Thursday, November 04, 2010

Saving the Republic

I have decided to haul myself out of the corner, stop licking my wounds, and begin to articulate some of what I have been thinking.

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


Ginnie said...

Thank you so much for writing this. Last night I received one of those hateful emails about Obama that circulated in 2008. It was from a new acquaintance and I'm sure she had no idea how offensive it would be to me. I wrote back to her and told her NEVER to send me anything like that again ... but what it really showed me is that, now that the Republicans gained all those seats they think it's open war on Democrats and the President. I can't belive the lightly veiled hatred that they spout and it gets worse every day.

possumlady said...

Unfortunately, the Republicans are cocky enough to say in the open what they would only say behind closed doors before. A good friend of mine is a lobbyist (no, really, he's a great guy :)). Personally, he is a moderate democrat but needs to have contacts and play nice to both sides of the aisle. He told me he went to the first Republican breakfast of the year in January of 2009, right after the inauguration. The ENTIRE breakfast was basically McConnell telling everyone how they had to basically block anything and everything that the new President was working on. No mention about working together for the good of the country, etc. My friend, who has been working on and around the Hill for over 30 years, was shocked and disgusted. I would say I was disgusted but not really shocked.

Anvilcloud said...

I think you have it right and wrong KGM. You definitely don't want or need a one party system, but I have been thinking for some time that you need a system of more than two parties. With just two choices, people tend to think in terms of black and white. I think more choices would lessen the bitter rivalry between the Dems and the Reps. But I know it's too late; you're doomed to a two party system as far as I can tell. Let's hope that you're not doomed to a one party system.

Anonymous said...

The real sadness of the whole thing is that we are so far from the Christian nation that we are supposed to be. If there wasn't so much of the "in your face" opposition to decency and morality from the Democrats (President included), the conservatives and the grass root republicans wouldn't have to be so belligerent about their agenda. Just a thought which is what you wanted.

KGMom said...

@ Ginnie--oh my, I find hateful mail most distressful, regardless of who the target is.

@Christine--well, the news today is reporting on the Sen. McConnell vow to make Obama a one-term president. How does one compromise with someone who says that?

@ AC--I think we have more than a 2 party system--in the past, we've had various ones, including Green. And now Tea--not sure it's a 3rd party or not. A country can go too far, though. Witness the electoral chaos that Israel experiences with its many parties.

@ Anon--I respectfully disagree that we were meant to be a "Christian" nation, at least not in the way you might mean. The founders were deists, quite different from what conservative Christians today want when they talk about a Christian nation. True, most early immigrants were Christian, but they were escaping religious persecution, so they tried to keep church & state separate.
As for Democrats being "in your face" with opposition to decency and morality--that is a matter of definition. I find war morally offensive, yet Republicans seem to love it. Perhaps you mean that Democrats stand for equal rights-- where women are concerned, and where gays are concerned.
I respectfully submit that such issues show that our country is on a constant quest for inclusiveness. At one time, including women as voters or workers was seen as indecent and immoral. Likewise for people of color--at one time, blacks were slaves and were viewed as sub-human. Christians even used the Bible to justify keeping them as slaves. Freeing them was seen as indecent and immoral.
So, I submit, this country is one of the few in the world that have actively followed a course of bringing those that society has mariginalized into the mainstream. So that, my anonymous commenter, must someday soon mean inclusiveness for gays.
I realize I have interpreted what you might mean.
Yes, you are right, I welcome thoughts, and would invite you to clarify should you so wish.

Jayne said...

Wonderfully written Donna. What I think is the bigger issue is the fact that political life has become an occupation, and one which requires the person spend an inordinate amount of time raising money and campaigning to keep a "job." I don't think it was meant to be that way, and I fully believe term limits for Congress, just like for the Presidency should apply. I also think that the influence of special interests and lobbyists should be abolished as well. Votes should never be purchased or sold, and yet that is the way the system is currently set up.

NCmountainwoman said...

I'm ashamed to admit I'm still not able to articulate my feelings about the election. It is so painful when I hear such closed-minded statements from the people who will soon head the important Congressional committees and affect our lives for years to come.

possumlady said...

For a sobering look at this week's past election go to Ronni Bennett's incredible blog As Time Goes By (

Murr Brewster said...

Thank you for this post and your lucid response to Anonymous. There are probably a few things we can do to save our republic. Somehow we need to reverse the recent Supreme Court decision (I have no idea how one does that) about money in the elections. We need to completely revamp the process that results in gerrymandering, which almost ensures "safe" seats for incumbents (I'd prefer that to term limits). And I would love to see a limit set on the amount of money from any source that can be spent on a campaign, as well as the amount of time campaigns can be waged.

