by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Writing for The Week, Ryan Cooper recently offered a provocative denunciation of the Constitution. “The American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk,” he said, “and it’s only getting worse.” The basic problem, he argued, is that “elections generally do not produce functioning governments,” and he proposes a series of reforms — some modest, some radical — to increase democratic accountability within the government.
Cooper’s essay is of a piece with many I see nowadays, especially from progressives. …
… I am not entirely unsympathetic to their frustration: The Constitution is not like the Ten Commandments, handed down from God almighty. It is a document written by flawed humans that can, and often should, be critiqued. The Framers themselves acknowledged their own fallibility by including an amendment process.
Nevertheless, I think polemical calls to action such as this tend to dismiss out of hand the unique democratic theory underlying our system of government. In its place, they rely upon an undue confidence in the wisdom and virtue of numerical majorities. …
… Our system of government, then, is best understood as one of mediated majority rule. Yes, the people at large are the only source of sovereignty, but that sovereignty is tempered in multiple ways.