On Wednesday’s episode of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” Shapiro dismantles a New York Times columnist’s argument suggesting that, in modern times, there is no difference between a republic and a democracy. Video and partial transcript below:
So Jamelle Bouie, who is not a very good columnist, over [at] The New York Times. He — I enjoy some of his work. I will say that I don’t think that he thinks through a lot of his own ideas. He has an opinion piece in The New York Times suggesting that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez understands democracy better than Republicans do — which is false. AOC understands literally nothing except for using Instagram better than Republicans do and maybe dancing on rooftops. But that is a matter of opinion. Jamelle Bouie says,
BOUIE: Spend enough time talking politics on the Internet — or in any other public forum — and you’ll run into this standard reply to anyone who wants more democracy in American government: “We’re a republic, not a democracy.”
Yes, because that’s true.
BOUIE: You saw it over the weekend, in an exchange between Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Dan Crenshaw of Texas. In a brief series of tweets, Ocasio-Cortez made the case against the Electoral College and argued for a national popular vote to choose the president. “Every vote should be = in America, no matter who you are or where you come from,” she wrote. “The right thing to do is establish a Popular Vote. & GOP will do everything they can to fight it.”
Crenshaw, who has sparred with Ocasio-Cortez before, jumped in with a response: “Abolishing the Electoral College means that politicians will only campaign in (and listen to) urban areas. That is not a representative democracy.” And then he said it. “We live in a republic, which means 51% of the population doesn’t get to boss around the other 49%.”
And then Jamelle Bouie suggests that the crux of Crenshaw’s argument, [that] we live in a republic, is wrong.
BOUIE: He doesn’t say “not a democracy,” but it’s implied by the next clause where he rejects majority rule…
You can fill in the blanks of the argument from there. The Founding Fathers built a government to stymie the “tyranny of the majority.” They contrasted their “republic” with “democracy,” which they condemned as dangerous and unstable. As John Adams wrote in an 1814 letter to the Virginia politician John Taylor: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet, that did not commit suicide.”
But there’s a problem. For the founders, “democracy” did not mean majority rule in a system of representation. The men who led the revolution and devised the Constitution were immersed in classical literature and political theory. Ancient Greece, in particular, was a cautionary tale. When James Madison critiqued “democracy” in Federalist No. 10, he meant the Athenians sort: “a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.”
… In more modern terms, the Founders feared “direct democracy” and accounted for its dangers with a system of “representative democracy.” Yes, this “republic” had counter-majoritarian aspects … but it was not designed for minority rule.
Nobody suggested that it was designed for minority rule. But if Jamelle Bouie is truly suggesting that the founders were big fans of pure majoritarianism, he hasn’t read the entirety of the Federalist Papers. I’m sorry, Federalist [No.] 10 isn’t the only Federalist Paper, [there’s] like 80 of them. So no, that is incorrect. The Federalist Papers make quite clear that they were — that the Founders were — very much afraid of faction, they were afraid of the power of the majority to overrun the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. It’s amazing to see, but we completely missed the point.
BOUIE: Virtually everything was geared toward producing representative majorities that could govern on behalf of the country — to diminish “faction” in favor of consensus. And in the case of the Electoral College, the point wasn’t to stymie majorities but to provide a way to find a competent and popular chief executive in a large nation of parochial states.
Well, it was to form an Electoral College majority out of a plurality — [that] was probably one of the purposes. So, it was to turn a minority into a majority in some cases. And when it comes to producing representative majority — overwhelming majorities — the Founders were very much in favor of. Fifty-one percent to forty-nine percent, they were very much not in favor of.
But again, this is Jamelle Bouie stumping against institutions of our government that were designed to curb our lack of faith in the institutions themselves. Right, so now, he wants to get rid of the checks and balances because AOC’s argument can be made on exactly the same basis [to get] rid of the United States Senate. After all, the United States Senate gives the exact same number of representatives to Montana — which has like 10 people — as it does to California, which has 50 million people. So why shouldn’t she make the same argument about getting rid of the Senate of the United States?