Our Republic: A Civics & History Lesson

There is a quote that comes up among my few republican friends every time the republicans are in the minority and are pro filibuster. They like to remind us that this is a republic not a democracy and that the filibuster rule protects this. The quote evolves from the notes of Dr. James McHenry after the final day of deliberation at the constitutional convention. Dr. McHenry overheard an encounter between Ben Franklin and a citizen. The citizen asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”, Franklin responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
While we are technically a republic, we aren’t a genuine republic. We are a democratic republic. The first in history. A republic is a government where the people are represented by others (representatives). In a democracy the people directly represent themselves and directly vote on issues themselves rather than having a representative do it for them. Our hybrid allows for both under different circumstances.

The quote republicans like to add to this one is “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49”. They claim that Thomas Jefferson said this. This is a lie. Jefferson never said this, nor would it be in line with any of the beliefs he shared with us.
While I love to point out the hypocrisy of the republicans, and that is exactly what this is when it comes to the filibuster rule, that is not my point with this post. I will point out though that they love the filibuster when it works for them and rail against it when it doesn’t. The point of this is to help some explain our type of government and why Corporate America loves it and hates democracy. What is worse, they not only control the republican party but they convince others to join and to vote against their own interest.

Let’s jump back for a minute. There are a few reasons why the founding fathers chose a republic style as opposed to a pure democracy. Many say it is because they thought the average citizen wasn’t educated enough to vote on issues directly. There is not only good evidence to support this, as we can see from citizens in our own time it is likely very true. The more realistic reason though is logistics. Think of the time it would take in the 1700s if every person voted on every issue. Tallying the numbers and getting them to Washington would be nearly impossible. The logical solution was to have communities elect from the people they know and trust a representative to go to Washington and vote on behalf of them all.

Jumping forward to today…
The reason that corporations and the wealthy like this form of government is it gives them more control. A representative can be bought off to vote the way the wealthy person or corporation wants. If the people vote, each vote matters and there is no way you could pay off that many people. The number of poor people outnumber the number of rich and therefore they would lose influence. This fact has been known for hundreds of years. “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” – Plutarch (45AD-127AD)

It becomes obvious at this point where our two major parties draw their names from. One party is in favor of every person’s opinion mattering. It favors everyone being taken care of equally and basic rights for all. The other party is in favor of every person for himself, if you fail then you fail, if you succeed or have a golden parachute it is for you to keep all to yourself and the government should protect that for you at all costs. The basic principles in both are okay, but the truth is one is certainly more on the side of honor and civic responsibility.

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