Political Exorcism: Democracy And Its Demons

Democracy no longer appears in the 21st-century in the guise of the Greek philosophical discussion about the best form of government. If for the Greeks the very possibility of democracy was the result of a long history of “disenchantment” (Weber, Gauchet), for postmodern man democracy is burdened by a set of historical presuppositions (religious, moral and ideological) from which he can no longer be unlinked.

However, after the ideological overdose of the century of European civil war and the conflict between secular religions, supposedly settled in three crucial episodes (1918-1945-1989), democracy seems to suffer, in the 21st-century, an “abstinence syndrome” that places it in a state of indefiniteness and again disenchantment with post-totalitarian emptiness. This horror vacui largely conditions the current state of affairs.

The emergence of democracy in the course of Western history cannot be separated from what the Austrian Hellenist Fritz Schachermeyr called the Greek “untying” (Entbindung). According to this renowned scholar, Eastern cultures reached a state of Verhaltenheit, that is, a relatively static or immobile civilization, defined by a rigid setting within a traditional system of rites or beliefs. They are, in short, examples of “stopped civilizations” (Toynbee). The intimate essence of these civilizations is characterized by Schachermeyr with the word Bindung, “ties,” where everything is fixed by a marked “consciousness” (a key element, as will be seen later) of the natural and necessary character of this characterization.

According to Schachermeyr, the novelty offered by the Greco-Roman civilization is that it begins to “untie” (entbinden) the old “ties.” Although Schachermeyr does not explain what this dynamic consists of, it cannot but be the progressive desacralization, demanded by critical reason, which enters history to definitively close the phase of the primitive mentality of humanity (Lévy-Bruhl), at least for a significant portion of said humanity, which will progressively expand with the successive unfoldment of the Greek spirit. By virtue of this new spirit, a new cultural and anthropological atmosphere is inaugurated, in which democracy comes to be engendered.

This humus is marked, fundamentally, by the following elements: The autonomy of the individual, the self-government of the city, and philosophy. This substrate projects a mentality sharply tending towards individualism and relativism. As Jean Gebser explains, we move from the impersonality of the aperspective world to an awareness of the individual self that defines the perspectival world. Now, as this philosopher of the transformations of consciousness also emphasized, in the progressive evolution of the successive states of consciousness of humanity, the definitive burial of previous states does not take place, but rather their distorted transformation in the current aspect of the human. In other words, the primitive mentality of the tribe (the archaic and original structure) continues to operate in the rational state of individualized humanity. And this is of decisive relevance for understanding the evolution of democracy.

Ever since the Hellenic civilization was imposed, there has been a directionality in history much more marked than before. The principle of Entbindung (or, breaking of ties) resurfaces, renewed and reinforced; and, each time, by way of a setback, there is a return to the state of Bindung, or ties. It is not strictly a linear version of time, but of cycles which proceed in a spiral (Vico), with advances and retreats. In any case, in this inherent tendency towards desacralization, from the sacred kingdom of the gods, we pass to the government of heroes, to reach the self-government of men.

The Hellenic phenomenon thus represents an essential fracture in history. Jaspers spoke of the so-called “time-axis” to refer to the period from 600 to 200 BC, in which a series of peoples achieved a new consciousness of spiritual emancipation. However, it was in Greece, to a much greater degree, that the decisive element appears: The self-conscious individual, who creates an autonomous society, governed by rules subject to change. Hence, without direct or indirect Greek influence, outcomes as characteristic of the rational spirit as democracy are not found outside Greece.

What must be understood is that the true breaking point does not occur between democracy and other forms of government, but between a (magical-mythical) mentality closed to the very possibility of politics and a mentality that frees that space to conquer it – for politics. If the political (as essence) is not born from the consequence of that hiatus, it can at least be said that the consciousness of the political is born there. The free interrogation about society and its rules that political thought supposes is impossible in societies founded on myth and rite (Philippe Nemo). In fact, we do not find in them political theories but “myths of sovereignty.”

René Girard’s mimetic theory also allows us to understand that this absence of the political in the magical-mythical universe is not an accidental fact but something deeply embedded in the way of life associated with the structure of “violence and the sacred.” The mythical order is a global order, indistinctly cosmic and social, and in it the political does not emerge as an autonomous space but as a subsidiary of the all-encompassing sacred universe.

However, in the field of human behavior and politics, logos interferes from a certain moment, with the spontaneous forces of life, to create new forms, new doctrines and new styles of thought or behavior, new “ties,” as it were, replacing those already destroyed by its impact. In other words, the aperspective continues to subtly infiltrate the new perspectival mentality. The “new ties” cannot really resurrect the old structures of the magical mentality, although they do reflect the nostalgia for unity and order lost as a consequence of the crisis produced by the disorientation and confusion of the relativistic disorder generated by critical reason.

From this point of view, movements such as the Socratic or Platonic reaction are manifestations of this will to reinvent the traditional order with rational schemes. Plato’s political pharmacology collects the Egyptian medicinal art (Jan Assmann), and his claims point to a reactionary nostalgia for sacred unity, although with a foundation consistent with the desacralizing unleashing: Political philosophy, from then on, will be a rational and not mythical medicine. Plato is the first anti-democratic philosopher to propose an ideal rational republic. In it the king is no longer a god but a philosopher. The new “rational tie” thus slows down the tendency of democracy towards dissolution.

The thesis that I here defend is that democracy continues to live today under the influence of a new “tie” created from the ideological sedimentation of some of its own presuppositions, producing a new form of Verhaltenheit, which requires a model of rigid framework, which democratic principles (converted into sacred dogmas) must impose. Unlike reactionaries like Plato (or Rousseau), the new tie of our times is not anti-progressive, nor does it pretend to chain itself to a traditional community lost in the original past. On the contrary, its chains point towards a city in the clouds, the only paradise in which democratic man aspires to establish his definitive residence.

Our democracies, in effect, seek to surpass themselves in a purely self-referential framework. Hence, the everlasting call to “deepen” democracy. Every democracy always seems little democracy to the recalcitrant democrat. You can never go any further than democracy. It is the Plus Ultra of democratic religion. The problems are solved with more democracy and they are because of the fact that there is not enough democracy. It seems that man is always disappointed when looking in the mirror of the gods.

Today, we live under the splint of a new ideological-religious “tie” that takes different forms, all of which coincide in their essential and common tendency to subjection and mooring: The tyranny of consensus, the religion of human rights, the moralism of the Empire of the Good, the imposition of technocratic knowledge, political correctness, the Manichean demonization of the political adversary, the End of History. After all, what the Greeks called democracy presupposed accepting the desacralizing heritage of a critical skepticism that freed the political space from the control of the gods.

Today, other gods have appropriated the agora. Christopher Dawson described in his posthumous book (The Gods of Revolution) the process of the expulsion of Christianity by the culture generated by Christianity, and its replacement by a humanistic and rationalistic idolatry. “The archaic would always be here, haunting us. Behind the reign of the individual, behind secularism, the pre-eminence of the economy, democracy, the spirit of free examination, the monsters would only be waiting for the opportunity to dominate men again and to be worshiped by them ”(Pierre Pachet, “D’un archaïsme tout à fait contemporain“, Les cahiers de l’Est, 1, 1991).

Vilfedo Pareto’s sociology, with its well-known theory of residues and derivations, did not stop insisting on the necessary analysis of that archaic background of the human psyche, always ready to continue connecting with an irrational universe of gods and myths. For Pareto, this imaginary space operated in modernity with presumably rational entities that in practice violated the most elementary rules of logic, behaving like the deities fighting for or against the Greeks in the Iliad. Among these entities (in addition to abstract ideas, such as, freedom or equality) was also democracy, alienated in its theoretical structure by the presence of a mythological drive born in democracy’s own bosom and thus difficult to eradicate.

On the other hand, part of the problem evidently lies in knowing whether people can live for a long time in what Claude Lefort called “democratic indeterminacy,” resulting from the new scenario established by the reality of the “place empty of power” (lieu vide du pouvoir) – that is, if a political community can subsist without projecting outside of this reality, deifying it as a sacred incarnation of itself in the form of unitary sovereignty – or, without exhibiting and conjuring up a phantasmagoric incarnation of the other or of evil in the form of a scapegoat (Poliakov’s diabolical causality).

The political carries, as a founding genetic stain, the weight of this beneficent/malefic ambivalence that reappears under different guises in the course of the “rational” history of humanity (thus, for example, with sacred monarchy in feudal society). The progress of politics (and, particularly, of democracy) is based on the substitution of competition for war; or, if you prefer, sacrifice for envy. “Bullets or ballots” the Americans used to say. Bertrand Russell affirmed with force that “envy is the basis of democracy.” And he added: “The democratic movement in the Greek states must have been inspired almost entirely by this passion. And the same can be said of modern democracy.” In any case, as with the pharmacy, everything is a question of dosage; and politics disappears when the unit or the division becomes absolute.

We no longer live “in” democracy but “under” democratism (Freund), a “political myth” (in the sense of Raoul Girardet), born of moral and religious dogmas hardly compatible with the onto-theopolitical emptiness operated by the Greek revolution. The place empty of power has been occupied by a new religion. Is democratism the hidden enemy of democracy?

