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Friday, May 20, 2016

Republican Government and Presidential Selection

Peter Wehner writes:
The founders themselves favored a republic rather than a direct democracy precisely because they were suspicious of the temporary passions of the people, believing it was the responsibility of political leaders and our system of government to contain, channel and refine them.
Irving Kristol made this point when he wrote:
My friend the late Martin Diamond, one of the most thoughtful of political scientists, used to say that the American democracy is based on one key assumption: that the people are usually sensible, but rarely wise. The function of our complex constitutional structure is to extract what wisdom is available in the people, at any moment in time, and give it a role in government. Our system of representation (as distinct from direct, participatory democracy) is supposed to play this role, as do the bicameral Congress, the separation of powers, our federal arrangements, and the Constitution itself with its careful delineation of rights and prerogatives. Ultimately, of course, the popular will cannot be denied in a democracy. But only “ultimately.” Short of the ultimate, the Founders thought it appropriate that popular sentiments should be delayed in their course, refracted in their expression, revised in their enactment, so that a more deliberate public opinion could prevail over a transient popular opinion.
In sum, then: The argument for or against Donald Trump as president revolves around one’s judgment as to his fitness to serve as president. If you believe, as many Republicans now seem to, that he is qualified – even exceptionally well qualified – to lead the United States, you’ll obviously support him over Hillary Clinton. If you believe, as others do, that his vices – intellectual, temperamental, characterological – disqualify him from being president, then invoking unity or the will of the people is entirely unpersuasive. And if you believe that both major party candidates are fundamentally unfit to be president you are not under any obligation to choose one over the other.