The Weekly Winston: Public Opinion in American Democracy

This short fragment from volume III of The World Crisis, published in 1927, is worth keeping in mind as we watch the ongoing political fight over the fiscal cliff.  (By the way, notice the curious but prescient mistake in this passage.*)

The rigid Constitution of the United States, the gigantic scale of its party machinery, the fixed terms for which public officers and representatives are chosen, invest the President with a greater measure of autocratic power than was possessed before the war by the Head of any great State. The vast size of the country, the diverse types, interests and environments of its enormous population, the safety-valve function of the legislatures of fifty Sovereign States, make the focusing of national public opinion difficult, and confer upon the Federal Government exceptional independence of it except at fixed election times.  Few modern Governments need to concern themselves so little with the opinion of the party they have beaten at the polls; none secures to its supreme executive officer, at once the Sovereign and the Party Leader, such direct personal authority.

Hmmm, maybe Obama will want that Churchill bust back in the Oval Office after all.

(*There were of course only 48 states when Churchill wrote this.)


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