Understanding democratism requires summarizing the history of democracy in its historical and sociological aspects. Thus, it is the history of democratization, or democratic imperialism, that is, the extension of the democratic-egalitarian ethos outside its natural political space. By going out of its habitat, like any empire, democracy weakens in its own terrain. By assuming a social profile (Tocqueville’s democratic condition), moral or religious, democracy is depoliticized. On the other hand, the state political form, in turn expansive by definition as a consequence of war (Jouvenel’s law of political concurrence), ended up merging with democracy in an apparently predictable embrace. In effect, the state tends to dissolve hierarchies and to standardize from above by a power apparatus that ends up escaping the control of the monarchs.

The relationship of the state with the political is equivocal. In its attempt to neutralize politics, the state ends up politicizing everything (totalitarianism). This is undoubtedly one of the causes of democratic imperialism or democratism. The modern state promotes, after 1789, the democratic politicization of all subpolitical and prepolitical spaces. By politicizing life that is not strictly political, the state depoliticizes directly political life. Hence, the current dissolution of the boundaries between the public and the private. By neutralizing conflicts, the state deactivates political initiatives and the vigor of civic virtues in public life, devitalizing democratic life in its popular or community aspect.

By conquering the moral mantle of religious legitimacy, democracy becomes hyper-legitimate and naturally tends towards Manichaeism, thus fueling its own mythology of sovereign unity (Rousseau’s general will). J.L. Talmon had demonstrated the constitutive duality of the modern democratic concept in his penetrating study of the origins of totalitarian democracy. In this way, mythological democracy threatens with its own weapons the axiological pluralism that presumably grounds it.

The democratic historical fruit thus contaminates the root of the democratic philosophical tree. On the other hand, the ideological sanctification that accompanies democratism erodes the agonistic-conflictive dimension of political democracy. If democracy does not guarantee peaceful concurrence (Aron) within it, political concurrence will occur outside of democracy. In order to save the purity of ideological orthodoxy – through recourse to Manichaeism that transforms the political adversary into absolute evil – democracy abdicates its popular legitimacy to expel the people into outer darkness.

Also, at this point, democracy chooses to “tie itself” to its ideological descendants, forgetting that it was born because of an”untying” from its magical ancestors. There is in ideology a dark form of regression to the necromancer’s sleight of hand. Like the sorcerer, the ideologue aspires to ontologically extirpate evil. Hence his obsession with closing the era of politics in the name of secular messianism. Unlike the hygienic puritanism of the ideological discourse, political realism understands that it is always necessary to coexist and (if necessary) to make a pact with evil in the search for a compromise that guarantees external security and internal harmony (the purpose of politics as Julien Freund recalled).

Politics, the art of the possible to avoid the worst, ends up yielding today to the dreamlike universe of idealistic utopias that populate ideological discourses. And the withdrawal from politics is also the withdrawal of democracy as a form of government.

To the depoliticizing panorama that emerged as a consequence of the hegemony of ideological discourse (certainly presented in its postmodern version of “weak thinking”) is added the concomitant factor of globalization. The unification of the world is a historical fact in principle alien to democracy as such, but it has not hesitated to accept it, first as a “fellow-traveler” and later as an inseparable friend (democracy allied to the universalism of human rights). Politics is said to make strange bedfellows; but the assertion is valid as a description of the unspeakably opportunistic wiles of professional politicians, though not at all applicable to theoretical principles that are difficult to reconcile.

As the unsuspecting Emmanuel Todd recently put it with a provocative aphorism of his own making, “if a lot of xenophobia destroys democracy, a little xenophobia can bring it back.” In the idea of democracy, the historian and demographer added, there is always an element of “founding xenophobia.” By forgetting that man is a “dependent rational animal” (Alasdair MacIntyre), the atomistic angelism of postmodern mysticism destroys the roots (Simone Weil) that define the human condition.

In this way, by dissolving the ties of belonging to national political communities, the instances of collective action associated with the democratic ethos are weakened, thus facilitating the task of the new global power occupied by the globalist elites that lead supranational instances. By submitting to these vagrant elites, the national political class discredits the popular legitimacy on which the democratic mandate of political representation continues to be based. The foreign friends of democracy prostitute democracy. Maybe democracy should look for new friends.

The last aspect of democratism, as the enemy of democracy, can be found in the cultural field. Here, too, a new idol has been erected, although in reality it may be an unwanted child of Christianity, as Chesterton suggested. Political correctness has, despite its deceptive appearance, very little of politics. However, the consequences for political democracy are very dire. In its ideological defense of victims, political correctness promotes the censorship and demonization of the adversary. In this way, it sponsors denunciation, ideological exile, and silences any form of dissent through the imposition of a taboo strictly controlled by the new well-thought-out courts of the “Empire of the Good” (Philippe Muray). Automatically, the irreverence that nurtures the democratic moral disposition (the anaideia of the cynics) ends up being ruined in front of the new censors of soft totalitarianism.

Soft McCarthyism does not, for the moment, build new concentration camps for dissidents, but it justifies civil death and thought police, by way of the educational Big Mother and the multicultural Big Other. Victimist ideologies (third wave feminism, anti-racism, animalism, etc.) represent the vanguard of this new liberticidal witch-hunt led by the latest version of the “Revolution of the Saints” (Michael Walzer). The porno-calvinist ideocracy seems, in the long run, little compatible with political democracy.

In sum, the monism of postmodern democratic ideology seems difficult to reconcile with the pluralism inherent in democracy as a form of government. The disappearance of political otherness as a consequence of the fall of communism has increased the polarization of this opposition. It is still striking that liberal democracy adopts the eschatological dress of its main enemy up till then (Marxism) and dresses in the messianic cloak of the end of History (Fukuyama). The mystique of democratism, however, is gradually extinguished by the absence of its enemies.

Hence the efforts of neo-puritan ideologues to imagine spectral representations of evil encoding and recoding reality through mass media. Democratic theology voluntarily adopts the Manichaeism of Islamist fundamentalism (Axes of Good and Evil). Its deleterious effects are manifested in the internal dynamics of democracy as a pluralistic form of government. As Chantal Mouffe has written, “agonistic” democracy (democracy as pacification of political conflict) has been replaced by democracy of consensus and extreme antagonism (democracy as moral and religious ideology).

Today neither bullets nor ballots serve to revive dying democracy. By moralizing itself, democracy is depoliticized. The exacerbation of this conflict can end democracy, and can eliminate it also. Montesquieu seems to have seen it clearly: “Beware of a city where the noise of any conflict is not heard because tyranny will not be far behind.” Tocqueville’s prophecies pointed in the same direction. The two bodies of the king (Kantorowicz) are expressed today as two bodies of democracy: The mystical body (democratic ideology) and the physical body (political democracy). Political democracy also seems to die by the same cry as monarchs: Democracy is dead! Long live democracy!

The place is not empty of power today. In place of the totalitarian Egocrat, we have the democratic ideocrat-technocrat. The two entrances to the democratic castle seem impenetrable to criticism. The ideocrat is also a holy monarch. To this is added the validity (increasingly threatened by its frank lack of realism) of statism, that is, of depoliticizing politicization. The political neutralization caused by the state necessarily generates a form of impolitical democracy.

Transformed into pure and simple administration from the cradle to the grave, the antipolitical democratic-state holds presumed citizens in the position of simple subjects (when not suspects), reduced by multiple mechanisms (the control of education, culture, taxation) to an infantilism incompatible with the presumed coming of age of democratic life and the civic virtues necessary to nurture it. Thinkers like Sloterdijk, with his proposal for voluntary taxation as a banner of civic responsibility, have drawn attention to this paradox.

On the other hand, the so-called “democratization” (or Tocquevillian democratic condition) has accelerated the process of standardization and leveling in the spiritual field, impoverishing the pluralism that political democracy feeds on. In this sociological undifferentiation (driven by technology, mainstream culture, spiritual Americanization and globalism) ideocracy also finds its anthropological basis.

To this must be added the growing distance between globalized political elites and the people they claim to represent democratically. It is known that democracy does not escape the iron law of the oligarchy (Michels) but its application in the democratic context (illusion of identity between representatives and the represented) implies a much higher cost for its legitimacy than in the case of other forms of government. “Universal suffrage does not pretend that the interests of the majority triumph, but rather that the majority believe it,” wrote the Colombian, Nicolas Gómez Dávila.

The problem today is that most have stopped believing it. And the masks also fall on the other side of the costume ball. The political elite no longer hide their contempt for the people, their traditions and identity, which are hardly comparable with the emancipatory rhythm of the alleged progress that they intend to promote. That the popular acquires a pejorative meaning (populism) in a democratic context is an unequivocal indication of the identity crisis of the democracies of the 21st-century. Populism is today, above all, a symptom of the degenerative disease of undemocratic democracy. By clinging to ideological legitimacy, democracy disregards its popular legitimacy.

In short, today the rebellion of the masses (Ortega y Gasset) and the rebellion of the elites (Lasch) converge. But 1945 and 1989 represent two fateful dates for the ideological substratum of “political illusion” (Ellul). With them “religious democracy” has lost its flock even though it retains its clergy. Other ideologies of substitution (feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, animalism, transhumanism) aspire to fill this void and articulate their proposals with the same totalitarian grammar of the maternal state. The democracy that has come to us has already traveled through religious space, depoliticizing itself along the way – but today it is a dead faith. By becoming the demiurge of the life of the people, it has devitalized their natural and community sources.

Real suicide (the leading cause of unnatural death in the West) and demographic suicide represent the two faces of silenced death in the democratic paradise. The parallels with the world of real socialism begin to be disturbing and remind us of certain authors who have already proclaimed that socialism failed in the East because it triumphed in the West (Augusto Del Noce). However, the dreams of reason produce monsters; and socialism only wins in the tricky world built by the fallacies that inhabit the nirvana of postmodern ideologues. There is no more opium from the intellectuals (Aron), but the ambitions of the new well-thought-out clerics continue to nurture democratic hyper-legitimacy.

