How can the voice of a few be heard over the cacophony of many? Madison and Hamilton envisioned many layers of government connecting each person to their representatives, and they dreamed of politically active citizens. By establishing the American system of federalism and promoting special interest groups in the constitution, Madison and Hamilton turned their visions into a reality.
Federalism divides government into sections which serve certain people with specific needs. Madison described the most basic division of government – federal and state – in his writing, “The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes” (No. 46). Federal and state governments offer two different inputs for citizens’ demands, so that one can better serve the broader needs of a country, while the other serves the more personalized needs of a state. For example, California became the first state to impose a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2016. Through the Interstate Commerce Act, the federal government controls interstate pollution, while states can control plastic bag use within their own borders. Therefore, the minority of Americans with the initiative to enact a plastic bag ban are able to enforce the ban while the majority of Americans are permitted to continue using plastic bags. The flexibility that federalism offers for the voices of minorities is preserved in the Constitution.
On both a local and national stage, minority factions gain power through interest groups, which are protected by the Bill of Rights’ guaranteed freedom of speech. Madison endorsed the organization of many factions as obstacles for the, “accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and [self-]interested majority” (No. 10). By challenging the majority, interest groups provide for the needs of the minority. These interest groups link the public to their government through lobbying efforts to influence legislation and through the distribution of accurate information to their voting bloc and supportive members of Congress. The NAACP, a special interest group which represents the African American minority, has been a leader in using litigation as a method of influencing public policy since its foundation in the early 1900s. It led the push for anti-lynching laws and contributed to the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case which established that the “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional. The NAACP was rooted in the liberating ideas of the Constitution. Today, interest groups continue to pave the way to Washington D.C. for minorities who would otherwise have little say in government.
The Constitution ensures that the actions and voice of a few can make a difference in the American government. In the Constitution, Madison and Hamilton established representation through federalism and promoted political activism through interest groups. The result is the American system that persists today, still protecting the few from the many.