Should democracy depend on ‘we, the people’? Here’s what the framers wanted.

… Over the next five episodes we’ll look at the role of public opinion and the media, see how elections work, and examine ways other than voting by which people can participate in politics.

Public opinion is a fundamental place to start. After all, as William McKinley put it, “Here the people rule, and their will is the supreme law.” But the framers of the Constitution were nervous about turning unfiltered public opinion into public policy. As James Madison wrote in Federalist #55, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates,” he said, “every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

And how do we know what the people actually want, anyway? …

Luckily, even though individuals can certainly be irrational — or simply lack knowledge about political events — many scholars believe in something called a “rational public.” It is possible, as the framers knew, to rest our government on a “due dependence on the people.” And to conduct an accurate poll. This episode helps show how. CONT.

Andrew Rudalevige (Bowdoin), Monkey Cage