Jul 17, 2015 0
From the progressive standpoint, the Framers had not so much erred in their efforts as subsequent events had rendered their formulations moot. Madison had been particularly worried about a fractious majority violating the public good or minority rights for selfish ends. That is why, to accomplish this great desideratum, the Framers relied upon the popular will in only one half of one of the three branches, the House of Representatives; they believed that majorities could be as dangerous to true republicanism as anything. In contrast, the progressives believed that history had finally forged a national consciousness that could only be expressed by the unchecked will of the majority. In Madison’s day, the thirteen far-flung former colonies barely had identifiable common interests beyond defense against the European powers, but the nineteenth century had created a people with a shared identity and common purpose. Standing in its way, the progressives reasoned, was Madison’s most cherished doctrine, the separation of powers. Originally intended to keep fleeting majorities from undermining the public good, it was now inhibiting an enduring national majority from using government to realize the public good. Thus, whereas Madison sought to separate power as broadly as possible, the progressives— Wilson in particular— sought to concentrate it. Only by locating power in a single place could that power be made responsible to the public at large, and therefore reflect the newly developed national consciousness.
Cost, Jay (2015-02-10). A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption (p. 132). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.
IMO The great flaw of the founding of the Progressive movement was this concept of a national consensus that minimized the concerns of a democracy understood by the founders. Wilson’s belief in this consensus was made even more worrisome by his belief in a charismatic leader to guide this consensus. An unchecked democracy and a charismatic leader is precisely the condition that turns democracies into tyrannies. Wilson was our only PhD president, and the irony was that his example of a country getting this right was Prussia.