The Difficult Truth About Democracy and Primaries

The Difficult Truth About Democracy and Primaries

This exploration was made possible by CuriosityStream. An Athenian named Thucydides wrote a history
of the Peloponnesian War. The work is a chronological history, with
a mix of philosophical overtones and second-hand reproductions of speeches from figures of
the time. He described events in 427 BCE, when Athens
put down a rebellion of the Mytileneans. Unable to cope with the imperial forces, the
Mytileneans surrendered (1,254). Back in Athens, a man named Cleon, described
by Thucydides as “the most violent man in Athens”, ‘carried’ a motion to not only
punish the conspirators, but to put all male Mytileneans to death, and enslave women and
children (1,259). However, the Assembly, second-guessing the
decision to punish all Mytileneans, reconvened to take another vote. And on this occasion, Cleon rose to admonish
the Assembly for their softness in the face of a premeditated rebellion. Their democracy would be incapable of empire
if they listened to equivocation from gifted speakers rather than the wisdom of the common
man (1,260). And so the people of the Assembly should stick
to the original decision, made in “the fury of the moment”, to execute all male Mytileneans,
and enslave the rest. determine to rule, you must carry
out your principal and punish the Mytileneans…without yielding to present weakness…punish them
as they deserve, and teach your other allies by a striking example that the penalty of
rebellion is death.” The next to speak was Diodotus, who opposed
the mass execution. The Assembly should be wary of speakers who
use the ‘popular arts’ to dismiss proper deliberation of the issues (1,263). The punishment of death for the Mytileneans
would serve as no deterrent. In fact, it would teach the opposite lesson:
if the leaders of a city rebel, all people should fight to the very last whether they
support the cause or not, because the Athenians would come and kill everyone regardless. On the other hand, a surrendered yet intact
city could still “refund expenses, and pay tribute afterwards”. The Assembly should consider it “ far more
useful for the preservation of our empire to put up with injustice voluntarily, than
to put to death, however justly, those whom it is our interest to keep alive,” (1,266). Ultimately, the Assembly voted with Diodotus,
punishing the original conspirators, but leaving the rest of the Mytileneans to live. You might believe the point of this story
is that democracy leads to better outcomes. But might I just add? Cleon, the famous demagogue, appears in the
historical record on multiple occasions (2). His populism and infamy are well known. Diodotus? Well, he appears only here in Thucydides. If his level-headedness extended beyond this
speech, it’s lost to history. One unmistakably positive development in American
history has been the gradual inclusion of more citizens in the election process: for
white men the removal of property requirements to vote in the early 19th century, women’s
suffrage in 1920, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 forbid voter discrimination based on
race, and the 26th amendment ensured 18 year-olds fighting in Vietnam could vote for the politicians
sending them there (3). Though the aspirational words of the constitution
foreshadowed expanded participation in elections, the original system set out by the founders
operated with many limitations on its democratic elements, and not just on who could vote,
but exactly how votes counted. The only straightforward elections were to
the House of Representatives. Voters chose representatives and they went
to Washington, no democratic filter. By design, every other part of the federal
government was to pass through a selection filter. Voters didn’t directly elect senators; they
chose state legislators who elected the two Senators. Voters didn’t directly elect the president;
they advised electors of the electoral college, who then practiced independence selecting
a president. Voters didn’t elect Supreme Court Justices;
the indirectly-elected president, with advice and consent of the indirectly-elected Senate,
nominated Justices to the high court. Democracy was intentionally minimized. Isolating the direct will of voters to one
half of one branch of the government, the House of Representatives, was the explicit
intent of the founders. Just as the founders feared the tyranny of
a monarch, they feared the tyranny of mob rule. The quotes sound shocking to modern ears. At the constitutional convention in 1787,
a resolution was proposed which would make the future American Congress elected by the
people. The immediate reaction was basically: ‘Election
by the people? Are you crazy?’. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was first to
speak up: “The people he said, immediately should have as little to do as may be about
the Government.” Future vice president Elbridge Gerry agreed:
“The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the
dupes of pretended patriots.” (5) The sentiment continued after the Constitution’s
ratification. John Adams, the second president, wrote in
1814: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” (4). John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court, observed that, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference
is like that between order and chaos.” That final distinction between a republic
and a democracy is where we need to place our attention. Let’s clarify something. A 1787 understanding of a republic was different
than today. Today, we think of republics as governments
elected by the people. But at the time of the founding, a republic,
at the most basic, meant a government without a King or Queen (6). The rights of citizens to participate played
no role in whether the government fit the definition or not. So yes, a representative democracy would fit
that definition, but so too would the Republic of Florence, where authority often lay not
with the people, but with guilds and powerful families. And if the prevailing wisdom during the founding
of the US was that direct democracies like Athens were prone to self-destruction, the
