Blue State Blues: Our Founders Feared the ‘Tyranny of the Legislature’

Thomas Jefferson (Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty)
Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty

Democrats insisted this week that they had to impeach President Donald Trump because our Founders feared a “king.” What they forgot, or never learned, is that our Founders feared the tyranny of the legislature as well.

Alexis de Tocqueville raised that point in his treatise, Democracy in America, where he warned that democracy could be destroyed by two forms of dictatorship: the despotism of a single ruler, and the tyranny of the majority.

Tocqueville quoted Thomas Jefferson’s letter to James Madison in 1789, in which he declared: “The executive, in our government is not the sole, it is scarcely the principal, object of my jealousy. The tyranny of the legislature is the most formidable dread and will be for many years.”

Tocqueville also quoted James Madison’s argument in The Federalist No. 51, arguing for the separation of powers among the several branches by warning that concentrating power in any one branch would be very dangerous.

In December 2015, I predicted that if Trump won the presidency, “[t]he congressional pushback against a President Trump might finally restore the constitutional balance our Framers intended.” But Democrats, determined to undo the 2016 election, have upset the balance in the opposite direction.

The Framers did not merely want to prevent a monarchy. They also wanted to prevent a runaway parliament.
That is why they created a strong, executive presidency, one that would not serve at the pleasure of Congress, as a British prime minister serves at the pleasure of the House of Commons.

As Democrats noted over and over again in the Judiciary Committee this week, the Constitution vests “sole” power of impeachment in the House. True — but it does not say “absolute,” and the House’s power never has been.

President Trump is being impeached for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” But the former is an innovation that could apply to any president, and the latter simply describes the president performing his duty to uphold the powers of the executive and the role of the judiciary in serving as a check on a runaway legislature.

Madison warned that when a majority faction could oppress a minority, the rights of the individual would never be secure. That “weaker” individual appears to us in the form of Carter Page, a Navy veteran and CIA source who was treated as an enemy and spied upon by the FBI, then derided by journalists when he protested his innocence.

That “weaker” individual was Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was ridiculed for raising the alarm about the FBI’s abuses, and was spied upon by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Tocqueville hoped that the media — “newspapers,” in the mid-nineteenth century — would serve as a check on arbitrary power. Newspapers did not just guarantee “liberty,” Tocqueville said: they “maintain civilization.”

But today, the media — the so-called watchdogs — have defended the abuses of power by the government. Worse, they have lied to the American people — about “Russia collusion,” about the phony Steele dossier, about the FBI’s abuses, and so on.

To this day, the Washington Post keeps a running log of tens of thousands of little “lies” the president has told — many of which are just differences of opinion. They have never apologized for, corrected, or retracted the major lies that they foisted on the American people.

If, as the Post motto claims, “democracy dies in darkness,” we know who turned off the lights.

A case this week illustrated the problem. President Trump signed an executive order extending the protections of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to Jews — an idea that actually took root under the Obama administration. The New York Times mis-reported what he was doing, and hysterical Democrats soon accused Trump of antisemitism. Reality was completely inverted because of “fake news.” The Times neither corrected, nor apologized for, its error.

The media have urged the Democrats to impeach Trump, and we are witnessing the “tyranny of the legislature.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Schiff, and House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have ripped up the rules and precedents of the House itself in their desperation to impeach the president.

When Jefferson wrote to Madison, in the letter Tocqueville quoted, he was encouraging him to adopt a “declaration” or bill of rights as a check on the legislature. The House has trampled much of the Bill of Rights in its zeal to take down Trump: the First Amendment right to freedom of the press; the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures; Sixth Amendment right to counsel. And yet the Democrats say Trump is danger to freedom.

Democrats say they worry about the integrity of the 2020 election. But in this impeachment, they have destroyed it.

There is only one solution, which is to vote them out of office. Failing that, appeals to heaven are all we have left.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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