From Thornton's The United States of Entitlements:
The excesses of ancient Athenian democracy and its near destruction at the hands of Sparta made the founders particularly wary of direct democracies, which as James Madison wrote, "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." By empowering people no matter how lacking in virtue, character, or knowledge, democracy gives greater scope to their irrational appetites, leaving them vulnerable to factional strife or the demagogue who promises them the gratification of their desires at the expense of freedom and political order. Then democracy becomes "ochlocracy," a "mob rule" that descends into tyranny:
"For the mob," Polybius writes, "habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbors, as soon as it has got a leader sufficiently ambitious and daring, being excluded by poverty from the sweets of civil honors, produces a reign of mere violence. Then come tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments, redivisions of land; until, after losing all trace of civilization, it has once more found a master and a despot."
Though this may seem like a dusty political philosophy lesson, remember that the United States has evolved perilously close to the sort of direct democracy that would have horrified the founders.