The Founding Fathers designed a government that (they hoped) would resist mob rule. They didn’t anticipate how strong the mob could become through technological advances to spread information and solidify radical positions amongst factions; nor did they anticipate the existence of polarized political parties.
James Madison argues in Federalist #10 that a Constitutional Republic can handle the problems posed by “factions.” With the technology of mass media and increased polarization of media outlets to facilitate communications based on true and untrue information, America is teetering on the abyss.
Jeffrey Rosen writes a powerful article explaining this dangerous situation in the October 2018 issue of The Atlantic. He suggests what might be a “best way” of addressing our common danger as follows:
“The best way of promoting a return to Madisonian principles, however, may be one Madison himself identified: constitutional education. In recent years, calls for more civic education have become something of a national refrain. But the Framers themselves believed that the fate of the republic depended on an educated citizenry. Drawing again on his studies of ancient republics, which taught that broad education of citizens was the best security against “crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty,” Madison insisted that the rich should subsidize the education of the poor.”
“These are dangerous times: The percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a liberal democracy is plummeting.”
“To combat the power of factions, the Founders believed the people had to be educated about the structures of government in particular. “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both,” Madison wrote in 1822, supporting the Kentucky legislature’s “Plan of Education embracing every class of Citizens.” In urging Congress to create a national university in 1796, George Washington said: “A primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government.” “