Democracy and the Constitution

David Frum has an excellent essay at The AtlanticThe Founders were Wrong about Democracy. The Constitution was meant to cultivate complex majorities rather than empower minority rule. Yet Frum is right to ask whether devices meant to channel and refine popular understandings have empowered minority rule. In many instances, they clearly have. But Frum pushes further, asking whether these devices create disorder and instability. Would we better off with simple majority rule on a host of issues? Frum makes a powerful case that “The United States in the 21st century has reached a point where the best way to attain the stable and solid qualities of government most valued by anti-majoritarians is, ironically, to increase the power of voting majorities wherever that is constitutionally permissible and politically feasible.” It’s a hard to disagree. The question is whether this moment is unique.  

On another front, Jonathan Rauch has a post on how the Trump years have informally amended the Constitution. It’s worth a look. I think he should add two crucially important amendments and one qualification. The amendments should be something like: (1) The president may use the power of the state to punish political opponents and (2) Candidates for the presidency need not accept the election results and can use whatever means they choose, including violence, to overturn a free and fair election. Rauch would likely say these amendments more or less fit within his amendment regarding impeachment. But I think that’s too negative. It does not capture how these informal amendments empower the president. The qualification should be—these amendments only apply to Republicans. At least for the time being. 

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