By Internet standards, long and medium respectively, but recommended.
The Presidential Nomination Mess
James W. Caesar
The Claremont Institute
…the founders introduced a comprehensive way of looking at the selection process that continued to exercise a broad influence. One of their simplest but most important principles was to consider the presidential selection system a means to an end, not an end in itself. Its purpose was to elevate a meritorious person to the presidency, in a way that promoted the Constitution’s design for the office. Their explanation of the system did not celebrate the process as a positive event in its own right, much less as the consummation of American democracy. They focused instead on the need to avoid the many potential problems and dangers attendant on the choice of a chief executive.
The principal objective was to choose a sound statesman, someone “pre-eminent for ability and virtue,” in the words of The Federalist, by a method that satisfied republican standards of legitimacy. (The system, with electors to be chosen by the state legislatures or the public, was a remarkably democratic arrangement for its day.) How to identify a person of “virtue” was the crux of the issue. The best way would be a judgment based largely on the individual’s record of public service, as determined finally by the electors. The founders’ intent was above all to prevent having the decision turn on a demonstration of skill in the “popular arts” as displayed in a campaign. They were deeply fearful of leaders deploying popular oratory as the means of winning distinction; this would open the door to demagoguery, which, as the ancients had shown, was the greatest threat to the maintenance of moderate popular government. By demagoguery, the founders did not mean merely the fomenting of class envy, or harsh, angry appeals to regressive forces; they also had in mind the softer, more artful designs of a Pericles or a Caesar, who appealed to hopeful expectations, “those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle” (Federalist 68). The greatest demagogues would be those who escaped the label altogether.
Ten Random, Politically Incorrect Thoughts
Victor Davis Hanson
…9. As I wrote earlier, the shrill Left is increasingly far more vicious these days than the conservative fringe, and about like the crude Right of the 1950s. Why? I am not exactly sure, other than the generic notion that utopians often believe that their anointed ends justify brutal means. Maybe it is that the Right already had its Reformation when Buckley and others purged the extremists—the Birchers, the neo-Confederates, racialists, the fluoride-in-the-water conspiracists, anti-Semites, and assorted nuts.—from the conservative ranks in a way the Left has never done with the 1960s radicals that now reappear in the form of Michael Moore, Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan, Moveon.org, the Daily Kos, etc. Not many Democrats excommunicated Moveon.org for its General Betray-Us ad. Most lined up to see the premier of Moore’s mythodrama. Barack Obama could subsidize a Rev. Wright or email a post-9/11 Bill Ayers in a way no conservative would even dare speak to a David Duke or Timothy McVeigh—and what Wright said was not all that different from what Duke spouts. What separated Ayers from McVeigh was chance; had the stars aligned, the Weathermen would have killed hundreds as they planned.