How the Founders tried to prevent a Donald Trump

If Republicans pull some convention maneuvering to prevent the nomination of Donald Trump, wouldn’t that thwart the will of the people?  Well, historian Andrew Trees shows that the Founders of our nation who wrote the Constitution believed that the will of the people often needed to be thwarted, or at least checked and balanced.  The Founders feared that the public would be tempted to vote according to their “passions,” thus allowing themselves to be manipulated by a “demagogue” who would stir up these passions to put himself into power.  (Sound familiar?)  This is why the Founders built non-Democratic safeguards into our Republic, such as having the president be elected not by the public but by the Electoral College.

Many of those safeguards have been gotten rid of, unfortunately.  (Perhaps the coming debacle will encourage us to bring them back:  If political parties are corrupt, something both angry voters today and the original Founders would agree on, let’s remove the presidency from politics.  Let’s vote state-by-state for delegates to the Electoral College, without any of them stating whom they would be voting for.  They would then deliberate on who would be the best person for the job.  That would be returning to what the Founders intended.) [Read more…]

Voting for authoritarianism

Free and democratic societies, historically, come to an end when the people freely and democratically vote for an authoritarian leader to end freedom and democracy. (Think Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin. . . .)  Now Donald Trump is saying that he wants to limit the First Amendment by changing the libel laws so that journalists and others who write “negative” things can be punished.

Trump surely lacks the magnitude of those historical tyrants, but the public’s impulse to turn in time of disillusionment to “a strong leader” who will suspend their rights continues.

After the jump, George Will catalogues Trump’s authoritarian statements and calls establishment Republicans like Chris Christie who are now supporting him to account. [Read more…]

Original sin as the bedrock of democracy

More from Barton Swaim’s Wall Street Journal review of Reinhold Niebuhr’s  Major Works in Religion and Politics, explaining why the doctrine of original sin is necessary for a stable democracy. [Read more…]

Zombie democracy

Christopher Walker tells how authoritarian governments are trying to make themselves seem legitimate by constructing a facade of democracy, complete with (fixed) elections, (controlled) news organizations, and even government-sponsored non-governmental organizations, such as human rights groups, election monitors, and environmental groups–all of which work to make the dictators look good and are wreaking havoc in the U.N. and international conferences. [Read more…]

Authoritarian envy?

The dictator of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, died recently, to nearly universal praise in the West for the way he built his country into an economic powerhouse.  Columnist Richard Cohen thinks that we have “authoritarian envy” because “too much democracy” keeps government from being able to do what it needs to do.

Mr. Cohen, a liberal, decries Lee’s harsh rule and his running roughshod over any kind of human rights, but he seems to share that envy, expressing frustration over our government’s inability to get things done, due to all of these political conflicts and checks and balances.

Conservatives, I would think, would be glad of the limits on government and would especially dislike an authoritarian like Lee, even though he did promote free markets and economic growth.  But as the presidential election season gets under way, I worry that all sides may be investing too much hope that what we need is a powerful leader and are expressing frustration with our constitutional system that, by design, checks and balances an activist government.  Might America be getting more and more open to authoritarianism?  [Read more…]

Mandatory voting?

President Obama appeared to endorse mandatory voting as a way to get money out of politics.  In countries that have mandatory voting laws, if you don’t cast a ballot, you have to have to pay fines or other penalties.  American polls show that most people who don’t vote support Democrats, which, of course, doesn’t do Democrats much good.  I’ve read that in Australia, which punishes non-voters, the effect is a kind of stasis, since so many of those who cast a ballot really don’t care, cancelling out the votes of partisan true believers.  What’s the problem with compulsory voting?  I believe it was Sartre who said that the essence of freedom is the ability to say “no,” and saying “no” to all of the candidates would seem to be essential to democracy.  But what do you think? [Read more…]


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