Monday, January 16, 2012

The Weakness of Modern Repuplicans

I wrote this piece back in 2007 but never published it. It is still as valid today as it was then.

The Weakness of Modern Republicans.

I must say that I have long been dismayed by the Republican Party having falling into a semantic trap laid by the Democrats and the mainstream media. That being the contention that the terms “republic” and “democracy” are somehow indistinguishable in meaning and freely interchangeable.

That such a fallacious claim is not confronted demonstrates that at best, they don’t understand, or at worst, they don’t want the voting public to understand that the American Constitution exists not only to protect us from the tyranny of dictators and kings but to protect us from the dangers presented by the manipulation of democracy by the kind of emotional demagoguery that has become the stock and trade of the Democrat Party. (and all to many Republicans)

By accepting this premise we become trapped into believing that “plurality” is somehow the be all and end all in the formulation and implementation of public policy. Such a notion would have the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves.

The Constitution established our nation as a Republic, not a parliamentary democracy, and for that we should be thankful. This is demonstrated in our “Pledge of Allegiance” and by the fact that our military and elected officials swear loyalty to that Constitution, not to an individual, a political party, or a transitory elected government.

Thomas Jefferson is often held up as the spiritual father of the Democrat party, yet it is this same Jefferson to whom we owe perhaps the greatest debt for the fact that our nation is a Constitutional Republic, not a parliamentary democracy. Jefferson was not present at the Constitutional Convention; he was Minister to France at the time. Upon his return he quickly pointed out that the document as proposed, was deficient in its lack of enumerations as to what the new government would be prohibited from doing, i.e. the need to place strict limitations on the exercise of democracy. Thus we have our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These amendments delineate specific rights that “shall not” be infringed by government regardless of what a democratic majority, elected officials or the public may demand or desire.

Neither did Jefferson raise objections to the manner proscribed for the election of our President, namely the system of the Electoral College. The Founding Fathers clearly recognized that we are not a homogenous nation. Political perspectives, social attitudes and perceptions of what is required of government vary greatly from person to person, State to State and region to region. This is as true today as it was in the 1780’s. Herein lie the foundations of not just the Bill or Rights, the Electoral College system, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Senate, but the Constitution’s philosophical guidance of our nation as a republic rather than a democracy. It is these very institutions that protect us from the tyranny of either the majority of citizens over the minority, of a group of large populous states over the smaller less populous ones or of one region over another.

So it would appear then that the founding “Democrat” better understood the dangers of social democracy than those who would claim to be his inheritors. The wisdom of his insight was quickly borne witness too by the chaos and unbridled bloodletting that came be known as the French Revolution.

It is not a mistake that our Constitution grants greater powers and responsibilities to the Senate than it does to the House of Representatives. No one could rationally argue that the Senate is a wholly democratic institution. Yes its members are elected by voting majorities from each of there respective States and its final decisions are reached by the votes of a majority of its members, but the vote of a Senator from Vermont or Wyoming carries the same weight as the vote of a Senator from California or Texas. So that if examined in terms of representing the populations of those States it is not so democratic after all. It was not intended to be. So it is also with the structure of the Electoral College. Nowhere does the Constitution bind the Electors to the majority of votes cast in their respective States. Nor should they be. They are only bound to vote in accordance to what their conscience tells them is best for the nation as a whole.

Would the Democrats argue that the Senate be done away with because it is “undemocratic?” I think not, for to do so would put their leading spokesman out of a job. It was the Founding Fathers vision the House of Representatives was to be bound to the will of the people, and that the Senate, The Supreme Court and the Electoral College was to be bound to logical discourse and reasoned debate guided only by the need for the preservation of the Constitution.

So then we must ask ourselves what insights and visions led our Founding Fathers to bequeath us such undemocratic institutions? How do they help us preserve our Republic?

For myself, I have no doubts that it was their hope that carefully defined and limited democratic methods would serve us well, and for the most part they have. But they also recognized that in times of crisis or when the nation was closely divided, when inflamed political passions and unreasoned or uninformed opinion and demagoguery might hold sway, there must exist safety valves, vehicles whereby once again a few individuals engaged in logical discourse, reasoned debate, careful examination of law the Constitution and of their own consciences might right the Ship of State and bring the nation back to an even keel. They were right then and they are still right today.

Yet all this said, in speech after speech we here Presidents (past and present) talk of spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world, without any mention of the necessity of defining freedom as structuring individual rights as the supreme tenant of any form of self-government. Fortunately we already have the structures in place, however tenuous they may have become over the years. I can only hope and pray that as the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and the rest of the Middle East build their new structures of government they to understand the meaning of freedom as well.

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