Climenheise said...

I hear your concerns and share many of them. My response is too long for this space, for which I apologize, but here goes.

As a Democrat I am uncomfortable with the options likely to be pursued under a Republican house. Certainly the refusal to consider anything coming from Democratic leaders is a recipe for dysfunction of the worst sort.

As a conservative I recognize the sentiments from Anon -- I know that I have experienced a sense of being unheard when my own party controls the agenda. Equal rights for homosexuals has been interpreted to mean that any opposition to homosexual behaviour is wrong. The identification doesn't follow, but has been made quite clearly. We've hashed this one before, you and I: I agree that equal rights apply to all people; I do not agree that therefore all behaviour is good. You note that Christians supported slavery; you also know that Christians led the campaign to abolish slavery. In fact, the concern for the rights of all people -- including those most marginalized -- could not have arisen in the USA without the Christian faith. That is our particular history. (I need to do to make my case more clear, where you can respond with appropriate correction.)

As a Canadian I watch the American scene with some bemusement. Anvilcloud's point that you need more options is well taken. Although it does not in itself eliminate destructive political hatred, it increases the options, which helps keep the most radical politicians from taking control of a party.

Perhaps political hatred is the real villain here -- not Republicans or Democrats or any other stripe of politician, but any one who refuses to respect the other and to work with the other. Lack of respect can come as easily from John Stewart as from Glenn Beck (although I enjoy listening to Stewart a lot more).

Maybe you can help us figure out how to restore respect across the political spectrum, by all for all who work at running the country together. (Good luck!)

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

More Americans need to think more about the nature of your Republic.
They could begin by reading the Constitution and the writings of the founding fathers. So many of the most vocal who seem to speak for Republicans seem to have done little of this.

I could write at great length about the short comings of your countries political system. As you know it is a hobby of mine to compare your system and culture with Canada's parliamentary monarchy. I will pass on this for now.

A couple of things thought. Your republic was from the beginning set up to benefit a property class.
I would add it was a time when hard work could generate more wealth for small land holders to join this class. This is not true today.

This flaw of serving one class better than another has gotten out of hand. The checks of it, in the form of regulations and other centers of power have been weakened. A professional career political group have come to serve a wealthy elite. In short, money has corrupted your politcal system. Few centers of power other than the elites can complete with funding the political system.

I believe the US's emphasis of individualism has failed to recognize that as a society you have a responsibility to each other. In Christian terms, "we are our brother's keeper". This need not be a clarion call for "socialism" (personally I prefer this) but even a conservative could see that some individuals cannot compete and are disadvantage by the system such that to create an equal playing field they must have some forms of adequate regulations and programs. To achieve this we should willingly pay taxes. I was raised to believe that paying taxes was a privilege as well as an obligations so we can pay our way to support the programs of government that serve us all.

What I do not understand are conservatives who are willing to fund government (and wars) on borrowed money. I thought a basic principles of a conservative is to pay one's way and balance a budget.
There used to be American conservatives who believed this.

One more. The US could benefit on the parliamentary system idea of the "loyal opposition". While it is the role of the opposition to be critical of the government, in the end it is their resposibility to see that government works for the benefit of the country. American Republicans seem to have forgotten this. President Obama has wasted his first two years trying to work with Republicans who refused to cooperate at all and even voted against programs that were very conservative indeed such as the health care program.
I am disappointed in how Obama has failed to recognize this and abandon his commitment to cooperation and move on without the Republicans. There is plenty he could have done without Congress. He could have undone much of what George Bush did without Congress. The most glaring example is of his failure to close the Guantanamo concentration camp. He is the most powerful person in the world. He is the President and the Commander in Chief. He appears weak failing to close this military facility which brings so much shame on your country. This is symtomatic of his presidency so far.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hear, hear! You keep at it, girlfriend. I have not delved into politics yet on BTW, I usually prefer the much less controversial topic of religion. Living in the top of the Idaho Panhandle is not conducive to being politically active. On a national level, we don't count. We have no political power; so little population that we're invisible to the wheeler-dealers in D.C. This area is described as "virtually uninhabited." That leads to government abuses when our welfare is discarded for the "good of the all," or however they put it when they gave a whole generation of people in Southern Utah cancer from testing nukes upwind from them. So, there you go, another issue for you. You can be a voice for the voiceless -- and get on it, would ya? Thanks!