same held for republics. History served as a graveyard of all sorts
of republics in a world dominated by imperial monarchies. And so the challenge was, as far as the founders
saw it: how to set up a republic that could protect things important to them: life, liberty,
property- long-term. Inserting democratic elements into the new
republic was, in their eyes, a risky addition to an already precarious form of government. James Madison, the largest intellectual influence
on the American constitution, had no issue criticizing the few examples of direct democracy
in history; They were, he wrote in Federalist #10, “as short in their lives as they have
been violent in their deaths.” Pure democracy, Madison said, would inevitably
suffer at the hands of faction, by which he meant a self-interested group moving the majority
towards poor decisions through impulse and passion- rule by partisans and the mob. He argued that the best option for controlling
the effects of faction was to form a large republic with a limited “scheme of representation”,
a democratic element at its heart. The way to prevent violations of basic liberties
by factions was to spread the factions over a geographically large republic. If a populist mob in New Hampshire elected
a demagogue to Congress, the odds of the movement gaining traction and electing a representative
all the way down in Virginia were slim to none, making it hard for them to impact national
policy. Therefore, the new and large American republic
could have a democratic element at its heart, the House of Representatives, because its
geography would help prevent the formation of an overbearing and liberty-destroying majority. And so, taking Madison’s lead, the founders
set up a large republic, with limited democracy and limited participation. And we can set that system on an admittedly
imperfect spectrum of pure republic and pure democracy. On the right side, the pure democracy in which
every citizen participates in every decision. The closest approximation we have is ancient
Athens, where a significant number of men could partake in the Assembly. On the left, a pure republic, where the populace
has no direct say in governance, but there’s no king or queen. Again, we have to approximate with Florence
and its guilds and powerful families. The new American republic would tend pretty
far to the left on the spectrum, as the popular will was filtered by exclusion and institution. But of course the United States would not
be stagnant. Developments would make the system more democratic
over time. As we noted before, through constitutional
amendment and legislation, more Americans were able to exercise their right to vote
and to participate as citizens. Notably, the 17th amendment meant that Senators
would be directly elected by the people, not by state legislatures- so as of 1913 the entire
legislative branch was popularly elected, not just the House of Representatives. But that still leaves of 2 of 3 branches of
government as quite distant from the popular will, the Judiciary and the Executive. I want to focus on the executive in particular. Because to describe a modern president of
the United States as merely a distant and indirectly elected official would deny a reality
before our very eyes. To the domestic population and the world,
the president is the face of the United States. Their opinions can dominate the news cycle
and policy agenda. They commit troops around the world, take
credit or blame for the economy, help or hinder healing in times of national crisis, speak
to us on a yearly basis about how the country is doing, and feature in the stories we tell
each other about ourselves. Presidents occupy a space in the national
psyche of someone democratically, directly elected. And yet, they’re not. What can explain this disparity? We’ve established that the haven for democracy
in the American Republic was supposed to be the House of Representatives. The founders envisioned citizens having a
much closer connection to their local member of congress than to their president. By the way, given such a mundane name as president
because the main function would be just that- presiding over the policy decisions of the
Congress. The president in this vision, or maybe fantasy
of the founders, would be an enlightened statesman, known by the general population only insofar
as he had gathered governing experience and served the country well. He would recognize no political party and
harbor no deep ambitions of power. Selected by the wise men of the electoral
college, the president would blend into the background with few explicit powers, and would
avoid what they called the ‘popular arts’ to influence the public. He would be basically George Washington. But as we know, the presidency didn’t evolve
this way. The office expanded in influence with only
a couple pauses in between, and most presidents retained and broadened the powers of their
predecessor. There are many ways scholars approach this
so-called imperial presidency, from the expansion of the country generally, necessity in times
of civil unrest, and individuals that set precedents for every president that came after
them. But one overlooked way of examining how presidential
power and influence has changed over time is the way individuals become candidates for
president in the first place: selection by a major political party. That selection process by the political parties,
though outside of the constitution itself, has become more democratic with time, changing
expectations for presidents and altering the balance in our system of government. For a long time, the public played no role
in selecting presidential candidates. Members of congress from the major political
parties gathered together in secret to choose their candidates for the upcoming election-
and that was it. And as elitist and exclusive as that sounds,
it was in-line with the intent of the founders for an ambitionless president that presided. The candidates tended to be insiders, and
politically experienced. On multiple occasions elections were settled
by handshakes in the House of Representatives (7). Presidential cycles looked less like a modern
general election, and more like a fraternal squabble on the floor of the UK House of Lords. So if we create another spectrum, not for
