The American Republic

So, Joy Reid of MSNBC has called rural voters “the core threat to our democracy”.  Well, it’s MSNBC so it’s not surprising but, really, this may be a new low even for them.

This is why America was never intended to be an absolute democracy.  Ever.  It was a representative Republic intended not merely to follow the will of the majority but to protect the rights of the minority from being trampled on by a majority.  The old joke about “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner” has more than a little truth to it.

There are several things intended to protect the minority in the US.  First is the separation of powers.  The Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary were intended as co-equal branches where any two can check the third.

Then there’s the division of the Legislature into the House and Senate.  The House, proportional representation with numbers based on the population of each State, represents the people of those States.  The Senate, however, represents the States as States (and going to the direct election of Senators was, perhaps, one of the biggest mistakes among the various Constitutional Amendments).  So the more populous States (generally more urban) could not entirely run roughshod over the less populous (generally more rural).

The Bill of Rights and other rights protected in the Constitution provide another level of protection.  The need for a supermajority not only of both the House and Senate, but of State Legislatures to make changes to any of this is supposed to be a strong protection of the rights of the people, majority and minority alike.  Unfortunately, the tendency to “redefine” terms in ways that the ones who wrote them had undermined this protection.

One protection, one that Ms. Read presumably wants to bypass, is the Electoral College. (The DNC Chair Tom Perez has claimed that it is not a creation of the Constitution, after all, the term “Electoral College” appears nowhere in the Constitution, but the system of electors, chosen by the States and numbering the sum of Senators and Representatives is so spelled out whatever label one applies to it.) The Electoral College ensures that the candidates for President cannot simply look to the highest population density areas–generally largely urban areas–and ignore those outside those areas.

Here’s the thing.  What people in dense urban areas want, based on their situation, does not necessarily match what those in less densely populated, more rural, areas need.  People who live in the big city do not know (and rarely care) what is is appropriate for people living in the countryside.  Their may be more of the former, but their numbers do not give them the right to dictate the lives of people living in rural areas.

The Electoral College means that a candidate has to at least try to appeal to those in both areas.

But now, certain people want to eliminate that simply because their candidate failed to do that.  That candidate’s supporters want a “do over” because things did not go the way they wanted.  They want the high density urban areas to be able to dictate arbitrarily to everyone else.

That’s not what the American Republic was intended to be.

15 thoughts on “The American Republic”

    1. Net neutrality will not ‘save the earth from the demons’. What you propose will give control of the internet to monopolies. The free enterprise system always works better than that.


  1. Good note.

    A country is both the area of the country, as well as the people who live there. There’s a huge amount of little lived in area in most big countries, including the USA (third biggest just before China; much smaller without Alaska).

    Nice point about the “group of electors”, which ARE specified in the Constitution, and how naming them the “Electoral College”, or giving them some other non-Constitutional name, won’t change the facts about their power.

    While people exist, and land exists, “countries” don’t really exist; like organizations don’t. Where I live now, in Slovakia, was once Czechoslovakia, and before that was the Austro-Hungarian empire (the Hungarian, where the Czechs were in the Austrian part). Same city of Bratislava, Pressburg, Preshporok, Pozsony with different names.

    The urban elites are deliberately out of touch with most of America (most in the area sense! number of counties), instead preferring to act as if they have moral superiority. Primarily because they make more money as cogs in big orgs in the big BIG cities.

    They aren’t superior, and they hate the idea that most Americans are starting to recognize this lack of superiority.


  2. The Amendment to the 17th Amendment that created the direct election of senators was the biggest mistake made in changing the original contract of our government. I am sure it was a ruse sold as an increase in the representational aspect of our government. In fact what it has done is nationalized every senate election and very effectively dangerously eroded state sovereignty. This single blow seriously undermined the “republic” part of our 5000 Year Leap, which by the way is a most wonderful book regarding the absolute brilliance of the construction of our government. This amendment is why in order to be represented by your senator you have to fight 30 million dollars of out of state money to do so. If your senator were directly accountable to your state legislature we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Instead Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman would be directly and emphatically representing the interests of Ohio in the senate, rather than their self-serving interests in reelection or meekly following the directives of senators from other states who are positions of power. Sadly, nearly no on understands this and this is only the second time I’ve ever seen anyone mention it.


  3. “The old joke about “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner” has more than a little truth to it.”

    You left out the rest of it. “The Second Amendment is so a well-armed sheep can contest the vote.” Of course, if the sheep doesn’t provide regular and recent examples of its’ willingness to contest it, the wolves aren’t much likely to care, will they?


    1. Unfortunately, the well-armed sheep may have to contest the vote in the not too distant future.

      It may be that Trump’s victory has only kicked the can down the road.


  4. The USA does not have three “coequal” branches of government. In America the people are sovereign. That sovereignty is literally represented by the House of Representatives, which has the constitutional power to start impeachment proceedings against members of both the executive and judicial branches. The House also has the power of the purse, all federal spending much originate in the House. Where I come from, if you pay the bills and can fire people, you’re the boss.
    Would that the House actually exercise its constitutional powers.


    1. It’s more complicated than that. The House cannot “fire people” on its own. It needs the Senate. Likewise, while revenue bills must start in the House, they also have to pass the Senate and be signed by the President (or have a veto overridden with 2/3 of both House and Senate). And while the Supreme Court has decided that the courts cannot interfere in an impeachment proceeding (Nixon v. United States) the revenue side of things is subject to judicial review.

      Note that while some claim that Judicial Review was a power grab in Marbury v. Madison, the idea was also discussed as being among their natural powers in Federalist Papers 78. The Anti-Federalists essentially agreed with that but were concerned that it would give the judiciary too much power. Robert Yates argued in Anti Federalist #78: “The supreme court then have a right, independent of the legislature, to give a construction to the constitution and every part of it, and there is no power provided in this system to correct their construction or do it away. If, therefore, the legislature pass any laws, inconsistent with the sense the judges put upon the constitution, they will declare it void.” So, both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists agreed that the Supreme Court would have the power of Judicial Review. They just disagreed on whether that was a good thing or not.

      Note 2: Note the case where the Supreme Court decided it couldn’t interfere in impeachment proceedings. For nearly 200 years it was an open question, not raised in Johnson’s case so we don’t really know what the folk closer to the actual founding might have said on the matter.

      Oh, and duplicate comment deleted.


    2. “which has the constitutional power to start impeachment proceedings against members of both the executive and judicial branches. ”


      “Where I come from, if you pay the bills and can fire people, ” is untrue. Only the Senate can do the actual firing, and of course has to approve the checks.


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