Our Constitution confronted and minimized the dangerous consequences of factions made possible by overly democratic governments. To the nationalists at the Federal Convention of 1787, the measure of a free government was its ability to control factions, for without control they were certain to grow and eventually tear the social fabric apart.1
In his defense of the Constitution, James Madison devoted Federalist No. 10 to factions. Too popular, factional governments are unstable and rent with injustice and confusion.2 Madison identified two ways to minimize the problem of factions; remove their causes or control their effects.
There are two approaches to deal with the causes; destroy the liberty that feeds factions, or “give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests.” The first typifies authoritarian regimes, and the second is but an unreasonable and impossible dream. Neither will do in republican America.
So, that leaves control of the effects of factions that is consistent with liberty. As Madison put it, “To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of (majority) factions, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and form of popular government, was the great desideratum of republican government.” This is a tall order. We see its modern failure on a regular basis when the media trumpet Leftist laws, like Obamacare and Progressive Taxation, passed by congressional majorities, that single out minority victims. The apportionment of taxes on various sorts of property should, according to Madison, reflect the “most exact impartiality,” yet taxation is the premier target of factions. The stronger, majority party prevails at the expense of the minority.3
Today, as the burden of taxation falls to an ever-shrinking minority, we often hear from Article V opponents that the solution to these assaults on liberty is to elect better people. Madison shot down this Utopian fantasy: “It is naïve to say than enlightened statesmen will adjust the clashing interests, making them all subservient to the public good.” Since angelic and perfectly virtuous people do not exist, “either the negative passions and interests in a majority faction must be prevented or that faction must be rendered unable to effect schemes of oppression.”4
So, while perfection in government is impossible, society should still do its best to minimize the danger of majoritarian factions.
First, republican society must avoid democracy, which Madison described as “. . . spectacles of turbulence and contention. They are incompatible with personal security or property rights. Their lives are as short as their deaths (are) violent.” 5 His words come to mind every time my home state of Florida proposes statutes or state constitutional amendments before the people in the form of referenda. We should also cringe when nationwide groups propose to do away with the electoral college.
Second, as the number of states multiplied, Madison expected a wide diversity of interests across a huge continent. Many small factional groups could not threaten the Union. In an era of poor communications, neither could they join into large and dangerous coalitions. Alas, in an age of instant communications, this safety feature no longer applies.
Third, in closing The Federalist #10 Madison rather cryptically cites the structure of government as an important weapon against the danger of factions.6
The structure to which Madison refers, is “the dissimilar modes of constituting the component parts of the government.” The people will directly elect the house of representatives. The senate by the state legislatures. The President by electors chosen for that purpose by the people.7 Consider the near-impossibility of faction to garner majorities of the people in the election of reps, state legislatures in the appointment of senators, and in the Framers’ decentralized mode of presidential elections.
Subsequent generations not only corrupted the mode of electing senators, which they did constitutionally via the 17th Amendment, but consider the damage done to presidential elections. While the people still choose electors, the voting options available to electors are typically the candidates of one of two outright factions, of political parties, rather than nationally recognized men or women of the highest character and accomplishments.8
Closing. The corruption, the democratization of senatorial and presidential elections cleared the way for today’s factional government. It is why Senator Chuck Schumer, without any danger to his reelection, can openly advocate unlimited immigration to secure the power of his party at the expense of diluting the precious jewel of American citizenship. It is why the 17th Amendment must go before further democratization in the form a National Popular Vote for President, dooms our republic to ever-more anarchy and eventual dissolution.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Government is the playground of politicians, but the Constitution is ours. Be proactive. Restore the American Tradition. Join Convention of States.
1. Wood, G. S. (1969). The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press., 403, 502.
2. Recall how Obama and Scotus unconstitutionally amended Obamacare at-will.
3. Webster. (1999). The Federalist Papers in Modern Language Indexed for Today’s Political Issues. Bellvue, WA: Merril Press., 47.
4. Ibid., 47.
5. Ibid., 47-48.
6. Ibid., 49.
7. Ibid., 245.
8. Donald Trump-The Echo of Our Framers’ Uncorrupted President
The Framers’ President II