the whole political system, but just for the presidential candidate selection system, and
again place a fully democratic system on the right, where the general public has a 100%
say in who candidates for president will be- the original selection system, with members
of congress meeting in secret, would be far to the other side, a nearly 100% elite selection
process. But these secret congressional caucuses were
unsustainable, and the cult of personality surrounding one man changed it all. When president Andrew Jackson was up for reelection
in 1832, the new Democratic Party tried something quite different. General Jackson had been personally popular
with voters because of his war record in the Battle of New Orleans. This personal popularity often put him at
extreme odds with the political establishment in Congress. So for his reelection, rather than nominate
a vice presidential candidate by secret congressional caucus, his Democratic Party tried something
a little more inclusive, more democratic: they held a national convention, the first
of its kind for a major party. From now on, candidates wouldn’t be chosen
in the stuffy halls of congress by a select few, they would be chosen by all attending
members of the party in an open, participatory way. National conventions became the norm, and
major parties nominated presidential candidates this way for the next 136 years. Now in retrospect we know these national conventions
were more theater than democracy. Attendees were usually influential members
of the party, delegates bought off by party bosses, and real decision making happened
behind closed doors in smoky rooms well away from the convention floor. But at its core, it was more pluralist- more
interests were at the table, even if they were monied, well-connected, and white. Rather than just the elected political elite,
you could find broad coalitions of business, political activists, geographic groupings,
and religious cohorts. The political parties themselves were at their
strongest because they served as moderating influences on candidates who needed to appeal
to the widest cross section of interests to get nominated. Wild ambition was controlled because candidates
who might promise large changes to win the hearts of the voting public would never make
it past the business advocates at the convention. The candidates who made it out were likely
whittled advocates of something close to the status quo. If we head back to our spectrum, the national
conventions certainly moved the presidential nomination process away from the select few
making the decision, but only because now it would be the select hundreds- the select
thousands instead. The process was still closed to the general
public, and nominees could make only limited claims about wielding the popular will. For this very reason, at the turn of the 20th
century, the parties were being pushed to reform. In 1897, before entering public life, future
president Woodrow Wilson was already contemplating ways to rip the nomination system out of the
tight control of the party establishments. He was openly hostile to the national conventions,
seeing them as the process by which special interests nominated candidates with no policies
derived from the popular will. He wrote that national conventions were:
“…an incalculable number of local influences, utterly obscure to the country at large, and
unconnected, as we know, with any general party purpose or policy of which the country
can know anything…candidates, selected, not by the general voice of any party, but
upon grounds of preference which only their special friends and partisans can explain.” In short, the process for selecting presidential
candidates wasn’t democratic, and Woodrow Wilson wanted to make it so. Only then could Americans remedy the issue
of what he called ‘Leaderless Government’ (9). And so in his first annual message to congress,
president Woodrow Wilson proposed expansion to a developing phenomenon: presidential primaries:
“I urge the prompt enactment of legislation which will provide for primary elections throughout
the country at which the voters of the several parties may choose their nominees for the
Presidency without the intervention of nominating conventions.” (10). The Democratic and Republican parties of course
didn’t eliminate their national conventions, but some states were moving in Wilson’s
direction, creating a hybrid of old and new. From 1912 to 1968, in any given nomination
cycle between 12 and 20 states held presidential primaries (8). The goal of these primaries was for voters
to elect delegates to the national convention where they would help choose the party candidate. However, the reality during these years was
that the delegates sent from primaries generally played an extremely limited role in influencing
who the nominee would be. The system had budged in the direction of
democratization, but the political parties still had the final say in who their presidential
candidate would be. And it was never more clear that the parties
were still in control than at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 14 states held primaries, which resulted in
80% of votes cast for candidates pledging to end the war in Vietnam. However, at the convention the Democratic
nomination went to Hubert Humphrey, who supported the status quo in Vietnam. More important to our discussion, he hadn’t
participated in a single primary. This contributed to the unrest outside the
convention, where anti-war protests turned violent. Humphrey’s nomination convinced many outsiders
that the old party bosses still ran the theater; the primaries were just a show on the stage. And the violence convinced many insiders that
more reforms were needed to make political parties more accountable to the popular will. The ensuing 50 years have been a cascade of
changes derived from the turbulence of 1968, and a fulfillment of Woodrow Wilson’s vision
for a national system of primaries. Both the Republican and Democratic parties
have expanded their primary systems to include all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. And even though the state party organizations
