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Monday, September 14, 2015

Madison v. Trump

At The Federalist, James Tracinski writes:
Politically speaking, the conservative “base” is a minority faction. Our views—and I certainly include myself among the most radical small-government advocates—are shared by somewhere between 10% and 40% of the public, depending on the issue. But a lot of the base is bitter that we haven’t been able to dictate policy as if we command upwards of 60% of the vote.

Their beef isn’t with the Republican Party, it’s with the whole American system of government. Their enemy isn’t Mitch McConnell. It’s James Madison. If you’re the sort of person who uses “cuckservative” as an epithet for anyone who settles for less than what you imagine the right kind of strongman could deliver, then I’ve found your ultimate nemesis. James Madison is the original “cuckservative.”

The Father of the Constitution wrote the rulebook for the American political system, and he specifically wrote the rulebook for what’s supposed to happen to political factions. He explained this in The Federalist No. 10. Everyone should read this essay and thoroughly understand it, and almost no one does. But you can’t understand politics and can’t do politics until you do.

The basic idea is that the system is designed to prevent any minority faction from pushing its agenda, and it’s designed that way for our own protection, to prevent narrow interests and wild-eyed fanatics from taking over.The Federalist No. 10, is a rundown of all the ways the Constitution is designed to divide power and balance factions against one another in order to prevent any one faction from getting its way.

Now, we can take for granted that you don’t think your cause is a narrow interest or that you are a wild-eyed fanatic. But if that’s really true—and let’s face it, it probably isn’t—then the system is designed to prevent other minority factions from taking over. After all, if the system were designed so your group could set the rules with only 20% of the vote, then what’s to prevent a different 20% faction from shoving their agenda down your throat? So the system is rigged to prevent or slow down action unless it is backed by a broad, enduring consensus forged through a whole string of boring political compromises. That’s not a bug in the system. It’s a feature.

Trumpism is an appeal to the fantasy that we can just get around all that. The fantasy is: here’s this celebrity billionaire with a flamboyant personality who’s very famous and who seems to be the kind of guy who “gets things done.” And he is, for the moment, repeating some of the things that are high on your political wish list. So maybe he will be able to overcome everything in the system that is designed to prevent you from getting that wish list. Maybe he will magically allow your political faction to govern as if it were a majority.