By Dr. Harold Pease
In light of the President’s recent concern, as expressed in the Wall Street Journal, that it would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the Supreme Court to “overturn a law [i.e., the Affordable Care Act] that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress” (“Obama Warns Court” by Laura Meckler and Carol E. Lee.”), let me remind him that the measure barely squeaked by with a majority of seven votes in the democratically controlled House of Representatives (219-212) and in the Senate with a minimum number to avoid a filibuster—hardly a “strong majority.” Nor would such a decision by the Court be “unprecedented” or “extraordinary,” but these arguments need explanation another day.
My concern is with the article’s conclusion: “In his first public comments about the case since the justices first took it up last week, Mr. Obama appeared to be framing the political argument he would make should he have to face voters this fall after a loss at the high court.” If right, that the President’s strategy is to pit the majority against the minority of the population, to further democratize our system of government, then it must be stopped in its tracks. We are a republic, not a democracy!!
Allowing “a mere nine old people” to strike down what a majority want is certainly undemocratic and it does smack of unfairness. Majority rule is the heart of democracy. Nothing is fair in our government and nothing can be made to be fair without the total destruction of our form of government, a republic. Surely, President Barack Obama knows this, but the people are made to believe we are a democracy by the constant long-term use of that word by those holding high office and the media. An artful politician playing the “fairness card” can prey on the ignorance of the people to gain or retain public office. If enough come to believe that we should be a democracy, instead of a republic, they, unfortunately, can “fundamentally change America.” Is this what we have to look forward to in the debates this Fall should the Supreme Court rule against “Obamacare?”
How undemocratic are we? The Senate, initially chosen by the state legislatures—not the people—was created to serve the interests of the states, which is why we have two legislative branches rather than one—two perspectives, the House represented the people and the Senate the states. The president is elected by the Electoral College rather than by popular vote. Supreme Court members are chosen for life by the Electoral College “selected” president and confirmed only by the “state selected” Senate. Our entire system is undemocratic by design. The House alone is democracy.
Why are we so undemocratic? It is because we are not all equal in experience, wisdom, common sense, understanding of natural law, and knowledge as to how we maintain freedom from government. I ask my students how many months did they spend analyzing the propositions in the last election before they voted? Weeks? Days? Hours? Minutes? None? If only hours or minutes, why should their vote cancel one who took the privilege far more seriously? Why is the democratic notion of “one man one vote” not decidedly unfair to those who spend serious time contemplating the issues.
In a democracy the ignorant rule because they have the same power as the informed and there are more of them. Thomas Jefferson saw the harm in such when he wrote: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French philosopher traveling America in the 1840s, foresaw the end of our liberty experiment when he wrote: “The American Republic will endure until the Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the publics money.” That day is today! Both were aware of the demand for “bread and circus” made by those under democracy in Rome that ended freedom.
How did the Founders, who clearly understood the problems of democracy with respect to its failure to endure in both Greece and Rome, protect us from democracy? The answer was a republic that preserved the caring elements of democracy by instilling frequent elections with options in the House of Representatives. All war, taxes and impeachment powers originate with the House. If the House is upset much change can occur in just two years. The Senate and Presidency were less democratic with the Supreme Court the most undemocratic end of our government—totally immune from the erratic whims of the emotion of the masses.
Time-tested principles embedded in the Constitution had to be preserved. Difficult to understand concepts such as separation of powers, federalism, limited government, and all the rights listed in the Bill of Rights had to be protected from the majority because the majority can vote them away. The Founders knew that liberty could be destroyed by democracy, as had happened in the two republics before our own, and gave us our justices to protect us from democracy. So, Mr. President let them.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.