ON-Lion Letter
The Framers of our Constitution drew a distinction between unfettered democratic rule and the constrained republicanism of the Constitution.  In the Republican convention of 1912, two candidates with diametrically opposed views of what sovereignty of the people meant were pitted against each other, as recalled by William A. Schambra in an August report for the First Principles initiative of The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Schambra is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute in Washington and directs its Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, which is substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  Bradley also supports Heritage's First Principles initiative.

On one side of the 1912 Republican convention, according to Schambra, incumbent President William Howard Taft defended the Founders' constitutionally limited republicanism.  On the other, Theodore Roosevelt espoused a populist program of reform aimed at making the government more democratic.  Between them was Elihu Root, chairman of the convention, who succeeded in denying TR the nomination.  In so doing, he kept out of his hands the party's magnificent electoral machinery, which would almost certainly have returned him to office committed to a platform of radical constitutional reform.

"[I]n the political labors of Elihu Root and his allies," Schambra writes, we see "an altogether different understanding of democracy.  In this view, which reflects the ideas of the Founders themselves, constitutional limitations on democratic majorities are fully consonant with popular government -- indeed, they are essential for the preservation of republicanism and the alleviation of democracy's tendencies toward the violation of those rights that, the Declaration tells us, are the true ends of legitimate government.

"In spite of the scorn the Tea Party has drawn for its alleged anti-intellectualism and ahistoricism," he concludes, "its understanding of a Constitution that can limit democracy while at the same time being fully democratic in fact reflects an intellectually respectable and historically grounded view of the American founding."
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