What's the most undemocratic thing US politicians ever rammed down the public throat?

The US political system is intentionally designed to insulate the Federal government from ephemeral fluctuations in public opinion, with election cycles giving the people a chance to have their say in the longer term. On several issues there is a noticable gap between what politicians would like to do and what the public will support. I was wondering, what are the contenders for the most undemocratic, unpopular actions ever imposed at least temporarily on the public? When either the President or a voting majority of Congress effectively said “to hell with what the Great Unwashed think, we’re passing this!”

ETA: Since the Supreme Court isn’t elected, controversial Court decisions like Roe V. Wade are excepted.

PPS. Prohibition was widely popular when it was passed. It just didn’t stay that way.

Since perspectives on this are likely to be influenced by politics, let’s move this to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

Electoral College?

That’s a mechanism for the aforementioned insulation. I was thinking more of the results of such.

There sure wasn’t a lot of popular support in either Congress or on the street for Seward’s Folly…till gold was discovered.

Vietnam War?

I would think ObamaCare is right up there at the top. The only major piece of deep social change legislation in over 100 years without some level of bi-partisan support.

Taming of the trusts in the 1890’s, Social security, civil rights legislation all were to some degree or another bi-partisan efforts. In fact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received greater % of republican support than democrat support.

Some presidential pardons would qualify. It’s a rare thing for the elected branches to do anything in direct opposition to the clear will of the people. It happens most often when the people are unaware of what the congress is doing.

The Supreme Court decision on Bush v. Gore, which decided the outcome of Presidential election, even though the result was too close to call, and there was an ongoing recount. I can’t think of anything less democratic that happened in the US in a long time.

The stated criteria was public opinion, though. Circa 2010, the ACA was polling at 42.5% in favor, 50.2% opposed.

Boy, those were the days, eh?

Japanese Internment.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Panama Canal Treaty, which was pretty much hated at first and then public opinion became split. But there are some who maintain that the apparent split in polling just before the ratification votes on the treaties was actually more of a glitch than a shift in opinion.

I think the bailouts in late 2008 are also an adequate answer.

That was pretty popular too:

From what I can find, the second round of TARP money was pretty strongly opposed by the public but passed anyway.

The stimulus in 2009 was similar - opposed by roughly 60% of the public from what I can find by the time it was passed.

Even now both measures poll very poorly, even after they both worked about as well as anybody could have hoped.

It also seems that at the time almost 2/3 of Americans opposed the surge of troops in Iraq in early 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011100282.html

I’m going to suggest the 14th amendment. Public opinion was somewhat split along north/south lines after the Civil War, but there were intraparty disputes about the change in slaves’ status would affect southern representation in Congress, since it would eliminate the 3/5ths compromise. This was back before daily polls on public opinion, so I’m not sure if we know exactly how popular/unpopular it was.

Regardless of popularity percentages, though, the Confederate states would not be granted representation in Congress until they ratified the amendment. I have to think that strong-arming a vote through military occupation is at the very top of undemocratic things, no matter how the population feels about it.

Prohibition passed in part because:

a) Many people were essentially exempted from it*; and

b) From the beginning, there was confusion about exactly what would be banned: some proposals called for only spirits to be banned, others spirits and wine.

Had Prohibition from the beginning covered all booze (and had it applied to everybody), it probably never would have passed. Although the OP is correct that the unexpected unintended consequences (bootlegging associated crime, increased heavy drinking, etc.) did certainly contribute to repeal.

I don’t recall the percentage of the overall population that supported Prohibition, but the country was very divided (support was strong in rural, southern and western regions, weak in eastern and urban regions - sort of like gun rights today.)

I would answer the OP by nominating an action related to Prohibition: the adding of poison to industrial alcohol, with the intent of dissuading people from drinking it, knowing that those who went ahead and did would be horribly crippled for life.

*The rich were able to buy and stock warehouses prior to passage and drink legally the rest of their lives. And some other sectors of the population were not very likely to encounter enforcement measures.

I believe there was pretty widespread opposition to the introduction of a Federal income tax.

However, I don’t know what the OP means by “undemocratic” – just that 50% or more of the population didn’t like it?

How sad.

Income tax and Viet Nam and Iraq et al are good examples. I would like to add the government enabling of corporate personhood. Granting corporations and businesses the same status as human beings at least appears to allow governments to serve corporate and business interests at least as much as serving the interests of people.