Jay Cost of National Review Online explains why he believes our current political woes aren’t as dire as they appear.

Everybody today is miserable about politics, or so it seems. Our system is broken, it’s sick, it’s dysfunctional, etc. I certainly agree that our government has its share of problems (and then some!). But being the contrarian that I am, I think our misery is actually a sign that it is still doing at least a few things right.

Think about the Brexit vote a few years ago. This was an enormous popular plebiscite in the United Kingdom on whether the nation should break away from the European Union. The “Leave” vote eked out a narrow majority that was highly divided along geographical, socioeconomic, and age lines. Since then, the process of leaving the EU . . . has not gone so well, as we all know.

Something like Brexit would never, could never happen in the United States. We do not have national plebiscites, for one thing. But more important, we do not give narrow majorities so very much power.

This gets back to the distinction that often is made about the United States being a republic but not a democracy. That notion is imprecise, but it does reveal a key insight. The Founders were committed to the idea of popular rule, as opposed to government by unelected monarchs. But they were deeply skeptical of rule by the people. They had good reason for both opinions. The period between the end of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution taught the colonists that a king without sympathy for his subjects is dangerous indeed. But the period between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution taught them that popular majorities can be even more dangerous than any king.