and the national committees still meddle with rules and mingle with dates, there is, effectively,
a system of national binding popular primaries. It’s not purely democratic, but it is fair
to say that primary voters choose presidential candidates. It’s a system which as it evolved set up
the dark-horse candidacy of Jimmy Carter, empowered the popular movement behind Ronald
Reagan, elevated Barack Obama over the party establishment, and bent the entirety of the
Republican Party around Donald Trump. It’s a system that’s wildly different
than the secret congressional caucuses of the early republic. National conventions severed the president
from congress, and now presidential primaries sever the president from the establishment
of the political parties. With a national convention, candidates conform
to the party. But with primaries, parties conform to the
candidate. To get onto the general election ballot, candidates
have to build support with blocks of active voters and prove they can win long before
actual election day. In turn, they will have a popular mandate
from which to govern. We now see one way the presidency democratized
without direct changes to the constitution. The explicit goal of progressives like Woodrow
Wilson was to create a presidency based on popular leadership. Power would derive from the popular will,
not the institutional constraints from the Constitution. And I’m hoping that by now you’ve started
to gather what the potential consequences of something like this might be. I said earlier that the general democratization
of the American government has been unequivocally good, particularly when it comes to expanded
participation. I stand by that. However, I think it’s essential and probably
unpopular to make a much more subtle argument about the democratization of the presidential
selection system. James W. Ceasar, who wrote a comprehensive
book on this subject, pointed out a couple assumptions from advocates of a national primary
system: 1. “…the belief that the people on their
own can be fully trusted to choose leaders without the guidance of restrictive electoral
institutions.” 2. “There is the view that no serious side
effects flow from an open pursuit of the nomination, that self-interest and ambition, if they exist,
do not lead aspirants to divide and inflame the populace.” (11) Now, as to number one, can the people be fully
trusted to choose their leaders? Well, history shows humans have a rough track
record on that, but that is no reason to deny ourselves the right to try. If we grant ourselves the inalienable right
to pursue our vision of the public good, to directly choose candidates for president rather
than be bestowed with them, we’re left with the responsibility to deal with the side effects
such a system produces. The first potential side effect is the experience
gap. The national conventions generally nominated
presidents with governing experience, but who might be less interested in putting that
experience towards the direct will of the people. A primary system has the opposite problem:
candidates who are more in-tune with the will of their voters, but who might be less experienced
in actually governing. They might be able to talk the talk, but to
use a hackneyed phrase, they might not be able to ‘get things done’. Look again at the old way, the national convention. The skill set there to navigate the varied
interests of powerful stakeholders and get the nomination is similar to the act of navigating
the powerful stakeholders and governing in Washington. To contrast, the skill set to successfully
campaign in a presidential primary, the ‘popular arts’ of rhetoric and seeming sincere, are
not particularly helpful when trying to get the congress to pass that meaningful piece
of legislation, or steering a federal agency. The process of governance isn’t nearly as
lofty as campaigning. This means as primary voters, we have to question
whether what we’re being sold is realistic, and not just whether the policy is realistic,
but whether its passage is realistic. This isn’t an argument for moderation, by
the way. It is often the advocates of an unjust mooshy
‘both sides are bad’ middle ground who have stood in the way of meaningful changes
to civil rights and economic reforms. It is merely our task to listen to the promises
made by primary candidates in a holistic fashion. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves stuck with
presidents incapable of administration that involves anything other than the unilateral
jerking of a pen. Which leads nicely into side effect two: the
demagogue problem. Ceasar predicted when he wrote his book back
in the 70’s that the primaries would start to bring us factional leaders, in the Madisonian
sense. To build on that, primaries would bring us
popular leaders who would intentionally ram wedges into societal cleavages, exploit our
anger, tell us that the only way to bring true power to the people is to join the cult
of personality, break some rules, and bring down the other side. Decisions made in the fury of the moment are
for the better. The problem is inevitable. It is a flaw of humans and democracies in
particular. All I can say is that if you don’t see the
world this way, you must participate, because democracy is fragile. The country is young, and our process for
selecting presidential candidates even younger. How it evolves from here is up to us. We are living in an experiment, whether the
primary system fulfills the goal laid out by James Madison in Federalist 57 that, “The
aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men
who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society.” The founders feared that the general population
couldn’t handle the responsibilities that came when systems approached direct democracy,
that demagogues would come along and tell us angry lies to inflame the passions, use
the popular arts to whip us into factional extremes that would destroy our liberty. It is our job to prove them wrong. I love history. That’s why I’m excited to bring you something
with a lot of it: CuriosityStream. CuriosityStream is a streaming service that
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87 thoughts on “The Difficult Truth About Democracy and Primaries

