How Democracy Will Destroy America by Peter Burrows email@example.com 3/30/15
The Founding Fathers had a deep distrust of democracy. They thought democracy inevitably led to mob rule and dictatorship. They constructed our Constitution with safeguards to prevent this, first by establishing a representative democracy, or republic.
Recognizing that even a republic is vulnerable to emotional tides that can sweep away the rights of citizens, they built in other constitutional safeguards, the primary one being a system of dual governments, state and federal, with each jealously guarding its Constitutional sphere of authority from the other.
To further dilute the power of the madding crowd, each state, regardless of territorial size or population, was given equal representation in the Senate, through which all legislation must pass. Hence, scrawny New Mexico has as many senators as brawny California. To a lesser extent, this is also true of the Electoral College, where each state’s vote is the total of its number in the House of Representatives plus its two senators.
What is usually forgotten is that only men could vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. Some point to that moment as the beginning of the end of the noble American experiment: A country “of the people, by the people and for the people.“ True, the federal government began its huge expansion about then, but the driving force was the New Deal program to fight the Depression, not legislation to appease women voters.
Far more destructive to our republic was the Seventeenth Amendment, passed in 1913, that mandated members of the Senate be elected by popular vote. Prior to that, Senators had been appointed by each state’s legislators, sort of republicanism squared. Now, both the House AND the Senate are filled with career politicians whose number one priority is getting reelected.
The most recent move to a greater democracy was the Twenty Sixth Amendment, passed in 1971, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. As I recall, there was an undercurrent of guilt over the Vietnam War casualties which had many spouting the non sequitur, “If you’re old enough to fight, you’re old enough to vote.”
All of the above is trivial compared to the burgeoning efforts now underway to really kill off our republic. For example, San Francisco’s board of supervisors is mulling allowing 16-year-olds to vote. After all, if you’re old enough to drive, old enough to pay taxes on your part time job, you’re old enough to vote. Eventually, we’ll hear the argument that voting will give these young adults a sense of responsibility. It will be good for them. Yes, lowering the voting age will help our children. That’s a tried and true political winner.
Add to that, a March 24 article in The New York Time’s Magazine by NPR “Planet Money” founder Adam Davidson, suggesting we could have as many as 11 million new immigrants every year. Open borders, he writes, “would benefit nearly all of us.” (1) That assertion is highly debatable, but what isn’t is that such an influx would greatly expand the number of potential Democrats. Maybe that explains President Obama’s recent trial balloon: Mandatory voting.
All this has me fantasizing about what the typical progressive might consider an ideal world.
First, we up the immigration quotas from south of the border to 30 million a year with instant citizenship because we are all “citizens of the world,” and, hey, this is a democracy, right? Everybody should get to vote.
Second, we lower the voting age to 14: “If you’re old enough to be a parent, you’re old enough to vote.”
Third, people who can’t speak English get to vote twice. As minorities in an English speaking world, they are facing daunting obstacles that somehow should be compensated for.
Fourth, people on welfare should also get to vote twice, as their fate is so involved with government programs.
Fifth: Mandatory voting.
It wouldn’t take too many election cycles before this expanded democracy would call a Constitutional Convention to write a new Constitution, one with all sorts of rights, e.g. the “right” to a good job, the “right” to water and food, the “right” to a college education, the “right” to retire at 50, and all sorts of other things that would be approved by a huge majority of voters. Some rights would disappear, such as the right to bear arms. I bet term limits for presidents would go too, as well as the “archaic“ Electoral College.
This would end our democratic republic, with all its restrictive limits on what some people think is good government. To quote progressive icon Thomas Friedman: “—what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment.” (2)
Gee, Tom, how much better to be China forever so we could always “authorize the right solutions.” Think about what “authorize” means, folks.
As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a lady asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” His famous reply: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
It looks like we can’t.