Thursday, November 24, 2016

The United States of America Is A Republic, Not A Democracy, And I Am Thankful For That

National Review has a post up that a friend referred me to, Unity Through Federalism, and it is pretty good all around but is specifically has two of the best paragraphs on the actual system of government we operate under in America.

The Constitution specifically enshrined a federalist system that limited the power of the federal government and allowed the people to govern themselves through the various states. This federalist approach was the result of our founders’ reasoned and deliberative effort to reform the Articles of Confederation, under which power was insufficiently centralized to allow us to function effectively together as one nation. Now, we have the opposite problem: Power in America is centralized to the point where every national election seems life-or-death.

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to care quite so deeply about who controlled the White House? Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to care who might be appointed to the Supreme Court beyond knowing he or she was qualified to wisely answer questions of law? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to care who the bureaucrats were because their duties weren’t so consequential?


It seems so novel. People in Indiana probably know what they want and what is better for Hoosiers than some government flunky in D.C. that has no idea where Indiana is.

It is so frustrating to see people spouting off about the popular vote or how unfair it is that votes in less populated states matter on social media and it is a clear sign of a failure (intentional or not) in teaching basic civics to kids. Having even a rudimentary understanding of our government is enough to quell the complaints about the electoral college. Unfortunately asking for a rudimentary understanding of pretty much any topic and the ability to engage in the most basic of critical thinking are in short supply.

We don't live in America. We live in the United States of America. Our system of government is a federalist one that specifically and intentionally limits the Federal government. Ours was not intended as a top down system with all of the power concentrated in the hands of a few people in Washington, D.C. and the states serving only as quaint points of interest for us to mark the time as we drive cross-country. We are a nation of states that formed a Federal government to handle only those things that were not practical for the individual states (i.e national defense). As a reminder, the Tenth Amendment, the most ignored of all the Amendments, reads as follows:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution very specifically reserves a few powers to the Federal government, a very limited and very specific list, and then states very clearly that everything else is to be handled at the state or local level. While politicians have sought to dismantle this Federal system for most of the last 100 years, it doesn't change the form of government we live under. The Bill of Rights is set up very intentionally and the Amendment show up where they do for a reason. The First Amendment is our most important, the Second Amendment protects the First Amendment and the Tenth Amendment comes last to wrap up and specify that the Federal government is very limited in scope.

As many have noted, a lot of people thought executive orders and executive overreach were great when Obama was doing it but now are terrified because Trump is inheriting the precedent of Obama. I agree with others who say that a lot of liberals are going to develop a sudden new appreciation for the concept of limited government.

If you are scared of Trump, and you might have good reason to be but probably not for the reasons you see on social media, then the solution is not to overturn the electoral college or to undo the Federal system of government but instead to return to a proper reflection of our Constitutional form of government so that it isn't a life or death crisis when someone you don't like is elected President. 
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