Plato’s observation is still valid: Democracy is an irresistible force of change that tends to instability. His Eros leads to his Thanatos. Democracy can survive as long as the agony of the conflict continues – but its overcoming in consensus-mode represents its death certificate. The perpetual peace promised by ideologies is disguised in the messianic garb of final reconciliation. Although our liberal democracies may boast, in the face of bloodthirsty totalitarianisms, that they have not fulfilled these promises in the death camps, they cannot deny that their aspirations lead politics directly to the graveyard.

Democratic disease requires, in the pharmacological vision linked to politics as medicinal knowledge, a remedy. Faced with the civilizing crisis caused by the utopian and futuristic politics of ideologies, there is only room for the skeptical response of political realism. It is what the Italian sociologist Carlo Gambescia calls “sad liberalism.”

Political democracy can only survive by returning to its first desecration root that today demands the proclamation of ideological atheism. A deeply religious spirit like Simone Weil’s had no qualms about speaking of “purifying atheism.” Oakeshott also contrasted the politics of faith and the politics of skepticism. To regain effective political will, it is necessary to promote a re-secularization of European public life.

Pierre Bayle claimed that demons prefer idolatry to atheism. “If it is merely a question of organizing an earthly paradise, there are plenty of priests. The devil is enough,” wrote Gómez Dávila. “Demons squat on our adaodoned altars,” said Ernst Jünger. Democratic soteriology has ended up directing politics from the world of men to the heaven of the gods. This Promethean impulse of the “Black Mass” (John Gray), a political demonology, supported by the legitimizing mantle of a mystical discourse (Saint-Simon‘s “new Christianity”, Pierre Lerroux’s “religious democracy”), nests in the “ myth of the new man ”studied by Dalmacio Negro.

Cultivated by philosophical modernity and disputed in a regime of mimetic rivalry (Girard) by modern ideologies that promote collective intramundane self-salvation, this myth removes democracy from the land that men tread on, to elevate them to the false condition of angels. “Qui fait l’ange fait la bête,” (“He who becomes an angel becomes a beast”), Pascal said. Democratic theology is an anthropotheism that bestializes man in the name of his divinization.

The remnants of secularist criticism (actually a confused symbiosis of moralism and materialism) preach the pressing need for a definitive expulsion of the merchants who pollute the public space. Necessary but not a sufficient measure. The reconquest of the agora requires above all the recovery of the public virtue of irreverence in the face of “democratic fundamentalism” (Gustavo Bueno).

Only the moral and intellectual force of sacrilegious skepticism will work the necessary miracle of the banishment of “the faith of demons” (Hadjad). Unable to “tie” to heaven by way of the desacralization generated by “Christian subversion” (Ellul), the spiritual forces of demons are chained to “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12). In this sense, the fight against the political religions of the princes of this world is inevitable. Democracy against demonocracy. There is more than a play on words in this opposition. Perhaps it contains the dramatic historical dilemma that is presented to the future of Western political societies.

There is no other medicine that cures the sick: Only wicked exorcists will save democracy from itself.

Domingo González Hernández holds a PhD in political philosophy from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is a professor at the University of Murcia. His recent book is René Girard, maestro cristiano de la sospecha (René Girard, Christian Teacher of Suspicion) He is also the Director of the podcast “La Caverna de Platón” for the newspaper La Razón. He has explored the political possibilities of Girardian mimetic theory in more than twenty studies and academic papers. His latest publication is “La monarquía sagrada y el origen de lo político: una hipótesis farmacológica” (“Sacred monarchy and the origin of politics: a pharmacological hypothesis”), Xiphias Gladius, 2020.

The image shows The Parthenon, a watercolor by Frederic Edwin Church, painted 1871.

Translated from the Spanish by N. Dass

Part II – A House Besieged: The American People Meet Their Match

Introduction

Last month we learned who the American People are. Armed with this information, this month we explore the unusual situation America finds itself in at this moment. The bloodline People have collided with various interests who have confederated against them. International conspiracy, dubious health regulations, peculiar weather, and rioting are intelligible in this context. As we’ll see, in this, there is nothing new under the sun.

As discussed in my previous essay, we learned who the People are. Using legal, historical, and observational data it is evident the People refer to the constitutors of the various American states, i.e., those men who signed the charters, declarations, and constitutions of the 18th Century which asserted that Britain’s North American colonies were no longer under the Crown corporation’s jurisdiction. Additionally, their families (i.e., the Posterity so often mentioned in writings of the period) are also the People. Finally, so as the People’s posterity not turn into an inbred caste, the constituting People allowed for the occasional addition of talented outsiders through marriage or adoption. This is the reason, for example, why America’s ruling class pays such attention to their Ivy League colleges.

Wait, you interject. Am I saying that when the town mayor and state rep and governor and president and senator talk about the People, and doing the best for the People, and fighting for the People, and protecting and serving the People, that they are not jabbering on about me? Alas, my friend, this is so. Break out your Kleenex.

Larger Context

By the by, while my comments here explore the localized American situation, this knowledge is applicable to world events in general. It is true that there are ideological differences throughout governments. Wahabi Arabia, Red China, and Republican France, for example, all have different governing systems. However, the nations of the world operate using a largely interchangeable legal system. Lost, these last few centuries, among the personalities and speeches and philosophies; lost among passionate and abstract discussions of monarchy and democracy, has been the irresistible rise of the worldwide legal system.

All such systems have come about in more or less the same fashion as America. Namely, some determined faction of the bourgeoisie, a crew somehow locked out of the hall of powers, declare themselves a People, they fight some war to a successful finish, and then they spend the rest of their lives encouraging fellow travelers in other nations to do the same. Rinse and repeat for 300 years.

Our order, the Liberal order, is the order of the People; it is the order of shopkeepers and attorneys. Since that crew wiggled out from under the thumbs of princes and bishops in the 18th Century, they have spared no effort in building their system. Like the Romans whose legacy they pretend to, the People are brusque to their foes, merciless to compatriots who break ranks.

The present pariah statuses of North Korea and Iran, the rough demise of Saddam Hussain and Muammar Gaddafi are suddenly intelligible in light of these dynamics. Second and Third World peoples, forever rag-dolled by the worldwide People, are coincidentally the less legalized populations of the planet. Less do their daily transactions, behaviors, and movements pass through the ledger of bankers, less are they subject to barristers’ regulable STRAWMAN persons, than the rest of mankind. Better than through the lens of race or economy, the poor treatment of these poor peoples can be understood via the dynamic of who the People are, who plays along with them, and who does not.

This Moment

Knowledge of who the People are is a hard pill to swallow. It’s cozier to think that I am the People. Just thinking, That political hack is talking to me! gives me tingles for days. However, tingles aside, knowledge is power, and a mature man knows that even unhappy knowledge allows one to discern events more sharply. It is not a bad thing to be disillusioned.

2020 has been a peculiar year. Whatever Coronavirus is, a botched bioweapon attack, an unintentional lab leak, a seasonal flu nastier than normal, the press has strung out a mild public threat into the story of the year. A sickness easy enough to protect vulnerable men from, has turned into another Black Death, at least on Plato’s 24/7 T.V. wall. America’s racial tension, what tension there is, was something that was either already ably being addressed by local community organizations or so removed from most people’s experience as to be merely an abstract academic conversation.

This marginal problem sparked intestine protests whose necessity only rivals for curiosity their apparent ability to be turned on and off like a switch. A country which still can’t bring itself to call the 2007 crash a depression finds itself with 25% unemployment, and no one seems especially concerned. This startling statistic. and its indifferent reaction, is only bested by an odder development, that universal basic income has found a warm reception in the land of independence.

Christianity, the one social force with enough heft to counter the overreach of the state, has shown itself a toothless shell. Besides some plucky and scattered congregations, the Protestant sects have stood down en masse and, less forgivable, the Catholic Church has become a crouching client of the Federal government. Lastly, much like the rioting of 2020, the dial of nature seems to be cranked up this year with bomb cyclones, derechos, biblical locusts, and a West Coast endlessly aflame. What a year!

The Confrontation

As sure as we know the membership of the People, America’s present instability can be understood as a confrontation between the People and various resentful outside forces who have joined their interests. They include various New Men (i.e., in the Roman sense; those like the Clinton or Obama families who’ve only lately been grafted into the patrician class; they who have little love for the People, nor the People for them), state interests (elements lately called the “Deep State,” including HAARP), and tech and fintech businesses who are quickly overtaking the nation-state in terms of the resources it can marshal for its ends.

For the sake of ease, I will refer to this diverse clique as “technocrats” since digital interests make up the stoutest contingent of this confederation. Their near-term goal is to shove back increasing regulation; their larger aim is the end of the nation state. This is what they mean by the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Historical Backdrop

What we are seeing is nothing new. Rome saw this same confrontation happen. While American Indian, ancient Greek, and Medieval European systems influenced the government of 1787, the Roman Republic provided the largest example for the Founding Fathers to emulate. The 18th Century was a time peculiarly given over to reading ancient Roman history. As such, the Founders were aware of a tension which developed in the old Italian state, namely, the Roman People, the patricians, were slowly but surely outmatched by the rising equites.

