“Lock her up”, “not my president”, “Hitlary”, “make Russia great again” “today’s illegals, tomorrow’s democrats”, and “Benedict Donald”. These are just a few attacks that circulated throughout the country during and after the 2016 presidential election. A 2014 Pew Research Center study has shown that the overlap of political values between Republicans and Democrats has diminished greatly since 1994. Donald Trump is a president unlike others in many ways. One key difference is that he has stuck with divisive policies supported by his core base that propelled him to victory. Most presidents in recent decades have enjoyed a stable approval rating above 50% through their first year in office. This has not been the case for Trump. Although trump was elected into office and has catered to a strong, yet non-majority group, many of his efforts have been curbed by the countries other representatives: members of congress. If James Madison could speak to us today regarding his writing of Federalist No. 10, I’d imagine his message would be roughly equivalent to this: “I told you so!”
One of the best writings related to the political climate we are in today is James Madison’s Federalist No. 10, an essay which offers remedies to handle “factions”, or groups of citizens that have interests that are not in line with the rights of the whole community. Madison states that these factions/parties can obtain so much mutual animosity that they would rather frustrate and oppress the other than work for the common good. Madison argues that you cannot get rid of these factions, as their roots come from within human nature, but you can curtail them through a republic, or as others would say, a representative democracy. The people will elect their representatives who will posses wisdom to best perceive the true interests of the country. Has this worked as intended?
One of the key reasons Donald Trump had an energized base of supporters that voted was his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The senate was unable to create a repeal and replacement bill that would pass, so they opted to try to simply repeal large components of Obamacare for now. While they had the votes (a 52 seat majority), 3 Republicans went against the grain (Murkowski, Collins, and McCain). Why? Susan Collins stated that “this approach will not provide the market stability and premium relief that is needed”, Lisa Murkowski stated “their [her constituents] personal situation may be made worse under the legislation considered this week”, and John McCain stated “I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the healthcare needs of the American people first”. In essence, they argued that the “skinny repeal” remedy would make things worse for the country. Whether one agrees with repealing key parts of Obamacare or not, the reasoning given by these senators, that is, that the current repeal would not benefit the country, is exactly what Madison claimed a republic would create.
While our representative democracy aided Donald Trump in winning the election without receiving a majority of the vote, it now dilutes his ability to pass key policy actions through congress, which represents large swathes of Americans. The political climate of the United States has transformed into harsh rhetoric and animosity, but the representative government structure has made government more stable and less perceptible to rhetorical mud slinging. The next time we see a protest or rally for or against certain politicians or values, let’s remind ourselves that what might result in the legislative process is often reasonable and takes what is best for the country into account.