Monday, October 05, 2020

Chris Rock, a popular constitutionalist for the age of Trump

Guest Blogger

Miguel Schor

Chris Rock, in a monologue on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, gave a takedown of our constitutional order fit for the age of Donald Trump. Americans unhappy with their political-constitutional order usually reserve their anger for politicians, not the Constitution itself. When large numbers of citizens become angry about their Constitution, however, nations face a reckoning. Popular constitutionalism can sometimes drive constitutional change. 

It is perhaps fitting that in our social media driven political environment, we need a comedian to explain to us what the heck is going wrong. Chris Rock’s monologue was an astute and amusing critique of our constitutional order that made three points the framers took seriously and which we should as well.

The first flows from the Declaration of Independence. Citizens have the right to alter or abolish their government when it undermines or destroys their right to happiness. Revolutions start in the unlikeliest of places as Chris Rock points out. Covid-19 has forced people to stay home and they are rethinking their relationships to one another. Divorce rates are skyrocketing. Americans, Chris Rock argues, should also rethink through their relationship with a government that cannot take care of their health or other basic needs during this pandemic.

The second flows from the Presidency. The framers made removal from office virtually impossible. Chris Rock slyly pointed out that no one would ever hire a cook for four years who could not be fired even though his food made you ill daily.

The framers decided that the only qualifications for the office of the presidency was to be a natural born citizen, 35 years of age, and 14 years a resident of the United States. The electoral college was supposed to ensure that we never hired an incompetent cook to run the nation. The framers had a term for a dangerously incompetent cook and that is a demagogue. The electoral college was designed to prevent a demagogue from becoming president because the electors were supposed to be people with political expertise unlikely to make terrible mistakes. The electoral college, though, collapsed as a presidential filtration device during the early American Republic and now merely serves as a vote counting mechanism. Political parties took over the role of ensuring that we do not elect a demagogue as president but the days of party insiders making decisions ended with reforms the two political parties undertook following the 1968 Democratic convention. After four years of having a cook who is making the nation literally ill with the worst response to Covid-19 of any advanced democracy in the world, it is time that we rethink the qualifications needed to be the President of the United States.

The third flows from a central concern of the framers which was the problem of corruption. We fix corruption by electing a government that represents the people. As Chris Rock points out, the connection between voters and government becomes weakened when disparities in income and wealth become too great, when representatives effectively have life time jobs, and elections are operated in ways that suppress the vote of ordinary citizens.

So watch the video available here,, and please vote safely.

 Miguel Schor is Professor of Law at Drake University School of Law. You can reach him by e-mail at

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