Originally, the equite (i.e., cavalry) class consisted of the lower ranks of the patricians. Necessity eventually required enlarging the membership of the equites to include the wealthier plebeians. As the obligations of the state, the size of the army, and the sloth of the ruling class increased in the Late Republic, by around the time of the Servile Wars (ca.,100 BC) the equites ceased to have any real military role in the Roman army. All that remained to consume their days was wealth and ambition. By artful patronage and social entropy, as the decades wore on, the equites were able to gain the upper hand in their struggle with the Senate.

Nothing New Under The Sun

A like dynamic to Rome’s is at play in America. In place of the Roman People, we have the American People. Both are principally defined by bloodline membership. In place of the equites we have the technocrats. Both the equites and the technocrats found themselves under systems which restricted their growth. Just as the cursus honorum restricted the upper echelons of Roman rule to the patricians, so do various elements of the Liberal order hold back the dreams and schemes of the technocrats.

Just as the equites chafed under the mos maiorum, the ancient customs and mindset which undergirded the civic behavior of the Republic, so the technocrats languish under the assumptions of the Liberal order. We may save the specifics of Rome for another day, but to grasp the dynamics of America in 2020, we must remind ourselves of three points assumed by the present order. These are rationality, free speech, and the public space. The People’s nation-state system at least nominally believes in these things; the technocrats do not. Indeed, these three assumptions stand in the way of the latter’s greater growth.

Underlying Suppositions Of The Liberal Order

The present order assumes most men are mostly rational most of the time. It believes men can act with maturity and foresight to make intelligent decisions. Voting only works, after all, if the voters are rational. This is the chief reason Enlightenment states are heavy-laden with schools, libraries, and news media. Whatever raisons d’etre those fields may put out to encourage participation, the state’s interest is to form a well-equipped citizenry.

Connected to this rationality is the idea of free speech. All those well-informed citizens need to be able to compare notes in an unfettered fashion.

Lastly, we have the concept of the public space. This is this most mysterious concept of the present order. We’ve all heard the expression, but what does it mean? The concept of the public space arose in opposition to the Medieval order, an arrangement where everything was private. Private roads, private forests, private rivers, private courts, everything was the private property of someone. The Early Modern public sphere allowed all the little guys in a community to form a social force which could counteract any private interest which arose. This often abused, nearly forgotten concept is the assumption behind all Liberal states.

A rational electorate, freedom of speech, and the public space are hard-forged concepts which rank amongst the defining ideas of the Modern age. Those given to the notion of there being a “Postmodern” age point to the mid-20th Century decomposition of these assumptions as the definitive parameters of this term. However, the long rot of those concepts is only now manifesting. Even five or ten years ago online platforms at least made idealistic pretenses to excuse censorship. Now they shamelessly cite willfulness.

The Dynamic

The parallels between the Roman People and the American People don’t end with our earlier examples. As French Royalist Mallet du Pan famously noted, “The revolution eats its own.” And so it does. Lest we get sentimental and fall into the conservative’s bad habit of automatically siding with an older group over a newer, we remember that in their day the Roman People were just as much haughty upstarts as their American pretenders. They who ejected the Etruscan kings were themselves ejected by the next upstarts, the equites. Just so the American People – they who ejected the agents of the Crown are now besieged by a new social troop.

In the midst of this siege here’s the rub: America’s People have no more fight in them than Rome’s in the days of Marius. Like in the ancient world, America’s People have come to scorn their mos maiorum just as the Roman Senate did theirs. If this were not so they would never have permitted an admiralty statutory system to masquerade as law, they would never have tolerated jobberism among Americans, they would never have erected FBIs on top of CIAs on top of NSAs on top of DARPAs, if they believed the assumptions of their Liberal order they inherited.

Here the People stand in 2020: faithless, compromised, and indifferent. They may yet spur themselves on to one or two more victories before they’re through. They may well beat back the present assault. History trends as history does, though, and the odds are always with the determined. Between the People and the technocrats, there is no doubt who has stamina and who does not. We lose in any case.

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Main Street, Gloucester,” by John Sloan, painted in 1917.

Part I – In Plain Sight: Who Are “We, The People?”

Introduction: Misunderstandings

Anyone with an ounce of spiritual awareness and emotional sensitivity knows low-level blues some of the time. Even our metric friends, they who hold but a diminutive gram’s worth of discernment, know well this vale of tears. In the catalogue of woes which stalk long downtrodden man, the disconnect between impression and reality is prominent.

At a political hearing I attended earlier this year, for example, I was taken aback to learn how divergent our general understanding of the immune system is as compared to where science presently stands. What we are taught in high school is about a century out of date.

Another example is seen with driverless trucking features on TV. Broadcast in North America and Europe, these specials have all the schadenfreude that reality TV can dish up. The producers narrate as high-tech lorries roll across the screen. As these programs unfold they inevitably cut back and forth to befuddled truckers. Always American Southerners, the interviewees coyishly confront their livelihood evaporating before their bloodshot eyes. Remarkably nonplussed (or fronting heavily), they assure the host that such machines will, “Never take off.” After all, “Who’d you trust on a highway, me or some robot.” The producers have made their point: the wagoneers are out of touch with reality.

We won’t even get started on the perception-reality dynamic surrounding face masks vis-a-vis virus protection.

Think of all the lost opportunities, the mistaken conclusions, the wasted health and wealth and peace of mind which is out there because people’s perceptions do not match reality. It adds up and it wears one down. I suppose there’s some proof of Original Sin in all this. And we see the same disconnect with politics.

A Most Popular Crew

One error heard throughout these States united concerns invocation of “the People.” Their mention, typically an ever-present warble, becomes a clashing gong each presidential election. And why wouldn’t it? The purported benefit to the people can justify any scheme. Is mechanical abortion good? Yes, because the people benefit. Should it be permitted? Of course not, babies are people too. Some foreign country must be invaded to avenge the people! No, it mustn’t. People might be killed. Taxes are necessary to provide services to the people. Taxes steal the people’s money. You get the point. Sprinkle the people on it, and any topic is justified.

The purpose of this article is to pin down the members of this timely clique. Who are the people? Or rather, who are the People? (n.b., We’ll get into the capitalization significance below). The People must really be special to have so many skins talking about them! The purpose of this article is not to lampoon the present condition of Western democracy, a ludicrous system custom-fit for every two-bit grifter from your town hall alderman to your Supreme Court heavy hitter. Nor do I write this with a moralizing spirit. I am not saying the conclusion herein is good or bad. Alas, political discourse is frustratingly given over to what people think of this or that occurrence; little attention is given to how things are. Let us put our emotions and impressions and solutions aside. Let us look at the naked reality.

The Rub

That we not beat around the bush, the People are a specific group of men distinct from the mass of Americans. Almost certainly you, kind reader, are not among the People. Their concerns are not your concerns, their loves are not your loves, their fears are not your fears. Only by a polite omission on the part of the People themselves, combined with a baseless and monstrous assumption on your part, do you believe you are among the People.

By blood, or marriage, the People were or are those related to the 18th-century constitutors of the state and Federal governments of America, as well as those men so involved with states later incorporated into these United States. Far from being a stealthy clique, they number in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps the millions. Far from being secretive, their identity is trumpeted in both the legal documents they publish and it is plainly seen in their behavior. With eyes to see, one stands in awe of just how explicit, frequent, and honest the People are in advertising their distinction from the regular Americans they rule over.

There are four reasons which support this unusual and uncomfortable, but inevitable, conclusion. They are (1) legal grammar, (2) the Founders’ historical awareness, (3) the U.S. Constitution, and (4) the present and historical behavior of the People.

Specificity & Hierarchy: Legal Grammar

The legal system is specific. Indeed, specificity is shy only of artificiality when comprehending the legal control matrix. Without general nouns there is no way whereby one group can be designated from another. Likewise, without proper nouns there is no way things of a kind can be isolated from their larger mass. What book-hoarding boon is a library card if it has no name to it and if anyone in the town may use it? What fear does a speeding ticket hold if there is no specific man to mail it to? Without specificity, statists cannot exert their will upon their subjects. Legality demands specificity.

General specificity only gets one so far. Hierarchy is needed for greater distinction. If we all have individualized library cards, to carry over the above example, who goes first if we both want to check out the same book? To see the People for who they are we need to unlock the hierarchy their system assumes. The maxims of law and the doctrine of capitis diminutio are our keys.

The maxims are the skeleton upon which the legal system hangs. They’re analogous to a Catholic’s examination of conscience for Confession. They are less a list of hard and fast regulations and more of a general collection of proverbs which explain the principles of legal land. Woe betide those who do not make this distinction! The penitent becomes a neurotic and the barrister a hack should they put such enumerations literally into practice. Many a soul and many a lawyer has been ruined by this oversight. When it comes to the maxims of law, the spirit rules and the letter kills.

The creator controls, is one such proverb. In fact, it’s a truism so fundamental to legalism that it often does not appear in published lists of maxims. Only the frequent reading of case law, or “reading between the lines” on the compiled legal proverbs cited in Black’s or Bouvier’s dictionaries, will discover this plain principle. Upon this doctrine, for example, I have the sole authority to decide what gets mentioned in this article. I am the creator of this article; I am it’s sovereign. However, should I desire this piece to be published on a platform created by another, I must submit this creation to that creation, myself being the petitioning party. I must subordinate this sovereign creation to that one (i.e., for editing, formatting, etc.). From the doctrine of “the creator controls” the whole legal structure flows.

