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Friday, March 11, 2016

Class Warfare Was Built Into The Constitution

During the secret debates over the drafting of the Constitution Madison said the following...

MADISON: The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.


Madison clearly anticipated class warfare and his solution was not to give both the wealthy and the commoners equal power in the Constitution, but to give the elites a veto over the commoners in the Senate. Clearly the Electoral College, which can override the popular vote for president, also serves this function.

But the powers of the Senate go further than just providing the elites a veto over legislation. The Senate has exclusive powers in the areas of treaties and nominations... as well as the final world on removing a president from office.

We can debate whether the Senate remains the bastion of wealthy elites, or was ever the body of the wise elders. That extreme demagogues like Ted Cruz can be elected to the Senate certainly undermines that notion. But Madison's institutional power arrangement survives regardless who is in the House or Senate. Now it's really a minority of states with 18% of the US population which has that veto over the House, and exclusive powers over treaties and nominations.

Yup... the Senate was meant to be our House Of Lords. Curiously... Tony Blair led an effort to reform the House of Lords. Yet not even US liberal Dems seem capable of considering any similar reform efforts here in the US. Not even a Bernie Sanders ventures here. Dems seem too smitten by the fact a well placed Senator might sabotage any noxious right wing bill. Missing from their consideration is how the Senate gives a mere 18% of the US population a majority in the first place. If they cared in the least about the democracy they claim a monopoly on... they'd see the absurdity of their views.

Why are such issues never discussed? Why, despite its failings, do these structural defects in the Constitution escape scrutiny?

In Federalist 49 Madison argues against making the Constitution easier to reform because that might focus the People on its defects. He believes that the masses must VENERATE their government to insure stability:

In the next place, it may be considered as an objection inherent in the principle, that as every appeal to the people would carry an implication of some defect in the government, frequent appeals would, in a great measure, deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on every thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.

Madison's hope obviously prevailed in this regard. The Constitution is virtually reformproof. NONE of the core antidemocratic features of the document has ever been reformed. Sadly, even liberals in this nation have opted for unquestioning veneration. Our antidemocratic and reformproof system have become principles unto themselves and liberals who should know better merely accept and work within that framework.


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