Perhaps the best-known and least-read work of American history is John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Its thesis is simple enough: just because politicians are on occasion sustained by a plurality of buffoons, the politicians themselves need not always act like one. They can stand against misguided, uninformed, and even sometimes calamitous public opinion when true duty calls, and an honorable independence from the ignorant mob is called for. In short, representative democracy does not mean voting the sick conscience of the people.
Today we witnessed the final death of Kennedy's thesis in the Republican Party. I'm hardly going out on a speculative limb when I say that most House Republicans realize the utter absurdity of the lawsuit legislation they just passed. It is a foolish bill based on a foolish premise pressed by a foolish base. Its passage was the ultimate abdication of a thoughtful representative democracy.
The bill also demonstrates why the founders were somewhat terrified by democracy itself. They contemplated the prospect of majority buffoons in the House representing a broad buffoonery, and thereby promptly raced to the concept of an indirect democratic Senate, as well as an Electoral president. For all their meditative talk of republican Everymen, the founders were frightened to the bone by the sainted People.
Have House Republicans made a mockery of representative democracy? Not really. They're only reflecting the malevolence of those who put them there, just as the founders suspected they would. But pols such as Representative, Senator and President Kennedy envisioned a better kind of American democracy--one in which a few would resist the partisan tug of mindless pandering. And it is that which House Republicans made a mockery of.