Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Constitutionally Expressed Anger

Mad As Hell. The title of Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen's book on the Tea Party movement nicely summarizes the theme of this year's midterm elections. I expect that it will be the dominant theme for the next couple of years as well.

In last week's Worldmag column, "Republicanism at Work," I point out that when that popular angry expresses itself at the polls on November 2, it is not "democracy at work" that we will see, but the republican system of government doing what it was designed to do.

With the people as angry as they are with the political class, it would be reasonable to expect a complete change in government. In 1993, Canadian voters were so upset with the Progressive Conservative Party, one of the country’s two major parties, that they reduced the Tory’s 169-seat majority in Parliament to a mere two seats, with even the prime minister herself failing to win reelection in her district. That is what voter anger can do in a democracy. But you will not see that in November. ...

[I]t was the intentional design of our Founders to protect our political life from the instability of democracy and its potential for tyranny, or what Alexis de Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.” Our constitution attempts, quite successfully I think, to institutionalize the people’s better judgment while at the same time giving vent to their passing opinions and passions.

Of course American government is "democratic," if by that we means that it is, as Lincoln said, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The board mass of the population is the fount of political authority, as of course it ought to be. But simply democracy, as a form of government, is far more volatile than a modern republic. I explain how.

We should thank the Lord for the wisdom of our Founders, and be vigilant when a pol tries to justify something on the basis of its being more "democratic."

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