Democracy or Republic?
What is our political “battle cry” today? When we watch a heated exchange between our representatives on CSPAN; when we listen to a politician try to explain his/her position of the empowerment of the people; when the issues of the day are debated, from health care to highway safety-- the idealism of democracy, and the specific word itself, is thrown at the American people from all corners of public life. Why? Loudly, we hear the so-called left as well as the right proclaim their allegiance to democracy. But what is democracy? Is America a democracy? Were we meant to be a democracy?
According to Marshall Fitz, for the first 220 years of the colonization of America our public schools were independent of government control—no subsidies and no mandated federal influence or guidelines. And, from this educational freedom we learned of the republican principles deliberately embedded in the foundation of American democratic idealisms and its related tools. But does the acceptance and the use of “democratic tools” make us a democracy? The Reverend Eddy thinks so.
(I will make a few observations in parenthesis within the body of his writing with my rebuttal at the end.)
The immediate impulse for this sermon was a letter to the Pensacola News Journal claiming that the United States of America is not a Democracy but a Republic "a government of laws" as opposed to a monarchy or dictatorship. This was in justification of the fact that Al Gore, the man who for the first time in many elections received an absolute majority of votes, is not our president.
(I find it interesting that neither here nor anywhere else does Rev. Eddy make any specific argument referencing our constitutionally mandated Electoral College. Perhaps by design, Eddy stays away from this very pro-republican/anti-democratic tool that lies heavily as evidentiary material pointing to America NOT being a democracy.)
The same point that America is not a Democracy, is made by a broadside printed by Overground Distribution here in Pensacola, but originating in a neo-Anarchist organization, the A.K. Press in San Francisco, Now don't get me wrong. I do not use "neo-Anarchist" as an epithet. No more so than "Socialist", "Communist", "Muslim" or "Republican". All these are descriptive terms, not pejorative ones; as is democracy.
(Pejorative? In the sense of “not good?” Or perhaps “deprecatory?” Clearly the Rev. is suggesting his political leanings here. But, nevertheless, making no legitimate or pertinent point—only wishing to color the landscape.)
That word democracy, like love, has many meanings and like love, it covers a multitude of sins.
(And Socialist, Communist, Muslim, and Republican are words with singular meanings? I wonder if the Shiites would agree with that? Communist China and Communist Russia had very little in common politically.)
My meaning for the word "democracy" is Lincoln's, allegedly lifted from his contemporary, a Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. Those of you who are my age will remember it. It's in the Gettysburg address which we had to memorize. I won't say it all but invite those who remember to join me:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure …..”
And it ends
"The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
That's the definition, government of the people, by the people, for the people. The significant phrase is "by the people."
(Rev. Eddy begins the above paragraph stating that his meaning of the word “democracy” is that of Lincoln’s. He then cites a part of the Gettysburg Address in which there is no mention of the word “democracy,” or a suggestive inference that such is being described. It is Eddy’s opinion that the words he sites are descriptive of a democracy. But it is my opinion that the very words he uses are the ones that assist in verifying we are in fact governed by a republic and NOT a democracy; but merely democratic in nature.)
All governments govern the people. Even tyrannical ones.
(This is a generality and generalities are almost always false. One could clearly argue this assumption/claim—are the people of Yemen governed? Some folks in third world countries are never touched by legislation. And, was the Dutch East Indies Company a government? They had one of the largest naval military fleets of its time, but who did they directly govern, or answer to for that matter? One could even argue that dictatorships are not a form of governance but perverted political servitude.)
Remember when the Communist States called themselves "people's democracies." They weren't being hypocritical. For them, as for many people democracy means government for the people. For the communist it meant government of the people for the people by the Communist party whose members were better able to determine what was good for the people than the people themselves.
(As I will point out below, “of” the people is commonly well understood meaning “from among [the people].” Rev. Eddy even notes herein that only an elite class governs in communistic regimes.)
Thus in the "people's democracy" only Communist candidates could be voted on by the citizens and only members of the communist party could vote on who would be a candidate. Similar one-party states still exist. They are government of the people, by a minority who claim to know what is best for the people.
