The title of this planting is identical to one at PoliBlog, and the context of what follows will be more clear if you head over there and read Steven’s very thoughtful post, criticizing some (including one of his readers) who prefer a more “authoritarian” (or I might say “Latin American“) variant of elected presidency.
In fact, what is below is simply a comment I posted at PB, but which seemed appropriate here (and happens to be the topic of a talk I am giving today):
Donâ€™t forget that Madison was not only a congressional supremacist, but a House supremacist. Federalist 10, written before the Convention, is all about making a single chamber dominant over an â€œextended republicâ€ because only by having one deliberative body that balances the â€œpassions and interestsâ€ of a large community can the danger of â€œfactionâ€ (majority or minority) be checked.
When he put this into practice through his proposed constitution (known as the Virginia Plan), the executive would have been selected by Congress. Both houses of congress would have had membership based on state population, and Senators were to be elected by the House, out of nominations sent by the respective state legislatures. There was no veto as we know it, though the President could have convened a Council of Revision (judges) to consider whether a bill was constitutional. Even if it said it was not, a majority (not two thirds, but 50%+1) could override the Council’s veto attempt.
Federalist 51 came only afterwards, once Madisonâ€™s effort to implement the Virginia Plan was thwarted by small states, which preferred to demolish the whole concept of the Union rather than surrender their equality of representation in at least one house of congress. Only when thwarted did Madison turn to institutional checks and balances, as a way to invigorate the executive (though not as much as authoritarians like Honzaâ€“or Alito, for that matter) would like, against a congress that no longer looked like the one Madison wanted in Federalist 10.
Thus one can be a House supremacist and a Madisonian. Just as Madison himself was.
The above leans heavily on an excellent chapter on Madison’s political theory by my colleague, Sam Kernell.