  1. @williamcfox
    This video is meant as both a celebration and a warning, such is the nature of democracy.

    Quick correction 23:11 – that’s Federalist 57, not 52.

  2. The Electoral College wasn't elected by the people originally but by state legislatures. Gradually more and more of them just allowed them to vote on their behalf

  3. It's neat getting two very different videos exploring the subject of democracy on the same day (you and Philosophy Tube)

  4. I really hope this author knows about 'Anacyclosis' theory, it sounds like he is describing it thoroughly.

  5. Was just planning to catch up your last two videos this evening, and then you uploaded this. ….. This is supposed to feel like a teacher giving me extra homework in addition to the homework I haven't done yet, but the difference is, the teacher (You) has already done the research for me. I promise this homework will be ready before the next upload. …. Thanks for the great work, is what I'm trying to say 🙂

  6. Great video, very interesting! I would also like to see something about the balance between electoral and popular vote in regards to the electoral college and the winner-takes-all principle in some states.

  7. It could be argued the founding fathers put the limitations on voting in order to ensure intelligent individuals with a vested interest in success of the country would have the vote. It is important to note the following amendments merely prevent discrimination of the ability to vote based on age, sex, or race (This is of course rational and moral to not discriminate). The lack of a filter on education and vested interest could very well be the cause of political discourse today. The only thing worse than mob rule is mob rule by an uneducated population with no interest in the success of the country.

  8. Can we just talk about the use of B.C.E. for a second? It stands for “before common era” but it is set around the same year as the B.C. and A.D. systems which revolve around the death of Christ. So it is the same years, you just don’t acknowledge why the common era is when it is. There is no use of the E if the meaning is the same.
    If you changed the system so that the common era began with the fall of Rome or something, then called it B.C.E. That would all cool and I’d have no problem with it. It just seems ridiculous to change a well established naming system for no good reason except you don’t want to refer to a religious figure.

  9. Another amazing video, William. There were some things here that I never realized or simply forgot from school, like the Senate originally being voted by state legislators. I definitely give pause to popular voting and see it as mob rule.

