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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Civics Lessons

Another contribution from Anotmo. Thanks, Anotmo.
This post will stay at the top for awhile. Please scroll down to see other recent posts.

Lessons 1: The United States of America is a Republic, not a Democracy

The United States of America is a Republic, not a Democracy. While rarely acknowledged today, the distinction could not be more important. It was most specifically a democracy that our Founders feared and sought to avoid. In "“Federalist Paper # 10"”, the primary author of the Constitution, James Madison wrote... "“democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

The Founders were concerned with something far more important than the well known cumbersomeness a pure democracy confronts by allowing every citizen to vote on every issue. A representative democracy deals well with that issue. It was what has commonly come to be termed "‘the tyranny of the majority"’ that frightened them. They sought to architect a system of government whereby the will of the people would prevail while still protecting the interests of the minority. That is a most difficult balance to accomplish and even more so to maintain. A representative democracy in and of itself is not sufficient for within even it majority rule still prevails. It requires that such representation be carefully constructed and the process and rules by which it operates prudently designed and administered to insure that the minority is protected against egregious exploitation by the majority.

Today, it is the Democrats that should be most aware of this critical distinction. If we were a democracy then they, as the minority party, would have virtually no input, much less influence, over the operation of government. Their whining that President Bush'’s narrow victory in the 2004 election meant that he "‘had no mandate"’ and therefore had to "‘reach across the aisle"’ for guidance was both true and frivolous. That the minority party retain some control and influence is an inherent attribute of our Republic and it obtains whether or not a "‘mandate"’ by the majority is achieved. Representatives elected by state, limited Federal powers, Separation of powers, Checks and balances, Executive veto power, Legislative over-ride of veto'’s, a bicameral Legislature,’ an independent Judiciary, not to mention freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, all are in place to protect against the tyranny of the majority.

That is why this is such an important point. Misrepresenting our Republic as a democracy ignores this and so seeks to institute new processes to achieve that which already exists. In so doing, it upsets the Founders carefully conceived balance between the majority and the minority in favor of the latter and so subverts the peoples will as expressed by their votes and the majorities ability to conduct government the way the people said by their votes they wanted it to be conducted. More generally, if our government is perceived to be a democracy rather than a republic, then all of the complexities of our system over that of simple majority rule can not be understood nor appreciated and will be neither effective nor enduring.

As a side note; this is a significant point in the current immigration furor that I have not heard expressed. Immigrants have been and will continue to be of immeasurable benefit to the entire country, but they must understand our system of government to do so. Legal immigration, therefore, seeks to confirm or impart certain skills in immigrants in order for them to become citizens. Of primary importance among these skills is at least a remedial understanding of how our government is designed and operates. Whether or not our current process does this very well is another issue but that it needs to be done and that illegal immigration does not do it is inarguable. That, as much as the current threat of terrorists, is why illegal immigration must be stopped, least we end up with a population that does not understand and therefore can not sustain the Republic our Founders granted to us. As Benjamin Franklin observed when asked what manner of government the Founders had wrought..."”A Republic, if you can keep it"”.


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