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Alfred de Grazia:

PUBLIC & REPUBLIC : Political Representation in America


Part  C


Although the Americans Constitution did not institute a party system, the nineteenth century so securely grafted the idea of two major parties onto American political life that, as Ostrogorski complained, deviations into independency or a third party were widely regarded as un-American and contra-mores.[32] Yet the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by recurrent waves of insurgency, independency, and third-party movements.[33] Without exception, these groupings had more in common with each other than they had differences. There always existed a basis for limited movements to remedy the more striking complaints of farmers and workers. The movements wove in and out of the major parties, here striking a compromise, there standing fast on a point of economic or personal principle.

In no respect did the movements resemble each other more closely than in their attitude towards representation. And if the post-Civil War period in America can be called the Age of Insurgency, it may also be called the Age of Reaction of Direct Representation. Each of the new movements presented an economic platform replete with injunctions against the "interests" and proposals for sweeping economic measures concerning the railroads, corporations, and banking. At the same time, the ancient representative propositions of the direct democrats were presented in an extreme form, but dressed to fit the problems of the day.

National unity, declared the National Grangers in 1874, was their object. Selfish interests were their enemies. The Grangers urged "every member to do all in his power legitimately to influence for good the action of any political party to which he belongs." The "harmony" of the national interest, the "unity" of the people, the "spuriousness" of the claims of divided interests are common to the period of insurgency. It is the whole people who are unrepresented, not the members of a particular class. "We seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the 'plain people,' with which class it originated," stated the Populist Platform of 1892. "We believe that the power of government, in other words, of the people - should be expanded...."[34] The Socialist Party of 1912, the progressive party of 1912, and the progressive party of 1924 declared specifically for the "people" and against the "interests." The Progressives of 1924 charged that monopoly was king and that the people would not yield further to its tyranny. "They know monopoly has its representatives in the halls of Congress, on the Federal bench, and in the executive departments...."[35]

The means of removing the "interests" from their position between the government and the people were generally the same -- more direct democracy. The Populists advocated the initiative and referendum, favored limiting the president and Vice president to one term only, urged the direct election of Senators, and sought the adoption of the secret ballots. The Socialists advocated unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women, the abolition of the electoral college, and the easing of provisions for amending the national Constitution. The Progressives in 1912 advocated the election of Senators directly by the people; nation-wide preferential primaries for Presidential candidates; direct primaries for the nomination of state and federal officers; the initiative, referendum and recall; equal suffrage for women; and legislation regulating lobbies.[36] In 1924, the Progressives declared themselves as favoring the direct popular election of all Federal judges.

The economic programs of the groups and individuals of the far left differ more than political statements covering the representative-represented relationship. The individual is always supposed to face all aspects of the governments directly. Henry Demarest Lloyd stated in a speech in Chicago that the people had taken over the "management" of the government in 1776 and could now extend their management to new spheres, The Senate would be abolished, the referendum would be set to work, and, with popular control of the government and industry- established courts. President and Congress would be in the people's hands.[37] The government would become a "people's syndicate."[38]

Whatever elements of government could not be managed directly by the people might be abolished, thought many of the radicals. "The functions of government should be kept at a minimum, and officials should be selected in such manner as to ensure their being real and not pretended microcosms of their constituents.'"[39] Sometimes at a loss as to how the problem of growing centralization of production might be handled with any sort of mass-controlled devices, the radicals urged primitive Jeffersonian agrarianism as a solution. Benjamin Tucker, the individualist anarchist, asserted that he was only an "unterrified Jeffersonian." Ezra Heywood found in American tradition a justification of his anarchist attitude: It is really only a new assertion of the ideas of self-rule and self-support which Jefferson "put into the Declaration of 1776," which suggested the doctrines of cost as the limit of price and "individual Sovereignty proclaimed by Josiah Warren from New Harmony, Indiana, in 1830.'"[40]

The crux of the difference between the traditional direct democratic idea of representation and the American anarchistic idea lay in their respective attitudes towards the majority principle. Once the majority principle is granted to be specious or unjust, representation turns to presentation and voluntary agreements among individuals. Stephen Pearl Andrews, for example, felt that inasmuch as there were no two objects in the universe precisely alike each object had a rationale of just behavior within itself.[41] The individual is such an object and therefore cannot be justly ruled save by his own self-control. The rule of the majority is foreign to the nature of true democracy, As all men are born free and equal, every man is born free from the government of every other man.

In the main, however, the insurgency of America based itself on the majority principle and tended to subserve other representative machinery to the clear operation of the majority. It naturally tended to identify the majority with the whole people and with the principle that "what is best for the majority is best for all." Its attachment to the majority was historically conditioned by the obvious manipulation of government by small organized interests. With great persistence, the insurgents pursued "national unity," seeking it, however, only through those measures which did not conflict with its psychology of individualism and of governments no bigger than or different from the people.

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