We’re Not Supposed to Have a Democracy

We’re Not Supposed to Have a Democracy April 3, 2019

The United States of America is not a democracy.  And it was never supposed to be.  Our constitutional order has built in protections against majority rule, lest the greater numbers run roughshod over individuals, minorities, and holders of unpopular ideas.  Among those safeguards against democracy are the electoral college, the Senate, the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court.  Currently, Democratic presidential candidates, in accord with the name of their party, are calling for all of these constitutional protections to be eliminated.

So observes Kevin D. Williamson in his essay  “The ‘Burn It Down!’ Democrats, in National Review:

The American order is complex — it is much more sophisticated than “democracy,” which assumes that nothing stands between the individual and the national state except aggregation, that might (defined as 50 percent + 1) makes right. The American order is based on the idea that the United States consists of many different kinds of people in many different kinds of communities, and that each of these has interests that are legitimate even when they conflict with the equally legitimate interests of other communities. The densely populous urban mode of life is not the only mode of life, and the people of the urban areas are not entitled by their greater numbers to dominate their fellow citizens in the less populous rural areas.

The basic units of the United States are, as the name suggests, the several states. The states created the federal government, not the other way around. The states are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government, which is their instrument, not their master. In this, the United States is fundamentally different from countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan, which have unitary national governments under which provincial distinctions are largely irrelevant.

In our system, the states matter. Under the Democrats’ vision, some states matter: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, which, without the institutions of federalism, have among them the numbers and the power to effectively dominate the rest of the country.

At the time of the Founding, the people of the smaller states did not desire to enter into a union in which they and their interests would be dominated by the larger ones. The people of the smaller states still do not wish to be politically dominated by the larger ones. For that reason, the interests of the states as such — not mere aggregates of voters — are taken into consideration.

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