Wilson once spoke of a national interest that had come to be formed within the nation, which had not existed at the time of the Founding. America had finally become one people, he said, capable of expressing a public sentiment that should govern politics. But I think he was fooling himself. The best description of the nation was and still is Federalist No. 10, where Madison delineated a number of factions that compete against themselves, often confusing their own self-interest for the public interest.
When I look at America in 2018, I see a country where a wide swath of people are uninterested and poorly informed, unaware of even the basics of civics to know how our government works, and unwilling to dedicate the time necessary to learn. I see the special interests that finance politics, employing campaign contributions, lobbying, and other subtle crafts to take advantage of public indolence for their own purposes. I look at the ideological poles, where citizens are more engaged. That is good, but it is also at the extremes where I see intense hatred of their ideological opponents. If, granted total power, would one side criminalize the other? Would the broad middle, in its laziness and ignorance, actually let them do it?
Where is the “virtue and intelligence” of which Madison spoke in Federalist No. 49? I do not see it. And the thought of reducing constitutional impediments to democratic rule gives me chills. As frustrated as I am sometimes by the glacial speed at which our government operates, I do not believe that making it easier for majorities to act would increase the likelihood of good government in the United States. Quite the opposite, I fear.