We learned in grade school about the Constitutional Convention, right? That summer of 1787 when the founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to write the US Constitution? Many of us would be shocked to learn that what the framers of the Constitution did was roll back democratic gains of the American Revolution. They were frightened of too much democracy.
Why does this matter? Because the pressures against democracy today—the interests of the 1 percent of the wealthiest, most powerful Americans who make corporate decisions that threaten the health and well-being of people and Earth—are the same pressures that led to limiting democracy at the start of this country.
The delegates who wrote the Constitution were the 1 percent of their time—white men of means who were merchants and landowners and slaveholders, the majority of them lawyers and a few of them, like Washington, extremely wealthy. They had been living in a democratic experiment for eleven years under the Articles of Confederation, and most of them didn’t like it. They’d seen social upheaval—poor farmers revolting because they were losing their land on account of taxes levied against them to pay for the revolution. Slaves growing more numerous, in some states threatening to outnumber whites. How could elite interests remain safe? A strong central government was needed to keep the rabble in check.