(Is not our government a minority in this sense? After election we expect our electors to do what they think best; among other verifications, the obvious apathy we exemplify in our voting habits verifies this claim.)
Now there are some who would say that that's really what we have in the United States of America. Government of the people, for the people by the rich who claim to know what is best for the people. That may be so. But theoretically anyone can run for public office. In the recent special election for state senator an individual ran on his own without party affiliation. He lost but he was able to run. But you will point out that was because he was willing to use his own money. In reality only the relatively rich can run as true independents. Everyone else must find or create a political party to support him or her - as Ross Perot did in 1992.
But that is a practical impediment, not a legal one.
Another practical impediment to true democracy is the fact that a minority of people who are legally qualified to vote complete the registration process and a minority of those actually vote in elections. Given that hundreds of thousands of young men have died to preserve that right to vote that's shameful. But the failure of citizens to is also a practical impediment, not a legal one. In fact, since the founding of the United States of America legal impediments to democracy, government of the people, for the people, and by the people, have been consistently been disappearing. The sad fact is, that Americans have surrendered by sloth and willful ignorance the rights that hundreds of thousands of Americans died to preserve. If we don't have real democracy in America it is because we have been lazy not because we have been oppressed.
(Quite the contrary, it is because we are politically “lazy” that our democratic idealisms have begun overshadowing the idiosyncrasies of republicanism.)
It's always easier to find a villain than to recognize irresponsibility in one's self. That's human nature. That's why I support compulsory voting as exists in many countries - for example Australia. It does not solve all problems, but it at least means that a government will represent the majority of the voters.
(Compulsory voting would serve to only increase the likelihood of knee-jerk reactionary legislation as well as ballot-box subterfuge. It would even further the already significant influence of the press. An example of this can be found where Rev. Eddy directs us- Australia. A few years back Australia “compulsively” voted to outlaw and collect all guns. Since that time, according to Wilmoth, violent crimes such as rape and robbery have dramatically risen, but the legislature is resisting the call of the people to overturn the restrictive ruling.)
Now I know that many of you can't be accused of political sloth, but for the rest ….. if the shoe fits, put it on. I know that some of you have run for public office and more have been active in your party of choice. And for that I commend you. For the rest, and I'm ashamed to say that must include myself, I say "shame, shame " AND "mea culpa." "Go and sin no more !"
But I'm not here to lay a guilt trip on you, or on myself. I hope I will, now that we've settled down, be more politically active I think I have made my first point: that we do have democracy in this country as Lincoln defined it - at least we do legally. We're just not using it!
(No doubt, Lincoln described a concept that relates to Americanism, but whether it describes “democracy” or not is very speculative and opinionated. In my opinion it describes our republic. Just like our Constitution, the word “democracy” does not appear in Eddy’s cited Address; however, one does find the word “republic” in our Constitution.)
Do we practically have Democracy in this country? Other than political sloth on the part of the electorate, what are the impediments to the practice of democracy in this country?
(“Other than political sloth on the part of the electorate”? Clearly this is a troublesome area of contention against the idea of America being a democracy; Eddy tries his best to minimize this issue and quickly move on, carefully avoiding calling attention to a phrase we know is a sound principle of American constitutionalism—the Electoral College.)
Many are the ways that the practice of democracy, government of the people, for the people, and by the people have been subverted. The most obvious is the disproportionate role money plays in determining elections: the bigger the office, the bigger the role funding plays. In the recent special election, the winning candidate spent more than four times as much as his prime opponent. The best predictor of who will win any political; race in this country is the size of his or her "war chest". And that phrase, war chest, is indicative of another fault of our system of representative democracy: As in war, in the United States of America, the winner takes all.
(Again, without using the “buzz” phrase “electoral college,” Eddy is very suggestive, even belittling his own point by sticking a modifier in front of “democracy.”)
Al Gore, who the majority of voting Americans wanted as president, is now an invisible man. If you do a web search you can eventually find sites that tell you what he's up to. Including one titled "Al Gore is our President". If only it were true, in most western democracies, it would be.
