared to impeach him. Rather than face disgrace, he resigned in 1974.
The petty crime of Watergate pales in comparison to the betrayal of Benghazi. Yet up until today, no one has paid the price of that betrayal. No one has been impeached!
More recently, a lesser judge set aside a state referendum, twice nullifying the will of the people. The U.S. Senate has also remained complacently silent. This is another resounding blow for the destruction of the most basic principle of modern governance: the will of the people.
Why then, should Belize even look at an elected Senate as an improvement?
Our Supreme Court is constitutionally empowered to interpret law – not to create it. In my layman’s opinion, any court ruling that ignores the Supremacy of God acknowledged by our people shows a profound arrogance. Describing sex as “sexual orientation” shows complete disregard for the principle of respect for moral and spiritual values.
The American system with its elected Senate having the power to vet nominees for high offices and to impeach the mightiest has shown its weakness. However, good as the system is, its effectiveness depends on the quality of the persons who work it.
Belize’s reality is that our governance system is itself weak, lacking effective checks and balances. However, those who work it find it most suitable for their own personal purposes.
We need an elected Senate!