In this article, “America Is Living James Madison’s Nightmare,” the author’s primary idea is that sustaining the popular rule based on the reasoned arguments in the present media discourses in untenable. While the article appreciates the role of the country’s Founders in designing a government that aimed to limit the power of mob rule, it scrutinizes the worsening status of democracy in contemporary societies. One of the Founders, James Madison participated in the drafting of the Constitution to help in strengthening the country’s democratic institutions (Rosen 1). In his Federalist paper number 10, Madison gave strong arguments favoring the development of the constitution. Under the Federalist paper, Madison proposed the establishment of a strong government to control violence and damages caused by the mob. He warned that the power of different factions and the competing interests would ultimately undermine the U.S Government (Rosen 1). Madison proposed the introduction of laws through democratic institutions and governance structures to check on the power of the mob.
According to the article, Madison and Hamilton warned America against crude and ambitious politicians seeking to elicit their emotions. The Shays’s Rebellion was an example of a populist rage by a mob that elicited emotions and resulted in violent backlashes (Rosen 3). Madison preferred the establishment of long-term solutions to challenges facing the American population over short-term satisfaction. While proposing increase power and influence of the government over the mob, Madison’s Federalist Paper 51 suggested the disintegration of the government into three distinct branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) (Hamilton et al. 12). Such branches would help in the preservation of individual liberties and limiting the influence of Anti-Federalists. According to Madison, the stipulated branches were self-sufficient and helping in checking the powers and excesses of the executive. He proposed the splitting of the legislative power into the House of Representatives and the Senate. Moreover, the executive had the power to choose some members of the judicial branch of government, but with the approval of the Senate. In his Federalist paper number 39, Madison issued his strong support for the unification of all states under a single constitutional order.
According to the article, the media played a significant role in shaping public opinion on the Federalists arguments concerning the constitutional order. Madison cited the role of “new media technologies” and the “enlightened journalists” as crucial in the promotion of Federalists ideas on governance. In essence, Madison opposed populist appeal (Jacksonian populism), which he believed was a classic form of mob rule (Rosen 4). Indeed, the article affirms that Madison’s fears are becoming evident in the contemporary societies. The article cites the increased polarization of the congress and the ideological warfare between different political parties representing the extreme view of the constituents and donors (mob rule). Moreover, the current executive branch of government precisely depicts the form of factionalism (tweeting president) abhorred by Madison and other Founders. The author attributes the mob version of governance and populism to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
In conclusion, the author is right in his arguments that contemporary media is subverting the forms of government that the Founders such as Madison hopes would prevent rapid influence of the mob (passionate majorities). Additionally, the founders did not envision the perceived impacts of the development and spread of numerous political discourses in the country. The use of the executive orders, the divisions, and massive powers of the Supreme Court, and the rise in dangerous powers of the Congress further affirm the author’s arguments on rise of the mob. Resurrecting Madison’s ideas on governance is only possible through the reinterpretation of the First Amendment to suppress the polarizing influence of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, civic education on Madison’s principles will help in combating the rising powers of different factions of governance.
Hamilton, Alexander, et al. The Federalist Papers. Race Point Publishing, 2017.
Rosen., J. America Is Living James Madison’s Nightmare. The Atlantic Magazine, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/568351/?twitter_impression=true