There is no end to the admiration for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Not only did they conceive and implement the most representative government the world had known, drawing on their knowledge of The Greek and Roman Classics. But when they anticipated a particularly galling problem – or, as in the case of the competition of the larger and smaller of the original 13 British colonies which were to form the new Republic.
They also understood that the U.S. Constitution which established America’s fundamental law, and guaranteed certain basic rights to its citizens, would in the end be at the mercy of impulse and fads. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed it on September 17, 1787, presided over by George Washington, they faced an issue in the fear of smaller members they would be dominated by the numbers and wealth of the larger states such as Virginia. In 1790, Vermont, for example, had only 85,539 free whites and slaves compared to its neighbor, Massachusetts with its 378,787. [Yes, violations of Vermont’s anti-slavery law, a part of its 1777 constitution when it broke away from New York, were not unusual].
In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued against “an interested and overbearing majority” and the “mischiefs of faction” in an electoral system. Madison defined a faction as “a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Madison and others hope and planned what was then called republican government [i.e., federalism, as opposed to direct democracy], with a distribution of voter rights and powers, would countervail against factions. Although the United States Constitution refers to “Electors” and “electors”, neither the phrase “Electoral College, or as until the early 19th century when the name “Electoral College” came into general usage for the electors selected to cast votes for president and vice president. The phrase was first written into federal law in 1845 and appears in the Constitution as “college of electors.
In a sense, what the Founders feared has come to pass in the creation by the system itself of a privileged c political lass, the so-called Establishments of both parties. They have come to dominate the federal government through their expertise in its intricate operations and skill in maneuvering in its constantly growing bureaucracy,. But in a largely unanticipated reaction, a general popular reaction took place in 2016 with the election of Donald K. Trump. Trump’s election, was unforeseen by even the most astute political observers – particularly those in the mainstream media who still are smarting from their failure.
Trump’s decisions since his election have further confounded these media observers along with the leaders of both the major parties. His unpredictability – from their standpoint – has led not only to inability to anticipate them but to a originality to the Trump Administration that has not been equaled for decades.
In that sense, even though he received a smaller popular vote than the Establishment’s candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, he has very much become the successful candidate of the vox populi, the voice of the people, or indeed, from the original Latin phrase, vox populi, vox dei – the voice of the people as the voice of God..Trump may indeed be the voice of “the forgotten man” in the American society to which he so often refers. One thing is clear: the continued struggle between Trump and his base against the Inside the Beltway Establishment aided and abetted by its Hollywood apparatus will continue to dominate the American political scene for some time. The ultimate victor is not now predictable but there is little doubt which side the Founders would have chosen.