In a Wednesday op-ed for Politico, invoking the media’s obsession with January 6, Brooklyn College political science professor Corey Robin flashed just how little he understood about how and why America’s founders set up the system of government they did. Or perhaps the goal was to just undo that great architecture and supplant it with something inferior.
You know how irked Robin is with our system of government right away just by reading the title: “Republicans Are Moving Rapidly to Cement Minority Rule. Blame the Constitution.” And since this is January 6 week where it is mandatory for all liberals to obsess about that date, Robin starts off with that but only as a segue to his Constitution slamming.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the violent assault on the Capitol, the prevailing argument on the left and much of the center is that the Republican Party poses a novel threat to American democracy. This is a flawed assessment, which oversells and understates the danger we face,” Robin began his rant.
Warning! Warning! Dangerous Constitution up ahead!
Driving the initiatives of the Republicans and the inertia of the Democrats are two forces. The first is the right’s project, decades in the making, to legally limit the scope and reach of democracy. The second is the Constitution, which makes it difficult for the national majority to act and easy for local minorities to rule. What happened on Jan. 6 is far less significant than what happened before Jan. 6 — and what has and has not happened since then.
And now that Robin has broken the taboo about not criticizing the Constitution, he opens the floodgates for some heavy-duty Constitution bashing:
Democracy is not just the enemy of the Republican Party. It is also the enemy of the Constitution. Americans associate the Constitution with popular liberties such as due process and freedom of speech. They overlook its architecture of state power, which erects formidable barriers to equal representation and majority rule in all three branches of government. The Republicans are not struggling to overturn a long and storied history of democratic rules and norms. They’re walking through an open door.
In reality, that power was broken up because we’re a constitutional republic and in a pure democracy the majority can simply vote to subjugate the minority. Those barriers are formidable because the sovereignty of the states is critical. And a bicameral legislature ensures equal representation of the states (Senate) and the representation of populations divided among the states (House).
And while he is slamming the Constitution, Robin also slammed the Founding Fathers for not allowing the possible tyrannical whims of the majority to run roughshod:
The division of Congress into two houses also reflects the Constitution’s antipathy to equal representation and majority rule. Too many states, Alexander Hamilton complained, are “governed by a single democratic assembly or have a senate constituted entirely upon democratic principles.” In unicameral legislatures, the democratic majority — described by James Madison as those who “labor under all the hardships of life and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” — has too much power to pursue its “leveling” designs. If the legislature is divided in two, however, with an upper chamber reflecting the interests of the wealthy minority “who are placed above the feelings of indigence,” the majority’s designs will be frustrated.
Could the publication of this column be a signal from Politico to its readers that they find the U.S. Constitution to be a “problematic” threat to democracy?
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