VDH: “All consensual governments are prone to scary wild swings of mob-like emotion—and to demagogues who can almost rein in or goad the dêmos. But the Founders sought to make American government immune to Athenian-style craziness through a system of checks and balances that vented popular frenzies without a great deal of damage. If an idea proved illogical or illegal, then legislators, judges, and executives could dissipate, delay, or nullify it, before it swept away years of sober custom and time-honored practices—at least as long as the Constitution and its subsidiary laws were not dismantled as impediments to ‘fairness’ and ‘equality.’
In the twenty-first century, novel developments have increasingly turned us from sober Roman republicans into mercurial Athenian democrats, as we can see especially in this election year.
First, the rise of social media suddenly destroyed most hierarchies of popular expression. Anyone can put up a YouTube video on the Internet and either delight or enrage millions of Americans within seconds—without any journalistic standards, fact-checking, or editorial oversight. The ensuing fury recalls the frenzied rumor-mongering of ancient Athens, when bearers of unpleasant news were often murdered or beaten by mobs at the port of the Piraeus, before their reports could be verified.
Presidential candidates crash or burn in fantastic spurts of public adulation or abject repulsion—predicated not on their policy positions or their past record, but instead on their television appearances and the degree to which they are ‘trending’ on social media in any given 24-hour period.
Second, we are an increasingly urban people who have lost the sense of self-reliance and autonomy so needed for survival in the countryside and rural communities. Jefferson, more than two centuries ago, warned us that he did not think democracy would work when ‘we get piled upon one another in large cities.’ Fad and frenzy are the wages of centrally controlled, dense populations that look to an omnipotent ‘You Didn’t Build That’ government for their sustenance, safety, and guidance, losing contact with nature and confidence in themselves that accrues from self-reliant achievement.
Third, globalization has expanded America’s supposed responsibility for equality and fairness to all the peoples of the world. Suddenly, it is not enough for the government to provide jobs and opportunities to Americans alone; we must now extend those privileges to illegal immigrants. The Internet and cable TV show us hordes of people scrambling to enter the West—as if we have within our means the instant fixes for such maladies that are the fault of distant others. The plight of gays in the Congo, Christians in Syria, the transgendered in Russia, and the poor in Sudan have become referenda on our morality—and our government must expand and grow, the argument goes, to serve the global disadvantaged.
Finally, the law is seen as an impediment to such sweeping notions of social justice. It is certainly deemed counter-revolutionary and an impediment to the Obama administration’s idea of an equality of result. As a result, the President at one time or another has ignored enforcement of federal laws, from not prosecuting the rogue behavior of federal bureaucrats at the IRS or EPA to suspending elements of his own Affordable Care Act.
Over 300 cities—in antebellum, neo-Confederate fashion—have declared themselves immune from the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Often detained and deported illegal aliens have been freed by our modern bureaucratic versions of Jefferson Davis nullificationists. Consequently, many released illegal aliens have killed and maimed Americans.
Yet not all of the laws are ignored in quite the same blanket fashion. If San Francisco claims that it does not have to turn over an illegal alien caught in violation of federal immigration law, then can Salt Lake City arbitrarily decide that a particular protected newt or salt-water fish is no longer sacrosanct under the federal Endangered Species Act? Will Fresno be allowed to cancel federal laws that forbid instant purchases of handguns?
What now constitutes actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, EPA, ICE, and a host of other alphabet agencies are not treated as per se violations of the law. Rather, they are judged according to whether the offender and his crime were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable. CEOs who cannot cap a leaky oil well or who sell noxious peanut products go to jail; EPA functionaries who turn white-water rivers into toxic yellow mush melt back into the coils of the bureaucracy.”
The whole article is worth reading.