Capitis deminutio is a principle which the Founding Fathers, mostly lifelong barristers and/or merchants, would have been familiar with, at the establishment of the country’s governing system. A concept from Roman law, a system which all English-speaking structures eventually default to, should there be no usable precedents, capitis deminutio designates the amount of control an entity is under. Long story short, so that we don’t get tangled in jargon, the capitalization of the first letter of a noun in legal land designates something as both a specific something, and under the ownership of another. If you are up for a load of jargon, here’s the definition of capitis diminutio from Black’s Law, 2nd edition: “In Roman law, [capitis diminutio was a] diminishing or abridgment of personality. This was a loss or curtailment of a man’s status or aggregate of legal attributes and qualifications, following upon certain changes in his civil condition. It was of three kinds, enumerated as follows:

Capitis diminutio maxima. The highest or most comprehensive loss of status. This occurred when a man’s condition was changed from one of freedom to one of bondage, when he became a slave. It swept away with it all rights of citizenship and all family rights.

Capitis diminutio media. A lesser or medium loss of status. This occurred where a man lost his rights of citizenship, but without losing his liberty. It carried away also the family rights.

Capitis diminutio minima. The lowest or least comprehensive degree of loss of status. This occurred where a man’s family relations alone were changed. It happened upon the arrogation of a person who had been his own master, (sui juris,) or upon the emancipation of one who had been under the patria potestas. It left the rights of liberty and citizenship unaltered. See Inst. 1, 1G, pr.; 1, 2, 3; Dig. 4, 5, 11; Mackeld. Rom. Law.”

Thus “the People” in a legal document, such as, the U.S. Constitution, or in the mouth of someone holding a legal office ultimately under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, refers to a specific group of people, rather than any old sinner walking on top of America.

Togas & Muskets: The Framers’ Historical Awareness

Second, the claim that the People refer to a specific caste of men is supported by the historical awareness of the Founding Fathers. They were a clutch deeply steeped in ancient history. Their use of antique references bolstered the point that their political arguments were timeless.
When news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord came to holy Connecticut, for example, jovial Israel Putnam immediately dropped his plowing in situ and raced Cincinnatus-style to join the Massachusetts rebels. About two months before Dr. Joseph Warren became Bunker Hill’s most famous casualty, he was seen speechifying on the streets of Boston in a Roman toga!

The American Revolution came at a time when various trends were at their zenith. The equality of armaments between rulers and ruled, is one example, the afterglow of a Protestant revival is another, and the obsession of that generation with the likes of Plutarch and Cicero is yet one more example. The Framers could not get enough of ancient history.

Those acquainted with Rome will be aware of the divide between the patrician and plebeian classes. The interaction between those who traced their families back to the original stock of Rome (patricians) and those who moved in later (plebeians) provides an enduring thread through all the turns and jolts of Roman history. But even the dullest pleb, a manifest client of Sulla or Caesar, one hopelessly addicted to bread and circuses, would never seriously think the “P” in SPQR (i.e., Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the People of Rome) meant him. The “P” for People meant the patricians. Everyone else was along for the ride.

Communist countries like China and North Korea are more in line with this Roman bluntness than the democratic West on this point. Everyone knows when an office holder in those countries talks about “the People” they’re referring to the members of the Party, which is considered to be a type of incarnation of the will of the populace.

The American Framers meant to provide against a repeat of the ancient slide towards democracy and chaos. Far from being a sexist, hypocritical oversight, their limit of the voting franchise to men, and only men of property at that, was a direct homage to the early Roman Republic. Of course, they would say, men of maturity and wealth – the material success stories of a community – ought to be the ones to steer the ship of state. Jobbers and renters were not fit to run a county, having so unimpressively run their lives. Reprising the paterfamilias role, the males of the early American republic would stand in for all their family members’ concerns in the public sphere. They would save – not exclude – women, children, and the indigent from the morass of electoral politics.

In Rome the patrician class was not static. There was the process of adoption. Far removed from motives of modern charity or conjugal sterility, adoption was offered to promising youths entering their adult years. The Emperor Augustus is the most famous example of this. It was a means to ensure inheritance in a society with disabilities on women’s ability to inherit property.

Teasing these points out, the existence and stability of the patrician class and their use of adoption, we see how the American constitutors were primed by their interest in Rome to create a governing caste in their “People,” which was stable yet occasionally open to fresh, well-vetted blood via marriage and other forms of incorporation.

In Plain View: The People Define Themselves

The third point is proof from the U.S. Constitution. We take the legal and historical setups above into this consideration. Now that we know the principles under which the Framers operated, the identity of the People is hardly a question at all, as we examine a document they produced.

The U.S. Constitution is a contract using specific legal language. It plainly states for whom the new government exists. It famously begins, “We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” There you have it. The United States Federal government, and its incorporated state entities, exist for the sole benefit of the People.

The “We” and “ourselves” refer to the signatories themselves, the 39 souls who met in Independence Hall. Through the doctrine of delegation, however, the People also included those men who constituted the several state governments which dispatched those representatives to Philadelphia. Remember, the creator controls. Thus, by the agentic, representative relationship, the Peoples of the 13 states were invisibly present at that Pennsylvania meeting, too.

Then there is the mention of “our Posterity.” Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a text whose definitions are closer to the Founding Fathers’ understanding than our dictionaries, defines posterity as, “Descendants; children, children’s children, etc. indefinitely; the race that proceeds from a progenitor. The whole human race are the posterity of Adam.” His second definition defines posterity as, “In a general sense, succeeding generations; opposed to ancestors.”

We know the first definition is what the constitutors intended because legal language is specific, not general. John Bouvier’s 1839 dictionary defines posterity as, “All the descendants of a person in a direct line.” Therefore, the Posterity mentioned in the Constitution refers to the descendants of the constitutors. Unless you are one of the fortunate few hundred thousand or millions of souls related to those state or national leaders, you are not the People. With the legal definitions, principles, maxims of the system itself, not what we assume they mean, we come to know who the People are. Only an undiscerning and gross assumption suggests that “We the People” applies to all Americans.

Distinctions, Distinctions, Distinctions: The Vote And The Election

Lost on Americans is the distinction between two events which the media conflate into one: The Presidential vote and the Presidential election. They are not the same event. The early November vote is largely a straw poll, while the December election makes the actual choice of President. The November event is a way to take the pulse of the country. It has no direct say-so on who becomes President. It is nearly, but as we shall see not totally, meaningless.

The November vote is analogous to Catholic parish administration. The priest has absolute, official, final say in ordinary decisions for his parish. In no way whatsoever is he obliged to listen to the directives of his council. Yet to go against the zeitgeist of the parish council in a major way would be foolish. It would create sullen, testy subjects. Such a rash override would form a block of uncertain loyalty should the priest run afoul of the bishop at some future date. In the Catholic parish council as soon as in the American vote, the mob has power of a sort. However, that power is consultative not formal. At base, the November vote serves as a psychological release valve. It lets off tension which otherwise would manifest itself in discord and revolution.

The election, a distinct event from the vote, is a quiet event which takes place in the 50 state capitals mid-December of each election cycle. This limited December event has in fact all of the import which people ascribe to the popular November event. The tally of the December electors decides who will be President, not the vote.

The electors are drawn from the suggestions of the state political parties. They’re largely the same sorts who participate as delegates at the state and national conventions charged with selecting the presidential candidates. To follow the cursus honorum of such party delegates/electors is to see the People in their natural habitat.

At this year’s Democratic National Convention, where state party delegates met to choose their national candidate, there was a remarkably helpful commercial released, entitled, “We The People at the Democratic Convention.” A superficial viewing showed a diverse collection of Americans of all races, classes, and creeds. However, a closer re-watch reveals that all participants were sitting office holders, Bar attorneys, or DNC representatives. Once you know who the People are, you’ll never hear politicians the same way again!

By Their Works: The People In Action

Lastly, the People are a specific clique based on the observable behavior of the American ruling class. From time to time, articles appear noting the relationship of this or that politician with this or that movie star or commercial mogul. If only in the interest of trivia, most Americans probably know a few examples of this.

The relationship between the second and sixth Presidents (Adamses), as well as the 41st and 43rd ones (Bushes), are commonly known. The simplified observation that California Governor Gavin Newson is the “nephew” of California Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (herself the daughter of a Maryland Congressman and the sister of a Baltimore mayor) has received some press, as Mr. Newson has run California off a financial cliff in 2020. Less well known is that Gavin Newson is the removed cousin of the far more useful soul, the harpist, Joanna Newson.

And relationality in the ruling class isn’t a modern phenomenon. Chilly Connecticut, where I compose this article, was started by a breakaway faction of Puritans led by Thomas Hooker. The good reverend left his mark in the new-found colony. Aaron Burr, George Catlin, J.P. Morgan, and William Howard Taft were all descendants, with Hooker’s blood running through the veins of the Pierpoint and Edwards families.

I could go on and on. If you spend an hour or two nosing around your socially-distanced library, if you connect the dots between the “related to’s” in the biography section, you’ll see the combination the People have going. You may even visit Google and use their “People also search for” feature to do the same. If you invest the time, these simple experiments about the People will solidify profound conclusions about American government than do isolated barroom anecdotes. If one understands the People to be the specific class they define themselves as, a great many baffling statements and state policies become sensible.

There is a Masonic aspect to this topic I only skirt now. It’s a theme which could swallow this discussion. Suffice it to say, the practitioners of occult schools were well represented at the state and national constituting conventions of late 18th-century America. Within those communities the use of adept symbolism and “open secrets” are no strangers. The occultation of the meaning of the word People is not beyond the pale in this context as well. But before we get all tangled up in “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4) we remember that, like the Roman system, the present order is simply codified nepotism. Don’t overthink the motives of the People.

