Madison believed that the Critical Period events were a sign that America was falling into the destructive cycle that befell all previous experiments in self-government. The Greek historian, Polybius, called this phenomenon “the cycle of constitutions” in the second century B.C. In it, people would overthrow their rulers to govern themselves as equals. But they would eventually succumb to new rulers.
Fortunately, for present-day people in America, Madison and his fellow architects saved the nation from that fate by cracking the code of freedom. That is, they understood that self-government required a space where citizens could govern themselves. The Constitution’s genius is that it alone of all the founding charters in human history created a space that cannot be destroyed by rulers.
The obsession with the perceived threat posed by minority rule implies that Levitsky and Ziblatt do not realize that the Constitution’s intricate institutional design — separation of powers, bicameralism, federalism — makes it impossible for the minority to rule America in the first place.
If that were not the case, it would be appropriate for all Americans to recall Madison’s contention in Federalist 47. “Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power,” in the hands of rulers constituting a minority or majority of Americans, “no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.”