One of the ‘best’ (note sarcasm) things about the hearings concerning Judge Brett Kavanaugh is the fact it’s exposing the contempt some on the left have for the Constitution. The rabid voices are typically from the Senator Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party – who desire turning the country into more of a European-style democracy than it already is.
Their target is, of course, the U.S. Senate because it’s in the hands of Republicans. The frustration is over the fact there is equal representation within the Dirksen Senate Office Building – and the Senate chambers – instead of the proportional system seen in the U.S. House. Their ‘logic’ suggests it would be better if the people of California – with its vast population – had more of a say with who ends up on the Supreme Court than those ‘backward’ (note sarcasm) rural voters in states like Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Iowa. Let’s ignore the fact the House of Representatives is also in the hands of the Republicans, but my guess is the democratic socialists are more confident in Nancy Pelosi (or James Clyburn) surfing a blue wave into the Speaker’s chair than Chuck Schumer hopping on a board and taking the Senate.
The latest to suggest this change in governance is former Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Cynthian Nixon acolyte Waleed Shahid. Shahid went on a rather furious tweetstorm on Friday and Saturday bemoaning the Senate’s makeup. His key points are below.
For those arguing that the Founding Fathers designed the Senate this way through the Constitution to make sure States had equal representation…
Here’s James Madison saying it was actually about preserving slavery. (From @CoreyRobin) pic.twitter.com/KUradAoTBJ
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) September 29, 2018
Of course, Shahid and Corey Robin exclude the final sentences of Madison’s statement. Here’s the quote with emphasis on those last two sentences:
It seemed now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lay, not between the large and small but between the Northern and Southern States. The institution of slavery and its consequences formed the line of discrimination. There were 5 States on the South, 8 on the Northern side of this line. Should a proportional representation take place it was true, the North Side would still outnumber the other; but not in the same degree, at this time; and every day would tend towards an equilibrium.
It’s here where Shahid and Robin either fail to reveal the entirety of the facts, or completely ignore them. The larger states at the time were: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Only Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York were considered Northern States. Maryland was in the South because of the Mason-Dixon line.
The smaller states were Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, and Vermont. All are in the North – save for Georgia – and all tended to be against the slave trade – except Georgia. Madison’s argument – despite being against slavery – was to make sure the larger Southern states didn’t see their typically agricultural economies (which relied on slavery, at the time) damaged by the smaller Northern states with their shipping or fishing economies.
I am NOT defending slavery as an institution, nor am I defending the country’s history of slavery. The idea one person can have ‘ownership’ of another is anathema to me, and I am beyond thankful this tradition no longer exists in the United States. I am simply explaining the situation the Founders were involved in at the time of the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution.
It should also be pointed out Madison’s stance on proportional versus equal representation changed. From Federalist 62 (emphasis mine):
Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States. It must be acknowledged that this complicated check on legislation may in some instances be injurious as well as beneficial; and that the peculiar defense which it involves in favor of the smaller States, would be more rational, if any interests common to them, and distinct from those of the other States, would otherwise be exposed to peculiar danger. But as the larger States will always be able, by their power over the supplies, to defeat unreasonable exertions of this prerogative of the lesser States, and as the faculty and excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments are most liable, it is not impossible that this part of the Constitution may be more convenient in practice than it appears to many in contemplation.
Now, Alexander Hamilton may have also written Federalist 62 – but the importance of the principle cannot be ignored. Madison realized it was important to have equal representation to prevent the tyranny of the majority from happening. It is the same reason why the President has veto power over legislation – to prevent truly horrible pieces of legislation from becoming law. It hasn’t always worked in American history (see Patriot Act, Prohibition, Espionage Act) but checks and balances of power are important to keep one branch of government from running roughshod over the other. This, obviously, hasn’t happened – given Congress’ willingness to cede power to the presidency on an almost hourly basis – but the idea is still the same.
I would be remiss without mentioning the 17th Amendment which allows the direct election of U.S. Senators. The Senate was supposed to be representatives of the state government – instead of the people. The latter’s house (pun intended) was the House of Representatives. The current theater regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination – and one of the reasons career politicians are the norm – is because of the 17th Amendment. There would still be politics involving Supreme Court justices but the insanity we’re currently seeing would be much less if the amendment were expunged from the annals of history. It won’t happen because the federal government isn’t likely to cede any power to the state government – thus endangering their ability to make a living as career politicians – but it’s still something which should be considered.
One other reminder to Shahid. The United States was not meant to be like every other nation in the World. It is the exception to the rule – even though the country has done its best to imitate other nations. I like to remind Republicans this whenever they try to explain why the Export-Import Bank needs to be revived or suggest some sort of regulation on social media companies. The basis of this government is the idea of limited i.e. weak government which doesn’t get involved in all the things. It means allowing people to live their lives without the interference of the feds (and preferably no interference from state and local governments). The fact we’ve gone away from this notion is a travesty on history and freedom.
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