Conclusion

Plato argued that societies need a noble lie to keep them living together harmoniously. Such is the spurious assumption that all Americans are the People. By quietly letting the mass of men believe they are this group, the American system rectified the failings of ancient experiments at self-government.

As noted, one of those failings was a tension between the patricians and the plebeians, the old blue bloods and later settlers. One way to provide against the selfsame tensions which destroyed the Roman Republic is not to mention this social division, however true it is. If the pleb believes he is a patrician a great source of resentment is avoided.

Power to the People!

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, Cincinnatus abandons the Plough to dictate Laws to Rome, by Juan Antonio de Ribera; painted in 1806.

Subsidiary And Free Enterprise

Subsidiarity is the Catholic social doctrine which recommends that whenever we face a problem, other things equal, the most decentralized institution we have at our disposal should be the one mobilized to solve it.

For example, if it is a choice between the national and the state government as to which should be brought to bear to address a challenge, and there are no other considerations, then we should rely on the latter, not the former. Similarly, we should favor in this regard the city over the state government, the borough rather than the city, the town instead of the borough, and the neighborhood association vis-à-vis the town.

Let us allow a major advocate of this doctrine to put it into his own words.

According to Pope Pius XI, in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno: “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.” (emphasis added)

There are strong parallels between subsidiarity and the free enterprise system. We cannot of course equate the two, but the analogy is strong. Decision-makers such as entrepreneurs, business owners, workers, are subsidiary to government. If there is any clash between them, it is the state that prevails. The government taxes firms, not the other way around. Capitalists are regulated by public servants, not vice versa.

What is the case for preferring free enterprise to government other than subsidiarity? The market consists of nothing but voluntary trade, buying, selling, renting, lending, borrowing. In each and every case, assuming no anti market fraud, both participants necessarily gain at least ex antel and in the overwhelming number of cases, ex post, too. Consumers, under free enterprise, can exercise their dollar vote several times per day; but in the political system, even under full democracy, they can enter the ballot box only once ever several years.

Moreover, the people are constrained with a package deal in the latter case, but not the former; they cannot pick and choose policies except for referendums, as they can in the market. Thus, consumers have far more control over businesses than do voters over politicians.

The empirical evidence attesting to the benefits of the free market system vis-à-vis political regulation is overwhelming; there are several almost controlled experiments that demonstrate that: East and West Germany, North and South Korea, for example. The poorest countries tend to rely on socialism; the wealthiest, on capitalism.

Given the strong parallels between capitalism and subsidiarity, one would expect that advocates of the latter would look positively on the former. They are not quite as alike as the two proverbial “peas in a pod” but the resemblance is strong. But this expectation is erroneous. Supporters of subsidiarity are bitter opponents of the free enterprise system.

Consider the following:

“…all products and profits, save only enough to repair and renew capital, belong by very right to the workers….The easy gains that a market unrestricted by any law opens to everybody attracts large numbers to buying and selling goods, and they, their one aim being to make quick profits with the least expenditure of work, raise or lower prices by their uncontrolled business dealings so rapidly according to their own caprice and greed that they nullify the wisest forecasts of producers ” (Pope Pius XI, also in his 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno)

Continues this author: “… the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life – a truth which the outcome of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated. Therefore, it is most necessary that economic life be again subjected to and governed by a true and effective directing principle.”

How are we to account for this bifurcation? It might well be that this devotee of Catholic social thought suffers from a hate capitalism syndrome, so deeply embedded that no amount of evidence, nor considerations of logic, can overcome it. He wants to support subsidiarity, which means allowing markets to run the economy. But he finds economic freedom objectionable. He wants to have his cake, subsidiarity and hence laissez faire capitalism, and eat it too, support government control of the economy. He does not see the tension in this position, not to say logical contradiction.

The middle name of “free enterprise” is practically “subsidiarity.” No, “free subsidiarity enterprise” does not roll off the tongue all that easily, but that is only, perhaps, because we are not used to it. From a substantive point of view, it is just about a tautology.

If they want to be coherent, the proponents of Catholic social thought are logically obligated to favor capitalism, not condemn it. I’m not going to hold my breath until that happy day comes around. On the other hand, miracles sometimes occur!

Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows. He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shook his hand. Block has never washed that hand since. So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.

The image shows, “Vegetable Market in Venice,” By Camillo Bortoluzzi, painted in 1894.

All About Presidential Primaries

For good or ill we are in an election year and a major one at that. All the seats in the House are up for grabs, one-third of Senate offices are in contest, and of course so is the Presidency. No sooner has one election gone, then another is in the offing. And while “blackout periods” (legal restrictions on advertising before election day) may shield our mental space for a few precious days, we are helpless otherwise.

Besides, even the murkiest of blackout periods don’t stop radio showmen, television talking-heads, or (horrors!) YouTube comments from jabbering on. Even the heartiest news hounds weary of election updates by September. Come October, the best of us look like deer at the end of the rut, scrolling away at our news feeds in a bleary daze.

Luckily, I’ve caught you before the thing gets going in earnest; when we’re spry and sprite, and when we still have mental hard-drive space to learn a thing or two.

For all the minutiae – and drama – the press serves up in great doses, it is easy to be ignorant of the actual mechanics of our electoral process. What exactly is the path from idea to execution? How does one go from mucking around a run for office, chewing it over in one’s mind and with one’s friends around the water cooler, to formally applying as a candidate, to ultimately ending up on a party’s ticket?

Definitions

At this time last year, when your minds and mine were far from this election, there were over 600 registered candidates running for the Presidency. Over 600 people embarked on the preliminary steps of a process we will now explore. How those hundreds of souls are whittled down to one candidate is done through the primary process. It is a system we find ourselves in at this moment.

As we set out on this exploration, we must make a distinction early on between caucuses and primaries. For stylistic reasons, I’ve chosen to use “primary” for both actual primaries and the rarer caucuses, unless otherwise noted. Both meetings are part of the opening steps in choosing a party’s candidate for the general election. Both are inter-party elections held to choose delegates from the state parties to participate in the national conventions held the summer preceding the November election.

The name-difference, firstly, designates who is funding those meetings. Caucuses are private gatherings which are run and paid for directly by the private political parties (n.b., both the GOP and the DNC are, after all, private associations). Caucuses are altogether in-house affairs. On the other hand, primaries are organized and paid for by the states. Besides funding, the name-difference indicates a difference in voting styles.

Caucuses use open ballots, everyone knows who voted for whom. They’re closer to open meetings than anything, and they try to arrive at a consensus. Primaries use secret ballots of the sort we’re familiar with in the general November election, with the winner usually receiving all that state’s delegates in the summer.

The overall trend since the 19th-Century, and especially since the 1970s, has been towards the primary system. Various dynamics come into play behind this trend. The most outstanding argument includes the perception that primaries are more open and democratic. The merits of this supposed openness is something we’ll look at later. (Not all that glitters, is gold.) In any case the purpose of the primaries is to choose delegates, who themselves will choose their party’s national presidential candidate.

Early History

How did the primary system arise? After all, political parties were not a planned feature of our government. Indeed, during the Revolution, the subsequent six-year rule of the Articles of Confederation, and during the final system developed at the Constitutional Convention, parties (or factions, as they were called then), were gravely cautioned against.

With the heavy examples of Rome and England during their civil wars, and the persistent machinations of factions in Medieval republics – think Romeo and Juliet’s Verona – weighing on their minds, the Founding Fathers were greatly set against such combinations.

Alexander Hamilton, oddly enough, given his later support of the Federalist party, warned in a tract, “There is no political truth better established by experience nor more to be deprecated in itself, than that this most dangerous spirit [of political parties] is apt to rage with greatest violence, in governments of the popular kind, and is at once their most common and their most fatal disease.”

The most revered statement in all of American political religion is Washington’s “Farewell Address.” It was once an oration commonly memorized by America’s schoolchildren. In it the outgoing president cautioned (in the best tradition of 18th-Century run-on sentences), “[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

There were a number of Constitutional measures in place to squelch “partyism,” such as, the appointment of a presidential runner-up at be Vice President. Yet even the warning given at Washington’s 1796 retirement – or rather, his re-retirement, the general having first demurred further public life in 1783 at the disbanding of the Continental Army – the young nation was drifting towards a seemingly factionalism. It is a drive that seems to be irrepressible in men.

During the debates revolving around the ratification of the Constitution, two groups formed to voice their opposition to, or favor for the new national government. In after-years these groups metastasized. By the turn of the century, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, as the parties came to be known, were well on their way to becoming as entrenched as their Tory and Whig predecessors were during colonial days. Indeed, by the time the 19th-Century was well underway, America not only had parties in abstract, it actually had a “Whig” party!

Later History

Whatever the Framers’ thoughts on the matter, political groups were here to stay. Indeed, Washington himself threw in the oppositionist towel in 1798, saying, “You could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.”

Even Cinncinatus became a partyist. From those early groups, the caucus system developed. How it did so and how it eventually morphed into our present primary gauntlet is something we will look at now.

With or without parties there developed a need to select and publicize candidates up for office. Washington’s decision to bow out of a third term in the 1796 election created chaotic conditions for the new nation. In those days, before the passage of the 12th Amendment, every state Elector cast two votes for the two men thought best to be president.

