Elitism and Democracy in the Age of Trump

The common assumption is that the Founders… disliked popular politics because they were elitists, even aristocratic.  Many Americans grow old believing that the Founding generation opposed popular voting because it didn’t trust working people; going so far as to consider the masses as under-educated sheep.  This overly-simplistic analysis makes for spirited dinner conversation, but couldn’t be further from the truth.  As with most interpretations in history, the true story is more complicated.


The Enlightenment ideal of the “disinterested gentleman”… has since been misinterpreted as elitism.  According to enlightened principles, the ideal political leader has removed himself from the intrigues of financial dealings- “disinterested” himself from wage earning to achieve an impartial state of mind. The Founders were worried that a government controlled by men still worried about acquiring fortune could be used to that end.  Entry into public service was almost always accompanied by a retirement from business, this was considered by the Founders as the proper code of conduct.  Typically, this was accomplished by men who could afford such a radical change.  It was not always attainable, but it was a standard the Founders strove to reach.

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