Fundamental Question: What is a Republic and why does it matter?Submitted by PA Paul Pal on Wed, 01/02/2013 - 15:43
Since I first recited The Pledge of Allegiance, I have known that the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy. Until recently I never really thought why it matters so much.
The constant bickering between Americans over which party is best and the mainstream media fascination with and enhancement of this pointless debate have become all too common. Should differing viewpoints be respected and heard? Absolutely! Should these debates influence how elected representatives vote? Lately it has, but in a Republic the answer is supposed to be, “No!”. Elected officials at the National Level are required by their oath of office to set aside personal views, lobbyist pressure, and/or party platforms to vote according to our rule of law, The U.S. Constitution!
Just after the completion and signing of the Constitution, a woman inquired as to the type of government the Founders had created. Benjamin Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."
Now, to fully understand Franklin's statement, one must understand what a Republic is.
b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
The last part is key: "...AND GOVERNING ACCORDING TO THE LAW"
Why is that so important? Though having its flaws our law, the U.S. Constitution, is special due to its focus on limiting the power of the National Government and because of the first ten amendments added to it called the Bill of Rights. Since a Republic is only as strong as the law that governs it, many of the Founders refused to ratify the Constitution unless it was guaranteed that the Bill of Rights would be added. The Bill of Rights would guarantee the rights of each individual person being respected(not fully legally realized unfortunately until after the Civil War).
So how does this discussion of a Republic apply to today? All elected National politicians take an oath to follow and defend the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution limits the power of the National Government by specifically listing what each branch can do. Since Congress is given the power to create laws, their specific powers are listed in Article 1, Section 8. Amendment 10 gives all other powers to the States and the People. Since tyranny does not change over time, the idea of the government serving the people rather than the people answering to the government will always apply. The consistency of human nature refutes judicial interpretations about the Elastic and Commerce Clauses which allowed and is still allowing the National Government to overstep the originally established guidelines of Federalism. The U.S. Constitution needs to be used by our elected representatives to determine the validity of any bill and to determine whether it would violate the U.S. Constitution by creating a situation where the government or other people benefit at the expense of even one person.
We are slowly becoming more a Democracy which, as many of our Founding Fathers believed, rewards mob rule. Congressional votes on bills, even ones with patriotic names, sensationalized after major tragedies and buoyed by reactionary public support, are to be based on comparing the bills to the rule of law, not public opinion or party pressure. When voting on The Patriot Act, which clearly violates the fourth amendment, occurred in October of 2001 without many in Congress even reading copies of the bill, our elected servants failed our Republic and individual liberties still suffer as a result.
It seems as though most elected representatives at the National level, who should know better, are more interested in figuring out who is superior in the court of public opinion than in "keeping our Republic". It is time for ALL Americans to say enough is enough, stop bickering over which failed party is better, and demand that their elected officials actually read and understand the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. If politicians choose not to honor their oath of office, then vote in someone who will, regardless of party affiliation. The future of our Republic depends on citizens demanding that those oaths be honored.