Though it will be some time before the popular vote totals are finalized, as I write this article Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump in the Presidential popularity contest by over 1 million votes. But since general Election voters are not Constitutionally empowered to select the President/Vice-President of the United States, she is not headed to the White House. The U.S. Constitutions vests the power to select the President in the Electors. They are the officials General Election voters in each of the United States have the Constitutional power to select, in a manner each State legislature decides.
In strictly democratic terms, Hillary Clinton appears to have won a clear victory. But the provisions of the U.S. Constitution plainly deprive her of its fruits. If and when a majority of the winning Electors cast their votes for Donald Trump in December, the Constitution will oblige voters who preferred Hillary Clinton for President to live with that fact, however unjust it may appear to them.
For most of the twentieth Century America’s leading political figures have purveyed the false notion that “democracy” is the form of government established by the Constitution of the United States. Woodrow Wilson roused support for America’s participation in World War I with the notion that it was a war fought to “make the world safe for democracy.” Franklin Roosevelt accepted the notion that WWII was a war fought by the world’s great democracies against the inhuman scourges of Nazism, fascism and Japanese imperial tyranny. The United States waged the “cold war” as the leader of Western democracies, determined to make sure totalitarian communist party dictatorship was not allowed to extend its rule throughout the world.
But when the partisan fog dissipates after every Presidential election, the people’s power (to which, at its root in ancient Greek, the word “democracy” literally refers) is not the final arbiter of governmental authority in the United State. This is true even when their national majority will is clearly indicated by the results of free elections; and even when it comes to allocating what is now incontestably regarded as the most visible, important and potentially powerful government office in the United States.
If all the labor, treasure and sacrifice of life we expended in all our wars and conflicts to this very day were expended to preserve “democracy,” how can it be right systematically and repeatedly to thwart the democratically expressed will of the people when it comes to allocating the office that represents their united power as a nation?
How can it be right? The question itself reminds us of that fact that, from the beginning, the paramount preoccupation of our existence as a nation has not been the power of the people, or indeed any other species of human power. The people of the United States came into existence as such because they weighed the actions of their then British sovereign in the scales of righteousness, and found him wanting. How can it be right, they asked, to tax us without our consent? How can it be right to convict and punish us without trial by a jury of our peers? How can it be right to thwart and persecute actions authorized by our conscientious obedience to the Creator, God, who is the ruler and will be the final judge of all?
The American people did not endure the horrors of war simply for the sake of power. They consciously did so in the cause of justice. They consciously did so for the sake of right. Our involvement in war has always been preceded by a serious, even agonizing period of discussion and debate about the premises of right and duty that require and justify resorting to arms. In these discussions Americans have always been mindful of the principles by which human reason and common sense inform and substantiate the claim to act justly. It is as if we were put in this world emphatically to disprove Hegel’s myopic assertion that “Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help.”
By God’s Providence, when the American people first stepped onto the stage of human events they were widely dispersed throughout a still sparsely settled territory. To act in a united fashion, they had to agree on common goals, and make provision to attain them. The sporadic impulses of passion were not sufficient. Prior deliberation was a necessity. It required working through the agency of representatives to whom people had to entrust the task of conveying and applying their conscientious views. This was the only way decisions could be taken, in a timely fashion, in regard to people, events and circumstances about which the people scattered throughout the land could not be fully informed.
In a practical sense, the greatest gift of Providence evident in America’s founding was the intelligence that allowed some of the most consequential representatives of the people to recognize the critical importance of representation. They realized that the procedure America’s special circumstances required was the key to constructing a form of government that satisfied the requirements of right and justice for humanity. It was the key to reconciling respect for individuals, and the various communities they willingly form amongst themselves, with respect for prerogatives of right and justice that reflect and preserve the distinctive qualities that make life recognizably human. Thus, humanity would be respected, encouraged and preserved, rather than oppressed and destroyed, by government’s powers.
[Look for Part II of these reflections in my article forthcoming this Friday at WND.com]