Sunday, June 21, 2020

Americans need to recommit to a Republic form of government!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone asked him, ”Dr. Franklin, what have we got- a republic or a monarchy?”  Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”  233 years later America may be losing the republic Franklin and the founders crafted.
    A republic form of government is one where elected individuals represent the citizens and exercise power according to the rule of law under the Constitution.  In America, those representatives are democratically elected.  In a ‘direct democracy,’ the citizens directly deliberate and decide on legislature. When elected officials in a republic abrogate their responsibility, citizens often take matters into their own hands.  True democracy is ‘mob rule.’  Based on the recent civil unrest, the U.S. is looking more and more like a true democracy.  
      Some believe the United States has moved from a republic to an oligarchy.  In a study by two political scientists; Martin Gilens, (Princeton), and Benjamin Page, (Northwestern), they concluded the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics.  Gilens and Page write; “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”  Gilens and Page are liberals and clearly had a predetermined outcome, but they are correct the wealthy are more engaged in politics than the poor.  But no oligarchy can survive mob rule.  The numbers just won’t work.  So how does America get back to a representative democracy?  How does the United States get back to the form of government the founders intended?  Three ways:
     First, the average citizen must actively engage in their government.  They have to do more than vote.  They must pay attention to what is happening all the time, not just every two years at election time.  That involves attending meetings, getting to know their elected officials, helping candidates, and contributing money.  The reason big money has taken over politics is because so few average people are engaged in the process.   
     Second, the American system of government must be taught to the next generation.  Most millennials have little knowledge of our system of government and the genius of the founders.  Pew Research, in a March 2020 poll, found two thirds of millennials want the Electoral College eliminated and the president be elected by popular vote.  They fail to not understand the EC is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy.  Eliminating the Electoral College will result in large states having more and more control.  The genius of the Electoral College is it gives  power to individual states and not just population centers. 
     Third, Americans must commit to a democratic republic.  The mindset to understand the importance of being involved in a republic is critical.  Without wide-spread commitment from individual citizens taking equity in their self-governing system of government, America will not survive.
     The U.S. Constitution’s first amendment guarantees the right of citizens to peacefully assembly, but not to destroy private or public property.  What we are seeing in America is mob rule because some elected leaders capitulate to a mob.  Until citizens hold them accountable at the ballot box, America’s system of government is doomed.


Herb Van Fleet said...

I agree that we have moved away from Dr. Franklin’s republic, but not as far as a monarchy. Arguably it could be called an Oligarchy or a Plutocracy; both fit what our current form of government we have become. In this country, it’s the wealth that controls. And that’s because money is power. And power ultimately corrupts. It is much easier to corrupt a republic than a democracy.

I must respectfully disagree with you that “the EC is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy.” It only pertains to a single elective office – the president. And it has a number of flaws, not the least of which is that it permits the election of a candidate who does not win the most votes. Moreover, it does not currently function as the founders intended.

Here’s in part what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #68 about that: “The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.” In other words the candidate must be fit for office.

Well, I’ve gone on too long. So, I’ll just leave with a quote from the British Historian Arnold Toynbee – “History shows that great nations rise and great nations fall, but the autopsy of history is that all great nations commit suicide.”

Herb Van Fleet
Tulsa, OK

Steve Fair is a Jelly Salesman. said...

Thanks for reading. The EC is about state rights and direct election of a president by eliminating the EC would dismantle/undermine state rights. That was my point. I agree there is too much money in politics, but the answer is not regulating how much a person can contribute, but a more broad base of involvement by citizens. I agree that most nations commit suicide because of apathy.


Mac T. Webb said...

Thanks for the article. The young people must be better informed. Thanks, Steve