From Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch, Rites About Rites
One of the central insights of both liberalism and conservatism, rightly understood, is that sometimes the people can be wrong. That’s why the Founders made it hard to change the Constitution. That’s why they envisioned the Senate as a “cooling saucer” that tempers the passions of the House. And that’s why this country has elections all the time. Because the Founders understood that sometimes the people can get riled up, angry, confused, misinformed, petulant, or vengeful. Having lots of elections allows the voters to recognize that maybe they went too far in the previous election. It’s part of the process of democratic self-correction and renewal. There have been plenty of times in American history when the people were in a bad enough mood to vote away various rights if they had the power to do it. Making it hard for those temper tantrums to do lasting damage is one of the great things about our system. (I suspect that if you put free speech rights up for a vote today, we would have fewer free speech rights tomorrow.)
The government works for us, but part of its job is to protect our rights for posterity, even when a temporary majority wants to abandon them. This is where the anthropological and the philosophical visions merge into a cultural synthesis. Contrary to a lot of prattle from “post-liberals,” progressive technocrats, and populist grifters of the right and left, we live in a liberal culture. That’s why I think the question of “What right makes other rights possible?” is so problematic. It works on the assumption that Americans love and enjoy their rights based on some commitment to abstract liberal theory alone. Liberal theory is important. But far more important is liberal culture. Americans like our freedoms because we’re Americans, damn it. So sure, sometimes voting is the great protector of our rights, and sometimes it’s not. In other words, it’s complicated because culture is complicated.
Behind the brilliant design of our Constitution is an accurate understanding about human nature and its permanence. This is the reason it has endured in spite of the difficult and contentious compromises that birthed it.
This is also the fatal flaw of progressivism. Its conflict with the restraint of central power overlooks this basic understanding of human nature and its permanence.