from Kevin Williamson at National Review, In Praise of the Smoke-Filled Room

The antidemocratic features of the American order are linked to the Founding Fathers’ belief that the fundamental rights of men come not from states — even representative states — but from God, and hence are unalienable. And unalienable means unalienable: by one man, by a dozen men, by a million, by a majority, by a supermajority, by a unanimous vote. This arrangement constituted, at the time, a rather extreme expression of ideological liberalism, which was foisted upon the people by — oh, pardon me for noticing! — the elites. Mr. Jefferson’s hifalutin francophilia and Mr. Madison’s Princeton-cultivated dread of popular passions shaped our founding documents, not the earthy wisdom of the Pennsylvania farmer, however hard-won.

Political parties are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, but for most of our history they played an essential role in moderating those spiteful popular passions that so worried Madison and other founders, including John Adams, who described “democracy” as a system that soon “murders itself.” In our modern political discourse, we hear a great deal of lamentation about deals made in “smoke-filled rooms,” but in fact that horse-trading led to some pretty good outcomes. Vicious demagogues such as Donald Trump and loopy fanatics such as Bernie Sanders were kept from the levers of power with a surprisingly high degree of success. Sure, you got the Corrupt Bargain and Teapot Dome, but you didn’t have unfunded welfare liabilities equal to the value of literally (literally, Mr. Vice President!) all the money in the world.

The political parties are not public agencies. We have constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, and the parties ought to be able to simply reject a candidate. They might not be able to simply select a nominee, but they could exercise, with complete propriety, a veto power. Under such a system, Trump would be free to run for president in any manner he saw fit, but not under the Republican banner, unless the Republican party itself consented. As it stands, the parties supply enormous quantities of infrastructure that can be hijacked by practically anybody, including a batty real-estate heir with a seven-word vocabulary who doesn’t know how a bill becomes a law.


The Progressive movement sought more democracy, yet Wilson described a leader as a demagogue (thought not his choice of words) to direct the mob.  This campaign illustrates the dangers of unfettered democracy.