The genesis of my thought is this: what exactly is it about democracy (or more correctly, a republic) that the Republicans don't like that they are so hell-bent on establishing a one party (and ONLY ONE party) government in the United States?
To wit--it is no secret that Senator Mitch McConnell (pah, leaves a bad taste in my mouth to even write it) has said his goal is to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president. On that basis alone, how on the earth can anyone expect anything to change in our nation's capitol, much less get anything done?
And the reason McConnell--and others who think the same way--are so moved? They don't like the direction the country is headed. Apparently, it is their thinking that only one party is capable of coming up with programs and ideas to direct the country. Ergo--a one party system. I find that profoundly undemocratic.
The story goes that during the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Ben Franklin emerged from the heated discussions. A woman encountered him who asked--well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?
Franklin's reply: a republic--if we can keep it.
A republic indeed. While it is tempting to launch into a discourse on the nature of a republic versus a democracy, I will resist. The distinction between a republic and a monarchy should be clear. In a monarchy, the power passes from one individual to another, usually by means of heredity, without any consultation of the people.
The very vitality of preserving our form of government depends on more than one voice, or one mode of thought, contributing to the conversation. Over time, what had been the federalists, or those who favored a strong central government, and those opposed to a strong central government, who instead favored more states' rights, has morphed into Democrats and Republicans.
If you will recall, the initial form of government tried by the colonies was a loose confederation of states, without much central authority. It failed, and failed miserably. So, the Constitutional Conventions struggled and finally brought forth the essential form of government we have today.
True, nothing in the Constitution presumed a two-party system. In fact, George Washington, who was generally a Federalist, warned about the dangers of political parties. It grieved him to see the seeds of dissension that were growing in the famous conflict between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
In his farewell address to the nation, when he declined to serve a third term as president, Washington was prescient in his anticipation of the impact of political parties on the nation:
They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests. . . [T]hey are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
WOW--I'd say he nailed it.
However, we do have a party system today. Over time, as political systems have evolved, it becomes less possible for a country with a single party system to exist democratically as a republic. When I think of the non-monarchist governments in the world that have a single party "system" I can only come up with examples of places where tyranny has the upper hand.
So, my petition is--save the two party system. Save the Republic.
A republic--yes, if we can keep it.
Feel free to print this and mail it to Senator McConnell or Rep. Boehner.
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis