Many good-hearted Americans feel deeply troubled by recent events. Domestically, the nation confronts political turmoil as a divided Congress spoils for a fight while a weak and intellectually lazy President looks on from the sidelines of the debate. Internationally, the nation confronts turmoil in the Middle East as despot after despot reeps the harvest that he has sown. What to do, what to do?
The answer comfortingly lies within the Constitution so superbly crafted by the Founding Fathers. Torn and tattered as it now is, still it retains the essence of American exceptionalism and should be the cloak that enfolds the People as they peer into an uncertain future.
What lessons does the Constitution offer? First and foremost, the Founders did not craft a democracy driven exclusively by the popular will. Indeed, fearing the likely excesses of such a reflexive will, the Founders checked and balanced it in many ways. The House of Representatives – the embodiment of the popular will, is checked by the Senate, which was designed to protect the lives, liberties and properties of all. The Congress was checked by the Executive. And both branches were to be patrolled by the Judiciary. At least until FDR, this system of checks and balanced worked well. Even now, it plays a role.
So domestically, those who would balance the federal budget quickly should understand that this will not happen, because checks and balances work both ways. Domestically, impatience should be tempered as those who would save the Republic educate the electorate into responding appropriately in November 2012.
So internationally, Americans should not rush to cheer Middle Easterners into following the path of unconstrained populism without the checks and balances of a constitutional republic. Untrammeled democracy rarely works well. Too often it results in turmoil, bloodshed and tyranny, as occurred in France following the French Revolution. The memory of Napoleon Bonaparte striding like some disgusting Colossus across the European continent, after all is not yet entirely dimmed. There are few Arthur Wellesleys’ (The Duke of Wellington) available to save the modern world from tyranny; and the Battle of Waterloo itself was ’a damn close run thing’.
So be thoughtful and be calm, and do not wish upon others what you have rejected for yourselves, is the message to carry forward as you contemplate an uncertain future. Your noble predecessors faced far graver threats without resorting to mob rule.