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Constitutional Kudos to Paul Ryan (Forbes.com) May 11, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.

The same bravado and voter frustration that brought Donald Trump to the top of the Republican presidential heap has now turned on House Speaker Paul Ryan.  When Ryan said recently that he was not yet ready to endorse Trump, former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said she would work to defeat Ryan in his primary race for reelection to the Congress.  Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson has said Ryan should give up his speakership if he can’t endorse Trump.  In other words, one of the best and brightest leaders Republicans have in Congress is history if he stands in the way of, or even delays jumping on, the Trump bandwagon.

Hold on a minute, people.  The fact that Donald Trump has won 10.7 million votes out of an electorate of 130 million and will presumably be the Republican nominee later this summer doesn’t mean every other Republican leader shuts down his brain and falls mindlessly in line.   Not only is that a recipe for disaster for the Republican Party, but it’s also completely out of line with the constitutional approach to governance the Founders so carefully constructed.

For starters the Trumpeteers should be reminded that the Founders were highly suspicious of the dangers of pure majoritarian rule, or too much democracy.  Here are a few nuggets of their wisdom:

  • “We are a Republic. Real Liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”  Alexander Hamilton.
  • “Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure…” John Adams
  • “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.” Thomas Jefferson
  • My personal favorite, sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin but authorship apparently unknown: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.”

Very deliberately, then, the Founders established something other than a pure democracy ruled by majoritarian votes.  It was to be, as Benjamin Franklin famously put it, “a republic, if you can keep it.”  The goal of the Founders was not to follow the people’s passions of the moment, but rather to seek, as James Madison described it in Federalist 37, 51 and 63, the “deliberate sense of the community” over time, as expressed through the several institutions the Founders and the Constitution established.  In fact, one could argue that Trumpism is precisely the kind of heated passion and anger of the moment the Founders would have wanted to resist, or at least slow down.

Loyalty to a political party’s standard bearer is not unimportant to party leaders and appropriately so.  It makes sense, then, that if Paul Ryan cannot reconcile himself to Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee, he should step aside as chair of the party’s convention and Ryan has offered to do just that.  But to forfeit his leadership in the House of Representatives, or his seat in Congress, over the heated rhetoric of Sarah Palin and the loud-sounding Trumpeteers would be to allow the 10 million voter Trump majority to have way more than their proper say.

The leaders of Congress should be about policy more than politics, and this is precisely the turf on which Donald Trump has been uncertain.  His policy positions have not been well developed during the primaries, reduced most often to sounds bites like building a wall paid for by Mexico, or putting tariffs on Chinese trade since they are eating our lunch.  And recently he has even begun to shift some of his previous positions on the minimum wage and income taxes.

Frankly it would behoove Mr. Trump and his Trumpeteers to take a little time to find the cool, deliberate sense of the community on policy matters and Mr. Ryan could be a great ally in accomplishing that.

To view the column at Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/05/11/trump-v-ryan-passion-and-frustration-or-the-deliberate-sense-of-the-community/#584e1419344c

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