The Hotchkiss Record

If Men Were Angels

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and drafter of the Constitution, thoroughly believed in democracy. To him, democracy was the ideal form of government, and it utterly terrified him. On paper, democracy sounds like a great idea: make government accountable and give people a greater say in the policies that impact their communities. However, Madison worried that democracy was vulnerable to tyranny—tyranny of the majority. If all three branches—the President, Congress, and Supreme Court were controlled by one political party, what would prevent that party from abusing and restricting the rights of the minority? Simply because the majority of people want a law enacted does not make it beneficial or moral or just. Madison’s weapon against tyranny of the majority was to encourage a diverse representation of political ideologies to ensure that no one group held complete control over the government. However, while Madison crafted a masterful framework for the United States’ government, he could not legislate the people’s will. Should any party or faction be left unchecked, it could fatally impact the rights of everyone, and it is precisely because of that threat that the Democrats must flip the House during this mid-term election.

Should any party or faction be left unchecked, it could fatally impact the rights of everyone, and it is precisely because of that threat that the Democrats must flip the House.

Republicans control the White House, Capitol, and as of this year, the Supreme Court. Regardless of your political leaning, it is impossible to deny that we live in an era of political polarization. Representatives, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices alike vote with their party. All other factors are secondary. Those who break with their party are too few to change the course of a vote, and with John McCain’s passing, this trend has only been solidified. In what healthy democracy is one party supreme? Is it even a democracy at that point? 

I doubt it. 

Then, the government is not representing everyone. It is only representing those who voted Republican. Sure, Democrats gain attention thanks to Senate floor speeches and House investigatory committees, but few instances have seen them prevent major pieces of legislation. Democrats may as well not be a part of the legislative process at all.

If men were angels, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we all know, Madison included, that people aren’t benevolent.

 

For the sake of transparency, I identify as a progressive, though the 2016 primaries soured political parties for me. However, whether you’re conservative or liberal or moderate, we should all agree that the rules by which our government abides should be independent of who is in control. 

To me, a universally liberal government is horrifying, and it should be equally terrifying to every Democrat at this school. And Republicans? You should feel no different about a completely conservative one.

At this point, regardless of who is in power, no branch of government has any incentive to restrict the power of another, no reason to compromise, for they are all batting for the same team. Furthermore, by having a single party in power, tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of Americans have no voice, no ability to advocate or legislate. The party in power can simply impose its agenda without compromise. Hence, we begin to have a tyranny of the majority. 

It is, therefore, imperative that the Democrats gain control of, at the very least, one of the chambers of Congress. By simply having a dissenting body involved in decision-making, the other branches will be tempered and moderated, as Madison intended. Instead of having a universally conservative government deciding things unilaterally, Democrats and Republicans will have to agree on each and every bill signed into law. Not every bill will gain unanimous support, but it will result in greater discourse, and, therefore, more compromises and bipartisanship. Having to contend with other opinions and voices can only strengthen each side’s position. 

If men were angels, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we all know (Madison included) that people aren’t benevolent. I wouldn’t expect any conservatives to be excited about the idea of flipping the house blue, and any Democrat will tell you that they won’t rest until they take back the Senate, White House, and Supreme Court. Having a divided government is incredibly imperfect, and we saw during the Obama administration that there is a fine difference between bipartisanship and obstruction. Which of these options the Democrats will embody once they gain a foothold, I can’t say. 

No one wants to have to compromise — it inherently leaves both sides unhappy. However, compromising ensures that everyone gets something that they wanted. We each have an idealized path we want our country to take. To give that up or to willingly prevent it from being realized feels like a betrayal of one’s character. 

Willingly enabling this nation’s government to become corrupted by partisanship and let it run rampant, however, is tantamount to a betrayal of this nation’s founding principles and ideals. I know which is a far greater crime. Do you?

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