  10. Assignment in an American politics module this semester is on how democratic is the US and I feel like this Exploration is going to end up being invaluable to explaining the history, thanks for the quality content!

  11. Great video, but the optimistic ending is unrealistic. We, the people, don't have agency over collective action. The average action of groups is better defined by game theory than the sum of individual desires. They, the politicians, have greater agency to change the political system to influence collective action; but even they are bound by the collective action and competition of their peers.
    There is no chance that we can "prove the founding father wrong" because we can only make rational decisions in the political system we have and those rational decisions will prove the founding fathers right.
    All civilizations end and rarely does any one person make the decision to end them. Civilizations end because the collective action of the people commands the end, regardless of the will of any citizen or group of citizens.

  12. The president is now a powerful figure whose election comes down to a few thousand uninformed voters in a handful of swing counties. A vote by a person in a less populated state is already worth more via the Senate. Now that the president is such a powerful office it gives them another outsized chance to sway national government via the electoral college. Look at what that's given us now.

  13. As a non-american, the whole concept of primary elections and caucuses are completely strange, overly complicated, and anti democratic to me.

  14. This video makes little sense. The 2016 DNC primaries demonstrated just how corrupt and undemocratic the process was in regards to the popular vote/candidate (i.e. Bernie) – the process was much more close to how things were described in the video at the turn of the 19th century – candidates were determined by bought off by corrupt political bosses.

    Meanwhile, in the general Presidential election – the electoral college did its job – fending off the tyranny of the majority or mod rule which was concentrated is select geographical areas (i.e. CA and NY).

  15. The word "democracy" doesn't appear in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. However, neither does the word "republic."

  16. Democratize the workplace first. Mass line, Protracted People's War.

  17. Haven't watched yet but i love the political history of the channel and I'll love this video a lot.

  18. I'm working on a similar video! Some of the shots and quotes in this are even eerily similar…

  19. The best rulers or the most representative? Or perhaps the latter is always the prior? A conflict as old as time.

  20. I know it won't be it would be nice if a video like this enlightened those outside of the US why judging all of the US by solely the actions of the president while ignorant of the rest of the political system in the US is stupid and ignorant.

  21. Democracy will continue to be delicate and in danger for as long as it not a part of other aspects in our lives. Families are not ornagized in a democratic fashion and so isn't the workplace, which means that we are not thaught to tame our instincts or thinking in a hollistic way when making decisions. I'm not sure, though, if the solution is to expand democratic values to those other spheres or to come up with something entirely new, but I'm leaning more towards the second.

  22. Ha. I think the Constitution is obsolete. Those people way back could not have possibly seen the country extend across the continent. 535 people “representing” 350,000,000 people.

    Madison actually did see wealth inequality as a problem even back then. So, he was concerned about the total sell out of the people in government. As aristocratic as they may have been, they would simply be aghast at people like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Addison or Jeff Bezos.

    The problem of a demogogue currently has less to to do with the people being mislead by a politician, than a political class that is entirely unresponsive to the needs of the society. THAT is how Trump got elected.

  23. Have you heard of the Revolt of the Public by Gurri? I think you'd really like it, in a similar spirit to this video, and it would make a great video too.

  24. However it goes, still the best experiment for human governing in history (at least as far as I know – I'd like to learn of a better one). Not sure if it's the most conducive to overall flourishing in history, but I'd like to equate successful governing with overall betterment of ourselves and the whole of life on this planet.

  25. First Professor Beat and CounterArguments and now you? I love these discussions of the difference/similarity of democracies and republics!

  26. Interesting look on problem, one small error I noticed, when you are talking about Florence you are showing image of Venice. Venice was also republic.

  27. This video was history done well. A relevant analysis of the past, in so doing highlighting the current problem or issue, underscoring the challenge, and leaving the audience better and acutely informed.

  28. Talks repeatedly about the negatives of a cult of personality and then repeatedly refers to the words, thoughts and actions of the founding fathers (primarily Madison) to define how governance would best work.

  29. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”

    ― Alexander Fraser Tytler

  30. Saying what happened outside the dnc in 1968 violence by protesters is a completely fucking disgusting distortion of the police riot that occurred there. I like your videos but that single line is shameful "both sides" nonsense that has no place in history.

