Defending Constitutional Principles Against Bad Complaints

December 24, 2019 Updated: December 26, 2019
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Commentary

The campaign trail will soon begin for both parties, and there’s the continual narrative that the trail itself is mapped out all wrong. There’s rising concern that the national voice isn’t being heard in our national elections.

A recent op-ed in Business Insider by Michael Gordon stated a number of problems Democrats have with how the federal system is set up. But are they actually flaws or safeguards? Let’s discuss the issues many Democrats maintain are unfair and undemocratic.

Polls Should Equal Constituency

Gordon provided polling statistics regarding several hot topics, such as gun control and climate change. These polls indicated substantial U.S. support for these issues. Surveys and polls, however, aren’t voting stations.

At the time the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that 46 percent favored the act while 40 percent disapproved (14 percent had no opinion in the poll). The Democrat-led House and Senate passed the bill then were summarily voted out of power the following election.

It’s reminiscent of then-President Ronald Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986 when CBS and The New York Times conducted a poll shortly after the bill passed that showed 38 percent approval compared to 34 percent disapproval. The Republicans lost the Senate and lost five seats in the House in that year’s election. More recently in 2017, polls showed that Americans disapproved more than approved of the Trump tax cuts. The following election, however, Republicans gained Senate seats, but lost the House.

The fact is that Congress is there to represent their constituents. Representatives and senators don’t represent the nation. They represent their districts and states. They weren’t voted in to adhere to the polls. Polls are useful, but they don’t equal votes. Polls can be wrong. The 2016 election confirmed that in no uncertain terms. (And for good measure, on the other side of the Atlantic, Brexit polls continued to show slightly more Remain than Leave.)

Senate Representation Is Disproportionate

Gordon echoed the sentiment that the Senate structure made sense when the Constitution was ratified in 1789 when there were 13 states. The one-senator, one-vote scenario hurts our democracy, according to Gordon. He said that “smaller states have a significantly disproportionate voice, and the Republican Senate majority represents a historically low proportion of the country’s population.”

This is because we’re not a pure democracy. We’re a republic, and an extended republic at that.

Technically, Gordon’s view that it made sense in 1789 is actually a bit of a non sequitur. If it only took nine states to ratify the Constitution, the Constitution—the basis of this country’s existence—could have been ratified without any of the large states ratifying it. The logic the Founding Fathers had then still applies today. The size of the state matters in the House, not the Senate. In the Senate, it’s about the state and its sovereignty. Not how many people can fit in it.

James Madison clarified the matter in Federalist Paper 62: “The equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small States.”

An Imbalanced Federal Judiciary

According to President Donald Trump, the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will have confirmed 182 federal judges by the end of 2019. If Democrats are complaining, as Gordon is, about the number of conservative judges filling federal benches, they should look to their own party as the source of the problem.

The Senate used to require a 60-vote majority to end a debate or filibuster on the floor. But in 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid utilized the nuclear option, which allowed for a simple majority to amend the rules of the Senate and end debates on the floor. This allowed the Democrats to move ahead more easily, and now the Republicans are doing the same. McConnell has merely picked up the mantle left him by Reid.

Get Rid of the Electoral College

It has become a staple of the conversation for Democrats: Get rid of the Electoral College. Gordon states that “the Electoral College is antiquated—and it is opposed by the majority of Americans” (his “majority” references a poll conducted by Business Insider). Antiquated means “discredited by reason of age.” That’s hardly a reason to rid the Constitution of one of its most important properties.

The fact is that the Electoral College is stunningly brilliant and has maintained its credibility over the past 230 years. The small states feared that every decision affecting them would be made by the large states. Countless compromises were made inside Independence Hall in 1787. One was referenced earlier with equal representation in the Senate. The other was the Electoral College, which protects small states from the tyranny of large states.

Gordon argues that those fears are no longer valid. If delegates, however, were worried about large states in 1789, how much more should they be worried now? Far more worried. The 10 most populated states account for approximately 177 million people—more than half the population. The top four states account for 109 million. It would take 35 of the smallest states and the District of Columbia to account for that total. The Electoral College establishes what’s called the balance of power in the states. It’s the compromise that gives all states a say, but the largest states the biggest say.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stated, “My view is that every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College—and every vote counts.” This correlates to every vote counts, but not every state. Only the large states with mass populations count. So wherever large states, such as California, Texas, New York, or Florida want to go, everyone must go.

Gordon’s primary complaint is that the government no longer represents the people, yet he complains that presidential elections come down to battleground states, which are truly microcosms of the United States. Our diverse population is typically split down the middle politically. Win the battleground states and you have connected to a larger extent with those on both sides of the aisle. Win California and New York? Win Texas? Those are partisan states. Win Florida? That’s bipartisan and a real political accomplishment.

The fact is the Founding Fathers didn’t have the Republican and Democratic parties in mind. They did, however, have factions in mind. Madison explained the danger of factions in Federalist Paper 10 when he wrote: “When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.” That great object was achieved with the creation of the Electoral College.

It seems that Gordon, Warren, and, unfortunately, too many other Democrats wish to undermine some of the most important principles of our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers understood history and what happened with pure democracies—in particular, Ancient Greece.

Madison warned that “such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Dustin Bass is the co-founder of The Sons of History, a YouTube series and weekly podcast about all things history. He is a former journalist turned entrepreneur. He is also an author.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.