A Republic If You Can Keep It!


Family Security Matters



Anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall immediately after the U.S. Constitution was signed to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. According to Constitution signer James McHenry, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin,

“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Indeed, we are a republic, not a democracy as many would claim these days. Our Founders were steeped in World History and understood that, as Plato wrote in his Republic, tyranny can arise from democracyDr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn, a European scholar, linguist, world traveler, and lecturer, wrote in 1988 about “Democracy’s Road to Tyranny.” Click here for his description of three “organic” pathways for this unwelcome evolution to occur. It is worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is often memorably quoted as saying, “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Click here for a Snopes report that a more accurate quote (from February 5, 1976 – a year after Mrs. Thatcher won the leadership of the opposition Conservative Party and three years before she became Prime Minister) is:

“I would much prefer to bring them [the Labor Party] down as soon as possible. I think they’ve made the biggest financial mess that any government’s ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalize everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalization, and they’re now trying to control everything by other means. They’re progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people.” 

Prime Minister Thatcher’s approach to governing changed Great Britain for the better and she became Ronald Reagan’s most trusted partner in his “revolution” that reversed these same tendencies in 1980 and brought us the “Morning in American” about which I wrote in my last message.  (Click here.)

The United States is approaching that “tipping point” that Maggie Thatcher warned Britain about – and which our founders sought to avoid by how they structured the Constitution to give the States authorities to hedge against too much power being centralized in the Federal Government. And recent trends have created more recipients of government programs and resource requirements that threaten to exceed the ability of the American taxpayer to support, especially given our past growing jobless claims with no true improvement is sight, at least before last week’s election.

Thus, the tendency described by Maggie Thatcher’s above quote has been maturing in America, and I hope President Elect Trump will press to reverse that trend and return to our Founders’ original intent as represented by the Constitution: A republic not a democracy. All while restoring a sound economy, improving our national security interests and responding to the social issues of great concern to those in most of our states.

Our Founders distrusted centralized power and sought to keep major political powers at the state and local level.  They assigned each state a number of members in the House of Representatives reflecting the number of citizens in that state, but gave terms of three times the length of House members who must run for re-election every two years to two Senators from each state regardless of the number of its citizens – an only a third of the Senate is replaced every two years to provide an assured element of continuity.

Initially in 1788 following the ratification of The Constitution, senators were selected by each state’s legislature rather than by the citizens of each state, as became the practice 125 years later with ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment on April 8, 1913. 

Another important initiative by the Founders was the process of electing the president by what we today refer to as the Electoral College, rather than by popular vote of the citizenry. This too reinforced a significant role for the states to assure each region of the nation had fair representation in that important election of the nation’s chief executive.

I am no expert on these matters, but what I have found is that the function and details of how the Electoral College meets and how they vote was changed in the 12th Amendment. In Article 2, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 3.

Originally, I understand that each state chose a number of electors equal to the number of its congress people – at least three electors (two Senators and at least one Representative), who were neither employees nor elected representatives of the Federal Government. Note this initial recipe potentially gave additional weight to less populous states. That has evolved further but the details are unimportant to my main message today.  But remember that intent of the Founders not to neglect the smaller less populated states.

My main point is that the Electoral College was, and is, intended to assure that a key role for the states is preserved in reflecting the voice of the people in electing a chief executive.  A move to have the election decided entirely by a national popular vote, as some have suggested, would, in my opinion, subvert this key intent of the Founders to preserve the key interests of each state and region of the nation, whatever its attributes among the diverse interests across the nation.

Just consider below the returns from the recent election of Donald Trump by the count of the electoral votes – even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote, 306 to 232. Ms. Clinton’s majority is heavily biased by the major metropolitan areas, especially in the Northeast and the West Coast.

2016 election county vote map final b fsm

So, urban areas tend to be more liberal, for whatever reason; and rural areas tend to be more conservative.  Other special regional interests can also be discerned by careful study of such information – e.g., areas along the southern border given concerns about immigration in both parties. Furthermore, the rust belt in the Midwest switched from its recent tendency to vote a Democrat ticket to vote Republican this year – reflecting a basic unhappiness, especially with the past eight years.

This trend was also reflected in the election returns for governor – at least 33 states will have Republican Governors, up from 31, as North Carolina is still undecided as this message goes to press.  As of last Wednesday, Republicans controlled both chambers in 32 states, Democrats 13 with 3 states split and with New York still undecided. (Note: there are 98 partisan chambers because Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature.)

Thus, considering the distribution of “grass root” state interests reflected by the outcome of the recent election is decidedly Republican, a fact also reflected by the Electoral College. This, I would argue, is entirely consistent with the interests of assuring that America remain a republic not a democracy, and therefore is responsive to the Founders’ intention, and reiterates Benjamin Franklin’s challenge following the signing of the Constitution.

Indeed, one more time: A Republic if we can keep it!  

2 thoughts on “A Republic If You Can Keep It!

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