THE VIEW FROM HERE - The US Constitution created a republic for one reason - democracies kill inalienable rights.
Since we were revolting against a monarchy whose entire society was divided into classes, creating a monarchy was never a viable option. While a few Anglophiles may have talked about it, there was no way Americans would create various classes where an aristocracy would support a king and royal family. To do so would have required repudiating the Declaration of Independence which made certain no individual has more or better inalienable rights any another individual. Thus, the choice was between a democracy and a republic.
All forms of government are creations of the human mind and people’s ideas change over time. Great Britain’s government had evolved over millennia, but in America we got to start from scratch and intentionally devise the type government we desired for the new nation. The touchstone of the new government was one paragraph in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (I propose that this paragraph replace the pledge of allegiance, but I digress.)
The purpose of government is to secure inalienable rights including life, liberty and pursuit of happiness based upon the consent of the governed. This formula meant that the government could not be a pure democracy where the majority’s will is the supreme law. Consent of the governed, however, required a system where the individuals played a role in selecting their leaders.
Although Lord Acton did not write his famous phrase until a century later in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he described the greatest threat to inalienable rights – power! On the other hand, the Founding Fathers knew that the first attempt at a government, The Articles of Confederation, had too little power to protect inalienable rights. Thus, the new Constitution had to strike a balance between too much power and too little power.
As Federalist Paper 10 noted, it is human nature to group ourselves into various factions. Sometimes a faction is a minority and other times it may be a majority, but in either instance, a faction will trample on the inalienable rights of others. Their goal for the new government was to control the power of factions. Thus, the Constitution had an elaborate system of checks and balances on accumulation of power.
Combating the Evils of Democracy
Because the Founding Fathers knew that voters could be easily swayed by their irrational passions, the US Constitution goes to great lengths to limit the power of voters. When government officials believe that their tenure rests upon their pandering to the passion of the mob, most will place their personal ambition above promoting the general welfare. The sole place where the majority of the voters elected officials was to the House of Representatives, and they served the shortest term (2 years). Senators were selected by state legislatures and had the longest term (6). The President was chosen by the Electoral College and had a four year term. The Founding Fathers believed that legislators would make wiser choices for Senators than the populace and that the Electoral College would not allow a demagogue to be come President even if he won the popular vote. Both procedures had serious flaws.
The prime reason for state legislatures to select Senators was to constrain the central government from interfering with states’ rights. It was believed that if people directly elected Senators, they would not protect the state’s rights once elected to the federal government. Rather they would be subject to the fickle passions of the voters. This need to protect the states from the federal government was reflected in the Second Amendment which forbid the central government from having a role in gun control while leaving unimpaired each state’s right to make whatever gun control laws it wished. June 9, 2022, CityWatch, The Federal Government is Constitutionally Barred from Gun Control. In 1911, the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators. The main motive for the change was that the legislatures’ selecting the Senators had consumed too much time so that other issues were ignored.
The Electoral College still elects the President. Without the Electoral College, a few large population states with similar interests will run roughshod over the others. The Founding Fathers knew that voting was necessary but a threat to the government’s purpose, i.e., preservation of inalienable rights including liberty and prosperity (pursuit of happiness).
The Judiciary was the most insulated from the passions of the voters. A person became a Supreme Court justice by the President’s nomination and confirmation by a Senate, neither of which were popularly elected. In addition, the justices had life tenure and could be removed only by impeachment. The Founding Fathers hoped that justices would have intelligence and integrity. They would be disappointed
The Perversion of the Republic into a Democracy Has Been Slow and Deadly
In 1858, Sen Stephen Douglas argued that inalienable rights were subservient to the will of the majority of the voters in each state, i.e., Popular Sovereignty. Abraham Lincoln argued that “Liberty to all” meant that inalienable rights as enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution were supreme, notwithstanding the Dred Scott Decision (60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)). The people re-elected Sen. Douglas, endorsing the idea inalienable rights are subservient to the voters on a state by state basis. As Lincoln predicted, a house divided could not long endure. The civil war settled the issue that inalienable rights were self-evident and beyond the reach of voters until Justice Alito’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 597 U.S. ___ (2022) made Sen. Douglas’ position 1858 into federal constitutional law. Now each state gets to vote on other people’s inalienable rights. All it requires is for a disingenuous court to seize upon some ancient statement hostile to an inalienable right to abolish that right, except for the right of psychopaths to own guns.
How We Breached the Wall Protecting the Supreme Court’s Integrity
While the Founding Fathers warned us about the dangers of group rights, i.e. factions, power mongers have always catered to groups and urged them to assert their rights above those of everyone else, e.g., Senator Douglas’ tyranny of the majority. The American Political Scientist Association (APSA) shoved us down this destructive path by arguing that America’s two major political parties needed agendas with no overlap to provide voters a clear choice. That asinine idea not only destroyed a centrist government, but also revived group rights as a political tool. The Dems gathered in disaffected minorities while the GOP catered to right wing White Christians and their perennial sense of persecution. The Group Rights battle became a major force in the 2000's with Pelosi’s Identity Politics where the group to which one belonged outweighed individual character. In reaction, Tea Baggers flooded into Congress in Nov 2010. Next, Dem’s Identity Politics Americanized the French Le Grand Remplacement Theory, threatening to do in Whites as soon as minorities became a majority of the voters. Michelle Goldberg’s New York Times, We Can Replace Them.
The result of the Dems’ Identity Politics was Hillary Clinton’s calling a huge chunk of American voters “a basket of deplorables” which stimulated millions of Whites to vote for Trump in 2016. Trump’s Supreme Court not only abrogated women’s rights under Roe v Wade, but Alito revived Popular Sovereignty as a basis to do away with a host of other inalienable rights. Now that both the GOP and the Dems have turned America into a battle ground where voters may trample on the rights of whomever they wish, we shall learn how democracy kills inalienable rights and leads to an urban style civil war.
(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. You may email him at [email protected])