With something of the logic of Europe’s parliamentary system, neither of these ballots was designated over the other. The man with the most votes in this semi-blind election became President; the runner up became the Vice President.

Because of this, because a large pool of candidates lowers the percentage one needs to win (i.e., if two men run, you need 51%; if three run, 34%, and so forth), the new American parties backed any number of candidates for President, hoping to get a majority in an over-saturated field. To our modern eyes this system becomes murkier when we remember that candidates at the turn of the 18th-Century, and indeed until the eve of the Civil War, did not actually campaign themselves.

With the fumes of the Framers’ wariness of ambition still lingering well into the following century, candidates sent their supporters out on the campaign trail to kiss babies and press the flesh, but they themselves did not budge from home.

The embryo of our present system goes back to those heady days of the 1796 and 1800 elections. In 1800 both Democratic-Republicans and Federalists held their first political caucuses. In the public, official arena those messy events spurred to passage of the 12th Amendment specifying the purpose of the Electors’ two votes.

It reads in part, “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President.”

We will move into the modern era and delineate the technical organization of the primaries. However, one last historical note ought to be mentioned. The caucus system by the mid-19th-Century would largely remain the same for the next 100 years. In the middle of that stretch, however, there occurred an electoral feature which is at once an element of our primary process today, and yet one whose historical impact likely is never to be matched. I speak of the split ticket of 1860.

In the run-up to the vote that year, the Democratic Party broke into three groups. Regionalism, slavery, tariffs, Federal power, and a host of topics, festering since before the Constitutional Convention came to a head in the 1860 election.

In this fateful contest, caucus candidates mounted their high horses. The typical bowing-out of contenders did not happen. Steven Douglas received the support of northern Democrats. John C. Breckinridge enjoyed the patronage of the southern wing of his party. More confusing still, Tennessee’s John Bell led a rump of the DNC, to work with remnants of the Whig Party, to form the Constitutional Union Party. The group was a desperate attempt to head off a war and largely represented western voters.

Whatever is to be said of the split ticketers, of their philosophical consistency and doggedness, a split ticket dooms a party to failure. This is what happened in 1860. Because the DNC was split, the insurgent Republican Party won the Presidency. With Abraham Lincoln set to come into office in March of the following year, South Carolina seceded in December 1860. The fallout from the caucuses of 1860 triggered an avalanche of events culminating in a civil war.

Schedule

By the time of the primaries, with many candidates campaigning for over a year before this actual first stage of the Presidential election process, the Iowa Caucus, begins. Preference, ease, tradition, and vanity contribute to the eclectic schedule of party meetings, every fourth spring.

At present, the schedule of the major gatherings is in Iowa on February 3. Note well that while primaries dominate nowadays, like a vestigial organ, the caucus format still officially kicks off the election cycle. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina follow later that month. The far-famed “Super Tuesday” follows on March 3, with 16 states and related entities, such as American Samoa – alone in the caucus format since Iowa – and “Democrats abroad” choosing their selections.

By the close of March, over half of the primary selection events are over. Humble Connecticut, the land of steady habits indeed, prudently falls in the middle of the primary/caucus season. On April 28th, it joins five other Northeastern states for meetings, primaries all. This participatory gauntlet concludes on June 6th with the Virgin Islands holding their last primary, in this case for the Democratic Party.

Beyond the “Big Two”

Lest they be omitted, we remember that there are not two but five political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Commission, the regulatory agency which monitors national election financing. Beside the “big two” so often mentioned, in descending order based on the number of their members the other groups are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.

Primaries are fearfully expensive things to organize. According to the group Open Primaries, an association advocating primary reform, this stretch of the electoral cycle costs nearly half a billion dollars. This is a burden unsustainable by orders of magnitude for third parties. Thus, the Green and Constitution parties skip right over the primary season and designate their candidate at their summertime conventions. The plucky Green Party will mount a modest total of four state gatherings this year, primaries all.

Straw Polls

For the truest of political junkies, those who cannot wait until the primaries to get their electoral “fix,” there are straw polls. These unofficial queries are conducted by any number of private associations and they often precede the actual primaries by several months.

The most revered of these queries was the Iowa Straw Poll (of happy memory). An heir in its way to the ‘70s democratic fervor which has so influenced the primaries as we know them, the Iowa poll was held by the GOP six months before the Iowa Caucus. The Poll was of mixed accuracy and intent. Over the six times it was held, it successfully chose the correct GOP nominee only three times, and that’s leaving aside the open question of whether the Poll was supposed to choose a mere winner in Iowa or the ultimate GOP nominee

Though a child of the ‘70s, the Iowa Straw Poll channeled something of a 19th-Century democratic hoedown. The Poll, whatever its inaccuracy, also served the role of part-fundraiser and part-summer barbeque. Quaint but inaccurate, the Iowa Straw Poll was discontinued in 2011. Brisket-loving politicos rallied to their state’s dear bellwether, however, and since 2015 the Iowa State Fair Straw Poll has been dishing out inaccurate electoral auguries.

Iowa

Unlike the majority of preliminary meetings Iowa has chosen the keep the minority caucus system. 1916 was the last time the state held a primary. Citing costs, they went back to the caucus system the following year.

They’ve kept it that way since. In response to upheavals during the 1968 cycle, the Democratic Party decided to spread out their nominating process over a longer period of time, and this explains the early February (and some years late-January) date. In 1972 the DNC held their first winter caucus. The Republican Party followed suit four years later, pulling the opening of their process to the same early date since.

Iowa’s system is anomalous. Not only does it still maintain a caucus format (a minority amongst the 50 states), it also does so in the dead of winter (when poor weather might deter voters and the aged from venturing out). The state’s demographics are peculiar too. Iowans are not especially representative of the larger American voter pool, being overwhelmingly white and rural. And those white and rural voters are few in number. With only six votes in the Electoral College, the winter meetings are about the only time national candidates pay attention to “the corn state.”

However, elections can be tied to hallowed custom. America’s agrarian days explain the tradition of our November election placement. It was chosen as a convenient post-harvest, pre-sowing month to travel in. Religious concerns lie behind like the choice of second Tuesday election. Such a day avoided both Sunday travel in pre-automobile America and the Catholic All Saints’ holiday.

Even recent customs such as the ubiquitous “I voted” sticker, popular since its introduction in the ‘80s, are firmly kneaded into the county’s electoral customs. With the overall trend towards earlier and earlier primaries, Iowa has staked its claim on democratic ritual. They will not budge on their February date.

Tradition aside, however, the main argument for Iowa keeping their caucus and their early date is that it allows otherwise unknown contenders to elbow their way into the fray. The greatest example of this is Jimmy Carter. Taking advantage of the post-’68 McGovern reforms and liberalization of campaign finance, Carter’s team aggressively pounded the pavement to get their candidate into the media’s spotlight and onto people’s radars.

It worked; and candidates have been trying to get that same edge ever since. As of last November, Democratic candidates visited Iowa more than 800 times. Donald Trump, who developed such a taste for rallies in 2016 that he has not stopped holding them in the intervening four years, visited Iowa last June as part of a state GOP fundraiser.

Super Tuesday And The Rest

Following the Iowa and New Hampshire gatherings, the next milestone on the journey to the White House is “Super Tuesday.” On that day, in early March, upwards of one-third of Americans are represented at the party polls. This year, California joins the 2016 shift of Texas to Super Tuesday. Both states have large populations, and large Hispanic populations at that.

The justification of their moves lies in the greater racial diversity they bring to the primary season. The late relocations of the Golden and Lone Star states add even more energy to Super Tuesday. Of course, high-minded motives of diversity aside, we mustn’t pretend that old fashioned vanity is innocent from the trend of state parties towards earlier and earlier starts in their nominating processes.

Platforms

When the primary season winds down this spring, what can we expect to see at the party conventions come summer? When the 3,769 Democratic delegates meet this July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and when the 2,551 Republican representatives meet this August in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be charged not only with choosing their nominee but also their party platform. What will the parties decide on? Standing at the cusp of this election year, primaries help shape the talking points of both parties for their official codification, come the summer conventions. Let us turn now to the platforms of the major candidates.

Donald Trump will doubtless take the Republican nomination. Six states’ GOPs – Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia – are confident enough in this that they have saved themselves logistical troubles and canceled their primaries altogether. While the party’s Presidential nominee is a done deal for Republicans, this year’s primaries still allow the political faithful the opportunity to develop their platform.

While the choice of the RNC’s candidate is open and shut this time around that does not mean President Trump is without challengers to his incumbency. Serving within the Republican Party, the same role that third parties do in the general election, three men are indeed running for the GOP nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor, Bill Weld, one-term “Tea Party” congressman, Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford all hope to inject various issues into platform discussions, which otherwise would go silent. Longest of long-shots all, these men will be successful, if they influence this August’s GOP convention. And like many a politician of many a stripe, defeat – even obviously and overwhelming defeat – always can prime the pump for the next run!

As for the Democratic Party, the winnowing has yet to begin in earnest. Yes, some have already dropped out, like former Montana governor, Steve Bullock, retired admiral, Joe Sestak, and California’s Attorney, General Kamala Harris; but some have also entered the race like Michael Bloomberg. There have been over 20 DNC candidates who were running at one time or another this cycle. At present there are 15 candidates, who have registered with the Federal Elections Commission on the DNC ticket.

The sheer volume of contenders this time around combines with the fact that some have been campaigning for a year already. Besides the 15, we often hear about, 270 other people are also running for the Democratic ticket. This mass promises to inject a number of new topics and positions into this campaign.