  31. I think you just pissed off cipher by talking positively about wilson. As a cynic… I still think there is still some assumptions that need to be question, namely, that something closer to 100% democracy is best. Personally, I think on that spectrum, we need something about 60% Republic, 40% Democracy. I rather have a bunch of idiots rather than oligarchs/party elites. Granted, we need a Republic, that is balanced including democratic elements. But the biggest fundamental issue are idiotic, uninterested, uneducated voters.

  32. A fine explanation of the evolution from the elitist republic model towards a more democratic system for choosing US presidential nominees. However, you fail to mention the role of political donors in the process today. Do US voters really pick the candidates, or are they able to vote only after the Kochs, the Mercers, the Adelsons, the DeVoses, etc. have funded their preferences? It seems these oligarchs have taken over the role of the party bosses 'in smoke filled rooms', and we have shifted back to an extreme Pure Republic version of the electoral process.

  33. I…. learned…. so much from this. This really needs to be shown in 5th grade political history classes instead of relearning the Civil War for the 4th year in a row.

  34. What people fail to realize is that the Electoral College is Necessary, without it, the majorities in the large states would shut out places like Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, etc. With the Electoral College you vote for who your state nominates, in this way, every state has a voice and a states population has an equal say and no region is shut out.

  35. Your ancestor worship of the founders is quite pronounced in this video. Especially when those founders didn't think their system was to be set in stone for eternity.

  36. Almost makes me wish we could go back a little to the original intent, considering how the system of democracy is being manipulated on all sides.

  37. There are many other undemocratic factors not mentioned. Like having to be registered to a party to vote, being able to lose the right to vote because of minor crimes, the gerrymandering, the swing states and the candidates' tactics thereof, the candidates' tour budgets connections to donor corruption. European elections are usually personal secrets and every adult citizen has a vote.

  38. What the fuck……The fucking american system explained by fucking william c fox FAILED BIGLY WITH THE ELECTION OF TRUMP……GO FUCK YOURSELF

  39. i'm a british person watching this, and i have always thought your american primaries were odd things. In most countries, parties select a candidate internally, chosen by actual members of the party, they don't ask the general public to choose their candidates for them. I think you americans are getting it all wrong. they let you vote in the primary to make it appear inevitable that one of the two parties wins. i think a better system would be if they didn't allow you a primary to vote in but instead just chose the candidate they wanted and then if the public didn't like them, vote for a different party.

    I cannot express just how odd your primaries are.

  40. Whoa, this is really good. This sheds light on topics that have long since existed within humanity, histories and lessons that are often forgotten with time. This is a well made production with fitting dialogue and visuals that furthers the understanding of our past and present

  41. The Aristotlean God viewpoint for leaders is presumed in this entire video. Since that doesn't exist and we know now that no man can fill such a role, what we have now might just be what we need.

  42. Well, how about having a comedian for a president, without any experience or program, just pure populism and media reality (yeah, that's exactly what we have in Ukraine ). Primaries, caucuses or whatever, some prevention measures for stability of the republic should exist

  43. It is sad how much divide exists already. That segment where you spoke to presidents 'dividing people into factions'. The red party would see that as the previous president's frequent race rhetoric and the blue party will see that as the current president.

  44. Very interesting video. I suggest Aristotle's politics as it calls popular election by the people of a few to rule constitutional government; a combination of democracy and aristocracy. He also thought of it as the lawful counterpart to democracy which he saw as mob rule.

    With this in mind and knowledge that both the Athenian democracy and a few Itaian oligarchic republics used random selection to great effect. I'd suggest replacing the party's role in chosing candidates with a random sample of the public and perhaps have the candidates chosen from them as well.

  45. Wow, the Cynical Historian should really respond to your description of Wilson.

    Hitler lost his only Election, the people of Weimar Germany wanted Communism.

    No Demagogue truly gets the majority of the people, so the truth is ti's anit-Democratic measures like the Electoral Collage that keeps getting them elected. BTW Trump didn't get a majority of votes in the Republican Primary either.

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