Our Founding Fathers wanted a republic, not a democracy
August 15, 2013
In a recent column “U.S. system ruled by ‘tyranny of the minority,’” Nancy Eubanks stated that everyone would agree that the Founding Fathers “wanted to form a representative democracy — democracy defined as a form of government ruled by the majority of the people.”
I would disagree and suggest that she stop reciting popular talking points and review our history. The Founding Fathers did not want democracy to rule. “Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths … A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.” — James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 10.
Marvin Simkin said: “Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99 percent vote.”
True democracy is the tyranny of the majority. True democracy is mob rule. Thankfully, we do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic. Article IV Section 4, of the Constitution: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of government … ”
And living in this republic means that every voice matters, majorities do not rule and those with the loudest voices do not automatically win. The will of the people means all of the people.
Eubanks pointed out that the Founding Fathers worried about the tyranny of the majority and safeguarded against it, and that the Constitution works well by not allowing it to happen.
Then she claimed that government is dysfunctional because, since polls show that the majority of the people are in favor of gun control and immigration reform, “the will of the people is being thwarted.” I submit that you have no problem with the “tyranny of the majority” — so long as you are in the majority. Were you in the minority on these issues, you would be grateful that you live in a republic — and not a democracy.
Eubanks cites polls when those polls are on her side. But, as we should all know, anyone can find polls that back up their point of view. But how poll questions are phrased and how research is done can strongly affect the outcome. And, often, the people who pay for these polls have a great interest in affecting that outcome.
As for those two pesky Senate votes she feels give Wyoming too much sway: That little detail is in the same Constitution that you believe “has worked well for us for more than 200 years.”
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 1]. Each state gets two senators so that heavily populated states can’t drown out the interests of those with smaller populations. That’s one of those safeguards against the “tyranny of the majority” our Founding Fathers saw fit to provide.
Those same low-population states also get fewer representatives in the House. Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Vermont and both Dakotas each get only one House representative. The House represents the people — thus representation is based on population. The Senate represents the states’ interests. That’s why they all get two.
The Founding Fathers didn’t agree on much when they were constructing the Constitution. They had some nasty verbal knock-down, drag-out fights over key points of it. But, in the end, they came up with something that worked for everyone. And the entire contents can fit in your pocket.
With that in mind, I suggest that we stop trying to pass comprehensive anything and instead tackle big issues the way you would eat an elephant — one bite at a time. One piece of a problem equals one bill. No pork, no riders, no more than a few pages long, no nasty surprises that take more time and money to fix than would have been necessary if we had taken one, small bite at a time.
St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Wise words.
Carol Dexter lives in the “Little Town” of Washington.