#37 Glory To You – Democracy

Civics 101 – What Did I Miss?

When did democracy become God? We worship it, we give it thanks, we praise it, we glorify it, we invade for it, we overthrow for it and now we impeach for it. What did I miss in civics class? 

Many of our Representatives have made statements that connect democracy with the Founding Fathers and point to the US Constitution as proof. Are they ignorant, nefarious or just stooges in this demigod called Democracy? Whatever, it is the ultimate “fake news” being perpetrated on the people. But the media loves those cute little patriotic sound bites. 

The fundamental principle, of the Constitution, is not to carry out the will of the people but is to protect individual liberty. The will of the people, also known as the democratic decision-making process, defiles the US Constitution. Most Americans do not fully understand the dangers surfacing from this misunderstanding. Our government officials continue to push “their” government away from liberty and toward democracy as we the people become servants of “their” government.   

Partisanship Can Not Be Removed From Democracy

American constitutionalism has morphed from protecting liberty to advancing democracy at the expense of liberty. The Founders saw the role of government as a protectorate of the rights of individuals, and the biggest threat to individual liberty was the government itself. They designed a government with constitutionally limited powers, constrained to carry out only those activities specifically allowed by the Constitution.

If you follow the principle of liberty first and foremost and prescribe to the notion that the government’s role is to protect the rights of individuals; one would clearly see that the principle of democracy, collective decisions made according to the will of the majority, is anti-Constitutional. The greater the allowable scope of democracy in government, the greater the threat to liberty.

This is reflected in the nature of the elections they prescribed in the Constitution.The Founding Fathers viewed elections as a method of selecting competent people to undertake a job with constitutionally-specified limits. With the extension of democracy, elections became referendums on public policy. If you recall there were several warnings against the dangers of factions (party’s, special interest, etc.) The Federalist Papers No. 9, No. 10 and No. 11. and Washington’s farewell address to name a few.

Democracy – Oops, There It Is

It is true that the Constitution did allow for one democratic process, a representative to be elected by a majority of a district’s constituents. However, the Founders wanted those who ran the government to be insulated from direct influence by its citizens. By insulating political decision-makers from direct accountability to citizens, the government would be in a better position to adhere to its constitutionally-mandated limits. However, re-election, partisan vote and campaign donation has created a landslide of outside influence. Influence to the point that my vision of a Congressman (woman) more resembles a race car driver than a diligent official.

(Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)

The Constitution created a limited government designed to protect liberty, not to foster democracy. However, the United States has consistently moved toward more democracy, and the unintended side effect has been a reduction in liberty.

Democracy, No – Republic, Yes

It may have been Mark Twain, maybe Emma Goldman or possible Phillip Berrigan once said, “If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.“ Whoever said it, maybe they were on to something because there is a lot of truth to it.

In Randall Holcombe’s new book, Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History, Holcombe’s lays out the case for why “the Founders had no intention of designing a government that would respond to the will of the majority,” as illustrated by the fact that citizens “had almost no direct input into the federal government as the Constitution was originally written and ratified.”

The US Constitution allows for one governmental position to be elected by the people, Congressional representative, not President nor US Senator. “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States….”  Article I, Section 2, Clause 1 Because the founding fathers were not fans of mob rule, they purposely and meticulously limited democratic procedures for national positions.

Both US Senators and the President were not to be selected by popular vote. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.” Article I, Section 3, Clause 1

The 17th Amendment profoundly altered Article I, Section 3, by providing for direct election of the Senate. This Amendment tilted the scale of power in favor the central government over the states. This change to the selection process, making it democratic, eliminated the responsibility that the US Senator had to his/her state under the Founder’s Constitution.

Presidential Election- What is That?

The Constitution clearly did not intent for popular vote to determine the President either. read Article 2, Section 1 on executive selection:  https://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/2

It is the Electoral College that was designated to vote for the president, completely independent of any popular vote. An understanding of the Electoral College would discard any presumptions behind the current debate over the National Popular Vote.  In fact, the Founders anticipated that in most cases no candidate would receive votes from a majority of the Electors. “The Founders reasoned that most electors would vote for one candidate from their own states…and it would be unlikely that voting along state lines would produce any candidate with a majority of the votes.” Holcombe

Consequently, in reality: “the Founders envisioned that in most cases the president would end up being chosen by the House of Representatives from the list of the top-five electoral vote recipients…Furthermore, there was no indication that the number of electoral votes received should carry any weight besides creating a list of the top five candidates…The process was not intended to be democratic.” Holcombe

How Do You Really Feel?

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Constitution does not contain the word “democracy,” but does mandate: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.”

John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, championed the new Constitution in his state precisely because it would not create a democracy. “Democracy never lasts long,” he noted. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.” He insisted, “There was never a democracy that ‘did not commit suicide.’”

New York’s Alexander Hamilton”We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”

James Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote in The Federalist, No. 10: “… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.”

Can We Handle It?

After the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. A Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin,  “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The difference between a democracy and a republic is not just semantics but is fundamental. The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica — which means simply “the public thing(s),” or more simply “the law(s).” “Democracy,” on the other hand, is derived from the Greek words demos and kratein, which translates to “the people to rule.” Democracy, therefore, has always been synonymous with majority rule.

The push for democracy has only been possible because the Constitution is being ignored, violated, and circumvented. The Constitution defines and limits the powers of the federal government. Those powers, all of which are enumerated, do not include agricultural subsidy programs, housing programs, education assistance programs, food stamps, health care, etc.

Under the Constitution, Congress is not authorized to pass any law it chooses; it is only authorized to pass laws that are constitutional. Anybody who doubts the intent of the Founders to restrict federal powers, and thereby protect the rights of the individual, should review the language in the Bill of Rights, including the opening phrase of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law…”).

Robert Welch explained in a 1961 speech:

“… rights cannot be abrogated by the vote of a majority any more than they can be by the decree of a conqueror. The idea that the vote of a people, no matter how nearly unanimous, makes or creates or determines what is right or just becomes as absurd and unacceptable as the idea that right and justice are simply whatever a king says they are.”

Congress – Read The Constitution   

The Constitution contains only 4,543 words, including the signatures. The Founding Fathers envisioned US Representatives to Congress to be competent people to undertake a job with constitutionally-specified limits. I am sure they would include reading and understanding the Constitution as a prerequisite to being a competent person. I do!


One thought on “#37 Glory To You – Democracy

  1. Enlightening perspective, thank you. I wonder what you think about the ways in which our judges are interpreting the Constitution.


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