By Sumantra Maitra • The Federalist
During the dying days of the Roman Republic, with effete senators stabbing each other in the back when they were not busy in orgies, Julius Caesar followed the exact trajectory of a Leviathan—what Thomas Hobbes described beautifully hundreds of years later. Caesar, by this time opposed to the Senate, which obstructed his imperial aims, decided to cross the river Rubicon, thereby declaring war on the last vestiges of the craven republic.
After crossing the river, Caesar famously said Alea Eacta Est, or the die is cast. Thus crossing the Rubicon is now considered a revolutionary act that aims to destroy the status quo, structure, and balance, from which there’s no return. The only way forward is through chaos.
The current Democratic presidential frontrunners, with their war cries of Electoral College abolition and reduction of the voting age, signify another crossing the Rubicon moment. That’s because without the Senate, and without the Electoral College, there would be no states in the United States of America. Essentially, there would be no republic anymore. And if history is a good teacher, every time there was direct democracy, it has led to a Caesar—or worse.
Warren Opened Up a Foolish Can of Worms
“My view is that every vote matters. And that means get rid of the Electoral College,” said Elizabeth Warren, the most tedious and hopelessly fraudulent of all Democratic candidates, in what could be an exemplary sentence of meaningless tautology. Of course every vote already matters, but that doesn’t make a good catchphrase.
Others quickly followed. “If the system weren’t broken we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today. We’re going to look, I think, unconvincing if we’re unwilling to change whatever features of the system,” was the so-called argument of Pete Buttigieg.
The simple explanation for this is that Democrats lost the election but won the popular vote last time around, and therefore want to eliminate the obstruction to what they presume is their rightful power. But that is exactly what it is—a simple explanation. This is not a single, specific issue taken up only after Queen Clinton didn’t get the throne. The trend lines are far deeper.
The current Democratic front runners, including Robert Francis O’Rourke, have argued for not just open borders, but tearing down the existing border fences. Others have argued for abolishing the Senate, calling it undemocratic, and lowering the voting age to 16.
All these trends cannot be just coincidence. The fundamental aim is to replace and control the demos, in the name of democracy—add more people who are traditionally Democratic voters, and who are young, naïve, and impressionable, more easily swayed by charismatic charlatans and soaring rhetoric. There’s a reason the rush is always to nominate one who’s charismatic but vacuous. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama followed the pattern, which Hillary Clinton, naturally awkward, couldn’t manage.
The final obstacle is the Electoral College. Even here, with the shockingly low standards of civics education in America, and deliberate partisan misinformation from both print and television media, means much of the American population lives not knowing why the Electoral College was made part of the nation’s system in the first place, and how it is the last bastion against majoritarian tyranny.
The problem is that liberalism as a political philosophy is a universalist concept. Put simply, while paying lip service to diversity liberalism eradicates every difference in favor of homogeneity, certain arbitrary and temporal global values, decided by the elites of the times. This was liberalism’s problem with feudal Europe — which led to the revolutions of the 19th century, which in return led to global peace for more than 70 years under conservative governments that were astute enough to favor order over revolutionary chaos.
This is precisely the same logic that leads to intervention in Libya to promote democracy and LGBT preferences, and the same logic that wants an imperial center to favor abortion across the entire American heartland, even when it is overwhelmingly opposed in many places. Liberalism is a quasi-religious theory with a providential end, with a happy progressive ending of history, and those who refuse to sign up for that journey are sinners who deserve to be eradicated. In short, unchecked liberalism is, by definition, an idea that cannot coexist forever with any other way of life, and sooner or later must come in conflict with conservatism, republicanism, and federalism.
The Founders Warned Us of This
The fortunate reality is that the American founders were extremely far-sighted. As someone living in the United Kingdom, it pains me that the Federalist Papers are not compulsorily taught in U.S. high schools anymore, but such as it is, the founders understood that prudence is the key in the survival of any republic. Having read the history of the rise and fall of the Roman Republic, and being well versed on the ongoing chaos of Europe, they understood that any project that guarantees liberal instincts need to be saved from its universalist extreme tendencies that eventually cause destruction.
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny,” wrote Alexander Hamilton. To stave that off, the only way is to give states power over their decisions, and not go down the path of majoritarian populism.
When liberal theorists talk about the majority of people opposing the Electoral College, they make the exact case that Hamilton so eloquently foreshadowed. The very fact that the majority wants majoritarianism is why the Electoral College exists in the first place. Otherwise, three cities in the United States would decide the fate of the entire country, and a charismatic smooth-talker would eventually turn into Caesar.
If the left actually read Hamilton, instead of watching the far stupider Broadway show, they would realize that while they blather about Donald Trump being a populist, true populism—whether far left or ultra-right—will be unleashed if the dam is truly broken. History and future are fickle. And federalism is the only thing that keeps any majoritarianism in check in favor of prudence and restraint.
More importantly, this also reflects the hypocrisy of the left in general and NeverTrumpers in particular. It’s one thing to pay lip service to norms; it’s another to actively support a side that wants to break every single constitutional check and balance that keeps the republic intact. As a non-American who is envious of the system that is truly unique in human history, I sincerely hope that hypocrisy is highlighted more in the coming days.