Primary Perspective

-By Thomas E. Brewton

Presidential primary campaigns illustrate politics as manipulation of, as well as pandering to, public opinion, with no necessary connection to political wisdom.

Gail Collins, editorial page editor of the New York Times, in a December 8 edition op-ed article, reflects liberals’ embrace of mobocracy at the expense of Constitutional government.

She writes:

Romney’s message, which boiled down to let’s-all-be-religious-together, was certainly different from the John Kennedy version, which argued that a candidate’s religion is irrelevant. But then Kennedy was speaking to the country, while Romney had his attention fixed on the approximately 35,000 Iowa religious conservatives who will tip the balance in the first-in-the-nation Republican caucus.

Can I pause here briefly to point out that in New York there are approximately 35,000 people living on some blocks? If my block got to decide the first presidential caucus, I guarantee you we would be as serious about our special role as the folks in Iowa are. And right now Mitt Romney would be evoking the large number of founding fathers who were agnostics.

First, there was no “large number of founding fathers who were agnostics.”

Apart from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Cornelius Harnett, who were Deists, all 204 founders declared themselves to be Christians (see Religious Affiliation of the Founding Fathers).

Deists, by the way, are not agnostics. They view all of nature as God’s handiwork.

Second, Ms. Collins’ comment highlights the frightening potential for political tyranny implicit in the move to eliminate the electoral college and to substitute election of the President by popular vote alone.

No presidential candidate would find it profitable to campaign in Iowa or any other state without a million-plus population city. Presidential campaigns, both primaries and general elections, would concentrate upon the sinks of corruption that are the East and Left Coast urban centers.

Those precincts are dominated by atheistic, materialistic liberal-progressive-socialists, who revere, not the Constitution, but the French Revolution’s destruction of the whole of the social structure, from monarchy and hereditary privilege, to the Catholic Church and private property rights.

The invariable tendency of liberal-progressive-socialism is political tyranny, as exemplified by the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, in which more than 70,000 French citizens were murdered. This French innovation in public education was followed by the ascendancy of Napoleon to supreme power and his military subjugation of most of Western Europe to form the French Empire.

In America’s liberal-progressive-socialism, the structure of government is to be shaped by the Marxian class struggle. The working class must overcome the capitalists and, in the fiery furnace of revolution, transform human nature, enabling the earthly salvation of humanity through the agency of atheistic, materialistic government. The mild version is Hillary Clinton’s Village.

While Ms. Collins and her New York City confreres, one assumes, advocate the less violent creeping socialism of the English Fabians, the aim is the same: social justice, which means to make everyone equally poor and totally subordinate to Rousseau’s conception of the General Will, as interpreted by intellectual councils. No doubt Ms. Collins presumes that the Times editorial board will play a leading role in those councils.

The late Irving Howe, one of New York City’s leading socialist theoreticians of the 1950s – 1980s, called this social democracy, the process by which the majority, with the connivance of an activist judiciary, eradicate the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights for individuals against the encroachments of arbitrary, collectivized government.

James Madison, in Federalist No. 10, warned against this sort of social democracy, contrasting it with the form of government to be created by the Constitution:

…it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction [i.e., special interest groups]. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is 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. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking…The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose…

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.

Election of the President by the electoral college is based exactly upon this conception, the antithesis of mob rule by ill-formed public opinion.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776

Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Thomas E. Brewton

Copyright Publius Forum 2001