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Many liberals see ‘the system’ as a way to achieve partisan goals, not as a set of idealistic values.
By David Harsanyi, The Federalist, Nov. 7, 2018
In the liberal imagination there are only four ways to lose elections — and none have to do with their increasingly leftist turn, their hysterics, or their one-dimensional identity politics. Democrats lose because of “gerrymandering,” “voter suppression” (sometimes known as “asking for ID”), Russian mind-control rays deployed by social media, and our antiquated and unfair Constitution.
The final one of these excuses is becoming increasingly popular among liberal pundits who continue to invent new crises to freak out about.
Take Vox’s Ezra Klein, a longtime champion of direct democracy: “I don’t think people are ready for the crisis that will follow if Democrats win the House popular vote but not the majority,” he tweeted before the midterms. “After Kavanaugh, Trump, Garland, Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, etc, the party is on the edge of losing faith in the system (and reasonably so).”
The “House popular vote” now joins the “national popular vote” and “Senate popular vote” (a particularly dishonest one considering California didn’t have a Republican on the ballot) as fictional gauges of governance used by Democrats who aren’t brave enough to say they oppose the fundamental anti-majoritarianism that girds the Constitution.
Otherwise, why would Democrats lose faith in a “system” that is doing exactly what was intended? The Constitution explicitly protects small states (and individuals) from national majorities. The argument for diffusing democracy and checking a strong federal government is laid out in The Federalist Papers and codified on an array of levels. This was done on purpose. It is the system.
I mean, do Democrats really believe the Electoral College was constructed to always correspond with the national vote? Do they believe that the signers of the Constitution were unaware that some states would be far bigger than others in the future? If the Founders didn’t want Virginia to dictate how people in Delaware lived in 1787, why would they want California to dictate how people in Wyoming live in 2018? If you don’t believe this kind of proportionality is a vital part of American governance, you don’t believe in American governance.
You can despise Brett Kavanaugh all you like, but why would Democrats lose faith in “the system” that saw Republicans follow directions laid out in the Constitution for confirming a Supreme Court nominee? Why would Democrats lose faith in “the system” that elected Donald Trump using the same Electoral College that every other president used? Why would they lose faith in a system that houses a Supreme Court that stops the other branches from banning political speech? When the Supreme Court affirmed the election of George W. Bush, it turned out to be the right call.
It’s because they see the system as a way to achieve partisan goals, not as a set of politically neutral idealistic values.
It’s not a civics problem, either. One hopes liberal activists like Ken Dilanian, who wonders “how much longer the American majority will tolerate being pushed around by a rural minority,” understand sixth-grade civics. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman surely knows that the Constitution doesn’t give “disproportionate weight” to smaller states. It intentionally gives all states the same weight in the Senate. Krugman only finds this idea “disproportionate” because it protects millions of Americans from the centralized coercive state that he envisions for them. The disproportionality he sees merely reflects his own concerns. It has nothing to do with the system.
Also, rural America doesn’t “bully” people like Dilanian. The federal government was never supposed to be this powerful. The non-“forward moving” America—those dummies Krugman would like to nanny from Washington—doesn’t very much care how Dilanian lives. He, on the other hand, has big plans for them.
It should be noted that these majoritarians throw millions Americans aside to make this argument. We don’t know how a national majority would vote. There are many millions of Republicans in New York and California who don’t involve themselves in the futility of state politics. There are more Republicans in California than there are in Wyoming.
But as you can see on Election Day, liberals have made “democracy”— a word mentioned zero times in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence—into a sacramental rite. Getting more votes in an election outweighs the inherent rights of liberty that are laid out in the document. Unless, of course, that right happens to incidentally intersect with some advantageous partisan idea, like birthright citizenship; then Democrats become strict originalists. Everything else is up for discussion. Well, up for discussion now. It wasn’t a big topic for the hundred or so years Democrats were vastly overrepresented in the House.
The only reason these folks, who claim to want to save Constitution from Trump, see crisis in the “system” is that it fails to deliver for them politically. They’re not losing faith in the system. They just don’t like the system.