Published Humanitas, Volume VIII, No. 2, 1995
The Road to Mass Democracy: Original Intent and the Seventeenth Amendment, by C.H. Hoebeke. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1995. 211 pp. $29.95.
The Populist Persuasion, by Michael Kazin. New York: Basic Books, 1995. 381 pp. $24.00.
The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, by Christopher Lasch. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995. 288 pp. $22.00.
Americans have always been divided concerning the kind of democracy that the Framers created. Since the time of the Founding, the very meaning of democracy has been in dispute in American culture. Two traditions are discernible in American political thought: one believes that America is too democratic, the other that it is not democratic enough.
At the heart of the debate regarding American democracy and the Constitution is the role of elites. Beginning with the Antifederalists, a distrust of elites inspired opposition to the Constitution. In fact, the tradition of American political thought represented by the American Framers has been politically and intellectually challenged by populism and kindred ideologies since its inception. The populist movement of the late nineteenth century, for example, captured the imaginations of Americans who tended to blame the political, social, and economic failures of the day on America’s elites. The populist prescription at that time was typical of populism: reform the constitutional system. Populist and Progressive reforms decreased the power of elites and empowered “the people.”
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