At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention it is reported that a citizen asked Ben Franklin “What sort of government did you give us?” Allegedly he stated, “A Republic if You Can Keep it?” Whether these words were actually uttered or not is not the point, but the point here is a deeper understanding of our role in our Republic.
An analysis of this first requires an understanding of a republic. We are not a democracy. We are a republic. Politicians and the media all wrongly state that we are a democracy. Here is the difference. The US is actually a Republic. It is governed by the rule of law. The elected are supposed to be bound by oath to the written governing limits (ie constitution) yet vote “together” and create laws to address concerns of the represented in a democratic way. Conversely, a democracy is ruled by the omnipotent majority. In a Democracy, an individual, and any group of individuals composing any minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of the majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.
This distinction is important for the purposes of understanding the role of government and our role in that process. A republic requires more participation in the process. A republic requires a knowledge of the limiting constraints on the elected representatives. A republic requires a basic understanding of the rule of law. A republic requires analysis of issues through the lens of history. A democracy, however, only requires a person to vote according to their own will based on how their passions may dictate at that moment. So, when Franklin spoke of a Republic if we can keep it, he demonstrated a deep understanding of the responsibility we, as citizens, have in a free society. Unfortunately, we are losing our Republic. It’s not so much because of the elected leaders (although I am extremely upset with both major parties and those who are elected) but it is more because we, the people, do not understand the difference between a Republic and Democracy. It is vital that we have, at the least, a basic understanding of the law and the rule of law and how that is supposed to constrain our leaders and government. This is precisely why our government is growing and we have leaders who operate above and beyond their constitutionally set boundaries.
I think it is up to each of us to ask our family and friends about their understanding of the difference between a Republic and Democracy. Therein I think we find the real answer to the statement, “A Republic, if you can Keep it.”
Until Next Time,
David A. Standridge