Due to the clear divide between career politicians, such as, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg, and relative neophytes, like Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, the DNC may be challenged by a similar split, which the Republicans experienced in 2016. Back then, the old guard were pitted against the “black horse” of the Trump campaign.

This was an upset which some in the GOP have not been quick in forgetting. A number of erratic decisions in the Trump administration, such as the DACA tug-of-war and the lack of control the President exercises over his advisers, are explainable in light of this in-house disquiet.

Amongst the Democrats, the split is between careerist candidates who boast of their experience in office against populist newcomers, promising more radical policies. “Lifers” like confident Joe Biden, who claims more qualifications than Henry Kissinger (a telling comparison), go toe-to-toe with populares, like newcomer, Andrew Yang, who promise more radical policies, such as, Universal Basic Income.

At this early stage of the race it seems that domestic topics will be of decidedly more interest to American voters than foreign policy. The student debt crisis, the massive disruption to come from looming automation and digitalization, and endless saga of American health care financing, all promise to hold more attention than they did during either the Bush or Obama days. These are concerns of average Americans.

But those average Americans aside, despite charges of undue Russian election interference and corruption in the Ukraine, despite some down and out neoconservatives still wraithing about Washington since the Bush II days, there is a pronounced disinterest in the Trump administration to become intrusively involved in overseas affairs in the manner of the previous two presidents (i.e., wars and coups). Whether one calls it “America first” or “isolationism,” the incumbent administration holds a lot of sway, when it comes to deciding the pressing topics of an election. It’s the home team advantage.

Conventions

The party primaries lead to the conventions. By the time they are held the summer prior to an election, most of the candidates have dropped out. Amongst those who remain, it’s usually obvious who will take the ticket. However, if they’ve the will – and the funding – some campaigns doggedly go to the bitter end.

With the horrible consequence of the 1860 split-ticket rattling around literate candidates’ heads, some candidates go to the bitter end in earnest, and more “play chicken,” backing down at the last minute. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” split in the 1912 election, is another memorable election in this regard. Woodrow Wilson, like Lincoln before him, came to power because of disunity within the other party. Of course, countless historical ramifications stem from Wilson’s subsequent victory.

Ross Perot’s 1992 break with the GOP, which paved the way for two-termer Bill Clinton to win the day, is the most recent example of a party split. The stand, which Ron Paul’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters have made in recent years, had some of us wondering, if we’d not see the split-ticket dynamic once again.

In any case, and ordinarily speaking, as happens informally during the primary season, and so formally at the conventions – at the close of each round of voting, losing campaigners choose which remaining candidate receives their delegates. For example, say that I win Connecticut’s primary but don’t have the steam to get the nomination. I can choose to give those 10 Connecticut GOP delegates to whatever candidate remains in the running.

The conventions come down to an equation of “delegate math,” when all is said and done. This is not dissimilar to the Electoral College set up; the delegate system operates on a state-by-state basis. Democratic delegates are doled out proportionally while Republicans follow a method truer to the College: the winner of a state primary takes all the delegation of that state.

Superdelegates

We now come to the definition of, and distinction between, delegates and superdelegates during the election cycle. Delegates, regular pledged delegates, are sent by the state parties – the same ones who organized the spring primaries – to the summer meetings. While there, they vote according to the previous choice of their state meeting.

Strictly speaking, though, there is nothing, not even the social opprobrium of being a “faithless elector,” as in the general election, which mandates that pledged delegates must actually vote according to the previous decision at the primary. As such, there is more elbow room, more jostling, than one might imagine at the summer conventions.

Beyond – and we may say, above – these regular delegates are the much-mentioned “superdelegates.” Properly called “unpledged delegates,” superdelegates have no expectations whatsoever to vote according to state conventions. They are free agents recruited from the most loyal party members. Various office holders, such as, the President, Governors, and Speaker of the House are eligible, as are members of the parties’ national committees – the “C” in DNC, for example – are superdelegates.

Now what sort of person do you suppose is going to fill such a role? Lifers, that’s who; not populists, not faddists, not single-issue sorts, not an enthusiastic clique.

The present system continues to evolve following a general prejudice towards greater participation. However, for party bosses this participation opens the door to populists; that is, candidates who appeal to the “little guy,” the “average” American, and who hold themselves as champions against a ruling elite. Superdelegates are a conservative reaction, an elitist reaction, to the recent history of primaries.

The DNC was walloped in both the 1972 and 1980 elections. The leaders of the party felt that things had become uncontrollable. In the rush to democratize and open up their nominating system, after the disaster of 1968, the proper vetting process was ignored, they felt, and they subsequently lost. In those elections, the DNC nominated George McGovern, in hindsight too liberal, and Jimmy Carter, whom a more entrenched Ronald Reagan was able to paint as a babe in the woods.

These were candidates who had great appeal to the party faithful, but who did not resonate with the general American population. In response to these developments, unpledged delegates were instituted by the DNC during the 1984 cycle. (Much good it did them. They lost in that year).

Who are the superdelegates? Many have held or presently hold office. Jim Carter, a hero in our primary story, fellow Southerner Bill Clinton, Dick Durbin, and Connecticut’s Elizabeth Etsy are superdelegates. Oddly enough, so are candidates Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Joe Biden. Superdelegates are stalwarts of the organization. In the event of a dark horse candidate, the superdelegates, proverbial old men in back smoking rooms, swing into action behind their choice.

Of the two major parties, superdelegates play a more crucial role in amongst Democrats. Indeed, the results of the 2016 election bear witness to this. In Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both the GOP and the DNC had insurgent candidates that year. Both men were not favored by their party establishment. However, only the DNC was successful in squelching their black horse Sanders (at least for another four years). This was because of the heft of their superdelegates.

And while incumbents may call the debate topics, they don’t always call the election. Only 16 out of 43 Presidents have won a second consecutive term. Far more than being dead ritual or boilerplate, the primaries are primary.

John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Election Day,” by John Louis Krimmel, painted in 1815.

The Early American Republic

The two-party system that is at the heart of the American political structure, in which the Democratic party has consistently played an important role, in that it has always sought and won the support of working people, since it claims to be a party of the common man. This claim has a long pedigree, and its roots lie in the election of Andrew Jackson, in 1828.

The years immediately preceding Jackson’s election saw the granting of voting rights to white males of all classes; as was customary at the time, women and slaves were excluded from the political process.

This was an important step forward, since previous to 1810, only men with property had the right to vote. Thus, by the time Jackson ran for the presidency, his voter-base was significantly increased, and his during the election some 54 percent of the voters turned out to cast their votes.

Thus, when Jackson won, his victory was seen as a triumph of the common man, and it also highlighted the importance of public opinion in a democratic government.

But this victory also served to heighten the profound differences between the industrialized north and the slave-economy of the south. Thus Jackson’s election brought crucial issues of class, labor, and federal power into greater focus.

Jackson’s politics depended upon a fundamental belief that the average person should run politics, rather than a few, patrician families. And Jackson saw himself as just such a common man, given his great experience in the army, and his stress on being in tune with the needs of the ordinary man.

In fact, many saw him as the personification of the rugged, American frontier spirit, which was seen as the spirit of American democracy, and inherently superior to European culture.

Jackson was viewed as an agrarian, which was the condition of the majority of Americans at the time, and his loss of his parents at an early age was used in his favor, as a tough, man of the people. As well, with Jackson, the Democratic Party came into its own, and became an important player on the political stage; in fact, Jackson’s was the party’s first president.

He initiated the first labor reforms by establishing a ten hour work day for federal shipyard workers; he was in favor of the abolition of debtors’ prison, where those who owned money were put in jail, until they paid their dues; and more importantly, he championed the mechanics’ lien law, which tackled the widespread abuse of bankruptcies laws by businesses, which previously could go out of business in order to pocket the back-wages of their workers.

Jackson’s vision of America also involved his notions of freedom and power. He believed in negative liberalism, inn that he believed that government power was in fact interfering to individual, person liberty.

He believed that individuals have to be independent, and that political independence only comes as a result of economic independence. Therefore, governments had to be restricted to a minimum, so they would not interfere with the wishes of the people.

This meant that Jackson favored a strict construction of the Constitution, strong rights for the states, and drawing support from government projects that did not benefit all of the people.

Henry Clay and the Whig Party held an entirely different view. They believed in “positive liberalism,” in which the government could actively make society better through institutional reforms.

Economic progress of the nation was seen to depend on government help, and private businesses were to be supported by the government. Thus, for the Whigs, there was a need for a strong, centralized government, a loose construction of the Constitution, especially the use of the “necessary and proper” clause that would fit any situation in order to advance the power of the government.

The Whigs also believed that men were entirely in charge of their own destinies, and therefore government of the people had to make a positive difference in the lives of the people.

This strongly federalist view was embodied in Henry Clay’s American System, which was ultimately a nationalist program. It sought the establishment of a national bank; it advocated a special tariff that would promote and protect domestic industry, and it promoted internal improvements, financially backed by the Congress.

The Whig vision of America called for a nation in which economic development was promoted and greatly diversified; in which dependence on imports would be significantly reduced; in which the various parts of the nation would come together and work harmoniously.

Thus, a Whig America would one in which the industrial future would be fully embraced, which would allow America to become a great manufacturing and commercial power.

In fact, Henry Clay’s, and the Whig’s, vision was largely accomplished, in that many of the elements of the American System were brought into practice by the Republican Party, which succeeded the Whigs.

The photo shows, “Young America,” by Thomas Leclear, painted  in 1863.