America’s voters wisely decided both parties deserved to lose

Sothebys Constitution
One of only two known copies of The Official Edition of the Constitution, the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution is displayed at Sotheby’s, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura) Yuki Iwamura/AP

America’s voters wisely decided both parties deserved to lose

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With a full week’s perspective on the Nov. 8 elections, one can see the U.S. constitutional system, in a macro sense, again worked exquisitely well.

The results provided rough justice (and roughly balanced) for two major parties that both failed to earn governing trust. Moreover, the final balance of power is a very good approximation of where the public, with all its conflicted and conflicting opinions, really stands.

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This is the genius of the constitutional handiwork of James Madison and his fellow framers: It sifts through an almost infinite number of local majorities and factions in ways that reflect those local feelings in a national context. As Madison wrote in Federalist 51, the new system guards against tyranny “by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable. … In a free government, the security for civil rights … [must lie] in the multiplicity of interests.”

In these elections, the public saw two major parties that each had forfeited reason to be afforded significant power. National Democrats in the past two years have caused (or greatly exacerbated) inflation, economic stagnation, border chaos, a crime wave, and an illicit drug crisis that each alone are nearly ruinous. They have not just embraced but tried to impose, by government fiat, radical or counterfactual nostrums about men being women, young children being able to know they are “misgendered,” parents being impediments to the nurturing and education of their own children, mob censorship being promoted as free speech, and ethnicity associated with character traits such that the nonsensical idea of “whiteness” supposedly means guilt and dark skin is a sign of victimhood.

Until and unless true moderates retake the Democratic Party, the national Democratic Party is a danger to the common good.

Alas, national Republicans have been overrun by weaklings and demagogues pushing ideas almost as bad. They didn’t just spread the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, but even after a vicious incursion into the Capitol, 147 of 213 House Republicans voted against certifying the election results — and most of them kept lying about the election and the incursion for the next two years. Both House and Senate Republicans refused to sanction the president who inspired the mob, tried to block a sacred civil ceremony, and endangered his own vice president’s life. They also adopted a tone of viciousness that even extended to numerous leading Republicans making light of a near-deadly attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — all of which combined meant that, against all historical trends, even a plurality of voters who blamed the incumbent president for a bad economy voted for his party in the elections.

And most of the Republicans had governed badly even before then: Under unified Republican control in 2017 and 2018 and a Republican president in 2019, they had approved by far the most irresponsibly profligate government budgets in peacetime history, even before the pandemic.

On the merits, then, neither major party deserved full governing power. Voters, in their collective wisdom, created that outcome, giving a narrow presidential majority to a doddering Joe Biden, a narrow Senate majority to the Democrats, and (apparently) an absolutely bare-bones Republican majority in the House. With gridlock, neither party can do too much damage to the commonweal.

Apart from which party deserved which outcome, there can be no doubt that the mishmash of results accurately reflects the conflicted, confused, and exasperated feelings of the public. The collective public is suspicious of both parties, and large swaths of the public are fiercely divided.

The new, rough balance in Washington well represents those ambivalences and divisions, such that the public’s “multiplicity of interests” indeed has made “an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable.”

Thank goodness it is so — and thank James Madison, too.

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