The word “democracy” comes from two words in Greek, the one meaning “people” and the second meaning “power” or “might.” In a democracy, the people exercise political power directly, and are likely to do so in a way that is uninformed and driven by emotion and not reason.
The Founders instead established a republic. Actually, that’s the wrong way to put it. “We the People” established a republic rather than a democracy when we adopted the Constitution. The Founders knew from history that democracies quickly descend into mob rule under the influence of a charismatic strong man who can whip them into an unprincipled frenzy and direct their destructive anger toward the objects of their collective wrath. Policy in a democracy is often formed out of fear of the mob and not out of wisdom and unhurried judgment.
A republic, on the other hand, is a form of government in which the people do not enact legislation directly but indirectly through their elected representatives. In a republic, we choose the people who form and shape public policy for us. In a republic, there is a layer of insulation between public policy and the mob. In a democracy, there is none.
The Founders created a republic for us. In the Framers’ design of government, the only direct expression of the will of the people was found in our choice of members of the House of Representatives. Senators were not chosen by the people (until the 17th Amendment) but rather by the legislatures of the states.
The president, under the Founders’ plan, was not chosen by the people but by electors. The temporary office of elector was the only office, other than the office of Representative, which was directly filled by the people. The Founders’ design was that we would vote for and choose electors, men of political wisdom and judgment, whom we could trust to go off and pick a president for us.
In fact, according to the Founders’ design, what we should be having right now is not one campaign for the office of president but 538 separate campaigns for the office of elector. We should be hearing from candidates for that office who seek to persuade us that they have the principles, character, and constitutional knowledge to be entrusted with the awesome responsibility of choosing our next chief executive. They would not be running to be the president, they would be running to select the president. The concept of the Founders was that we wouldn’t even necessarily know who our next president would be until the electors had met and chosen a president for us.
Supreme Court justices still are not chosendirectly by the people but are instead nominated by a president who originallywas not to be chosen directly by the people but rather by electors. And justices were only confirmed with the advice and consent of the senators who had been chosen not by the people but by their state legislatures.
To put it another way, the Founders in their wisdom did everything in their power to protect our form of government from mob rule. America’s founding fathers despised democracy. That’s why they put layers of insulation at every level to protect the councils of government from the direct control of the people at large. The Founders knew how uninformed the people at largecan be, how easily they can be manipulated, how easily they can be whipped into a dangerous froth and demand policies that seem right in their own eyes but are exceedingly dangerous to liberty and basic human rights.
A democracy is a form of cultural suicide. John Adams once wrote that democracies never last long. A democracy “soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy ... Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.”
In a democracy, charismatic and fiery leaders rally an army of ordinary folks armed metaphorically with pitchforks. Its basic energy is destructive in nature. As Adams put it, “Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.”
In a republic, by contrast, men of judgment, maturity and character meet in sober deliberation to craft policy consistent with our Constitution.
Kevin Williamson’s observation? “The democratic passions that so terrified Adams have filled the sails of Donald Trump.”
“He rejects free trade. He rejects property rights. He rejects the rule of law. He rejects limited government. He advocates a presidency a thousand times more imperial than the one that sprung Athena-like from the brow of Barack Obama and his lawyers. He meditates merrily upon the uses of political violence and riots, and dreams of shutting down newspapers critical of him. He isn’t a conservative of any stripe, and it is an outright lie to present him as anything other than what he is. What he is is the embodiment of the democratic passions that kept John Adams up at night. Trumpkin democracy is the democracy that John Adams warned us about.”
Bottom line: the choice between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is a choice between a democracy and a constitutional republic. Let’s pray the American people choose wisely.