Saturday, December 14, 2019

Is the US a Republic or a Democracy? “A republic, madam—if you can keep it.”

"You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;” Deuteronomy 12:8 

As Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787, a woman approached and asked him what form of government the Convention had produced. Franklin responded, “A republic, madam—if you can keep it.”

It is generally assumed that the government of the United States is a democracy. My intent in the following is to de-construct this unfortunate misunderstanding and to reconstruct that which is right and true.

This in a nutshell is the crisis facing our nation today. The assault currently being lodged against our Constitutionally Elected President is not against him personally but against the presidency itself - a key element of our republican form of government. And it is being launched by the only element of our government that could be said to be a democracy.

The government of the United States of America is a republic - not a democracy. The majority of the people do not rule - the majority of the states rule!  A pure democracy left unchecked will degenerate into anarchy or mob rule. A prime example of this from history is the French Revolution - anyone who opposed mob rule was permanently silenced. 

What, then, is a republic? A republican government is one in which the people—directly or indirectly—are the ultimate source of authority, electing representatives to make laws that serve their interests and advance the common good. A constitutional republic, however, also limits the power of the majority through a framework that promotes competent government and affords protections for fundamental rights.1

Our form of government has three equal branches. 

One of which - the legislative - is divided into two offices.  The House of Representatives is elected via a majority of the people and thus as a democracy.  The U.S. Senate is represented by a majority of the states and thus as a republic.

The executive or the presidency is elected by the states via the Electoral College and is thus representative of a republican form of government.  Those who would do away with the Electoral College would destroy the form of government that has guided our nation for almost 250 years and has made us the most influential, inventive, prosperous and generous the world has ever known. 

The judicial is the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal District Courts. These individuals are selected by the executive branch and ratified by the U.S. Senate. Thus they are also a product of a republic. And it is they that have the last word! 

As a result 16.67% of our government is representative of a democracy while the vast majority is representative of a republic. The attack being instigated in our day is against our republican form of government by a small minority and actually only by about half of that represented by only one political party. This is a contagion which if left unchecked would infect the rest of the body - its malignancy must be exposed and stopped. The remedy is the ballot - not the bullet. 

This insurgency believes that if they can emasculate the presidency the way will be laid open to them to completely dismantle our republic. But I believe there is a person currently in the Executive Office that is impervious to emasculation. As I was writing this I heard Alan Dershowitz say on TV, “It takes a strong executive to make a republic successful.”  

Is this an attempted coup?  Yes, it is!  It’s ultimate aim is the overthrow of our republic. The victory anthem of the Civil War was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” not “of the democracy.” A democracy is inherently a weak form of government while a republic is one of strength. And from our analogy of the Civil War a confederacy is doomed to fail for it has no strong central or federal government. The Federalists (Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison...) believed that the greatest threat to the future of the United States did not lie in the abuse of central power, but instead could be found in what they saw as the excesses of democracy.

Interesting - today, December 15, is the national Bill of Rights Day. 
The Bill of Rights provides perhaps the clearest example of the dichotomy between a democracy and a republic. It is simultaneously the most celebrated feature of our “democracy” and the most anti-democratic feature of our constitutional republic. The Bill of Rights provides heightened protection for fundamental liberties, protecting both natural rights, such as freedom of conscience, and civil rights, such as protection against arbitrary search and seizure. However, no matter how large the majority, one’s right to practice the religion of choice or to be free from arbitrary search by government officials cannot be abridged or simply voted away.2 
The tyranny of the majority - democracy - could do both.

So we must ask ourselves as Benjamin Franklin did - "We are a republic, can we keep it?"  Resoundingly we must proclaim, “Yes, we can!”  For Franklin also said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”  I would suggest to you that the two wolves are the east and west coasts while the lamb is the rest of us in the middle. We will not allow ourselves to be the main course. 

If not, our country will continue to shed the innocent blood of our most vulnerable citizens - the unborn person.  Both Israel and then Judah were carried into captivity because they shed innocent blood - hopefully it is not too late for our nation.

Footnotes 1 and 2

(I have been advised by my one woman editorial board to identify myself as Pastor Ron Thaxton - and that I am a confirmed evangelical, I am just agnostic as to the way we often live out our faith.)