In what ways did the Constitution's Founding Fathers limit democracy?
The Founding Fathers limited democracy in the U.S. Constitution by implementing representative democracy, creating the Electoral College, and allowing for political appointments rather than direct election.
Representative democracy is different from direct democracy because it lets people vote for representatives rather than voting on the issues themselves. The representatives aren't required to vote with the will of the people after they're elected. They may not be elected again if they vote against the interests of their constituents, though.
The Electoral College is another way the Founding Fathers limited democracy. People vote for electors, who then vote for the President of the United States. This allows presidential candidates who actually lost the popular vote to still win the presidency, which has happened several times in U.S. history. The Electoral College was originally a compromise between Founding Fathers who wanted the President to be elected by Congress and the Founding Fathers who wanted the President to be elected by the people.
Finally, the use of political appointments rather than direct election for Senators was another check on democracy. Originally, Senators were appointed by state legislatures. This practice changed when the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified.
The Founding Fathers distrusted an absolute democracy because they feared that individual rights could be infringed upon in an effort to ensure total equality. For example, an individual's property could be taken away and distributed to the masses. The net effect of excesses associated with democracy could create a welfare state and a lack of emphasis on individual initiatives to create wealth or pursue happiness.
Some of the safeguards put in place by the Founding Fathers to check democratic excesses include:
- Appointments of justices to the Supreme Court. The president appoints the judges and allows their confirmation by the Senate.
- The "Electoral College" process of selecting the president and preventing the decision from being reached only by the majority, which would favor the larger states.
- The president is allowed to veto decisions made by both houses, while Congress can exercise oversight over presidential action.
There were several ways that the Founding Fathers limited democracy in the Constitution. The President, for example, is not chosen by popular vote but instead through the Electoral College, in which electors chosen by each state choose the President and Vice President. In addition, in the original Constitution, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, while Representatives were chosen by direct voting. Senators were not chosen through popular vote until the 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913. Also, the President has the power to appoint public officials, such as ambassadors and other public ministers and consuls, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The President can also nominate justices of the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The candidates for these positions are also not voted on in direct elections, thereby limiting a situation of pure democracy.
The Founding Fathers limited democracy in a number of ways. Mostly, they did this by reducing the extent to which the people had influence over the government. They allowed the people to vote for only a very limited set of government officials. The people did not get to vote directly for the President, the Senate, or the Supreme Court. They only got to vote for the members of the House of Representatives. In addition, the Framers set various limits on what the government could do. For example, they prohibited the making of laws that impaired the "obligation of contracts." This prevented the people from being able to push through laws like the stay laws that were wanted by the people in Shays's Rebellion. In these ways and others, the Constitution placed limits on democracy.