by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The trend toward an unadulterated democratic nomination process therefore continues apace. I think this is a major mistake, for both parties. The process by which presidential candidates are chosen is theoretically impoverished and clearly producing bad nominees. Too much democracy, in this case, is a bad thing.
While the Founding Fathers were radical republicans, most were not really democrats, in the contemporary understanding of the word. They believed that popular sovereignty was the only firm and just basis for durable government, but they doubted the capacity of the people at large to rule directly in many situations.
For instance, in a letter to Gouverneur Morris in 1777, Alexander Hamilton argued that democracy had often been “unstable” because the democratic principle had been “made to operate in an improper channel.” When certain executive and judicial offices were chosen by the people at large, rather than by “the deliberate wisdom of a select assembly,” the result was too often “error, confusion, and instability.”
James Madison defended representative government along similar lines in Federalist No. 10. The advantage of a representative assembly is that it can “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” Representatives can still speak for the people, but in a way that “will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.”
This is why the Constitution, as originally drafted, did not establish any hereditary offices, but also gave the people direct sway over one half of one branch (the House of Representatives). It was a republican, but not a democratic, charter.