(Why isn’t it true? Because we are a republic living under the Rule of Law [republic] and not under the Rule of Man [democracy].)
We were in Mexico last November and had a hard time explaining to Mexicans why the man who got the most votes was not going to be president. Our Electoral College system seemed a violation of Democracy to them. And the disappearance of that man for whom the majority voted, is even more puzzling. In most countries that call themselves democracies, the loosing candidate in a two party system becomes leader of the opposition. He or she, so long as head of his or her party, debates the head of government on all major issues before parliament. How I wish Al Gore were there to lead the loyal opposition in this time of crisis. I and the millions of other Americans who wanted him as president deserve that, I think. And had Al Gore become president, I think those millions who voted for George Bush would have deserved the same consideration.
But our "losers" have no public position, though the authors of the constitution that we venerate originally intended that the "looser" play a very important role. They made the looser Vice President and the presiding officer of the Senate, which in those days was the more powerful of the two branches of the legislative branch of government.
(We have many examples in history and in current events showing that placing the “looser” in a position of polarized authority leads only to civil unrest. We have enough “checks and balances” in our three-branch republican government.)
That proved impractical and the constitution was so that President and Vice President would be of the same party. Nevertheless for the first fifteen decades of our history under the constitution, the defeated candidate remained the "titular head" of his party, sometimes even running against the incumbent a second time, as Adelaide Stevenson did in 1952 and 1956. Grover Cleveland actually ran as second time and won. John Quincy Adams, a Unitarian by the way, chose another route. After he was defeated for the presidency in 1824, he ran, not for the presidency but for the congressional seat from his home district and was reelected until his death. He was consistently a thorn in the flesh of future administrations - insisting on justice for slaves and working to change the constitution to remove the power of the southern "slaveocracy." That one term president, had a voice, from his seat in the House of Representatives. Perhaps we should automatically grant the loosing candidate a lifetime seat in Senate.
(Interesting. Does one think that lifetime appointments are very conducive to democratic principles? A clear thinking one does not.)
That would be an improvement at least. But in the long run, I believe, with the late Senator Fullbright, that we need a more radical change. I believe we should move closer to the Parliamentary system . I don't really know what is the best achievable arrangement but this I do know: "looser. drop dead." Is a poor way to run a country.
(This country is one of the youngest, yet the undisputed strongest and most stable country the world has ever seen. Such success does not happen to poorly ran countries.)
But perhaps this tendency to exile the loosing candidate from public life stems from another longstanding, and dangerous trend in the American psyche. Walter Lippman pointed it out many years ago as you heard in the reading. We Americans tend to deify "the people" and then, we project that divine sovereignty onto the man we elect as president. He thus becomes "holy" and those who criticize him are guilty of "lessee majesty." We see this happening today as those who dare criticize President George W. Bush are accused of being un-American.
It was awareness of this very tendency that caused the authors of the constitution to institute the tripartite system of government we have today with its system of checks and balances. The founding fathers knew, and George Washington knew especially, how natural it is for people to want a "man on horseback" to relieve them of the onerous responsibilities of governing themselves. Tyranny often arrives by invitation from the soon to be tyrannized. Most tyrants, as the Roman origin of the word indicates, are installed as "saviors" of the people.
The last time I spoke on this subject was in 1992 when Ross Perrot was running against Bill Clinton and George Bush the first. I wrote then "the thing that frightens me most about this election is that the same philosophy that got Adolph Hitler elected in Germany sixty years ago is sweeping our nation today.
(The Nazi Party was elected into power, and only then Hitler was appointed as (Reichskansler) Chancellor [“Youth,” 2003].)
The Germans called him Fuhrer, the Romans called him Tribune, we call him President, but whatever the title, the idea is the same ... that one man can miraculously , magically, by expressing the mysterious will of the people, solve all the complex problems that beset us in this last decade of the 20th century. It is this seductive and delusionary philosophy of governance that represents the greatest threat, not the person who is most blatantly selling it.
I was referring there to the "Ross for Boss" bumper sticker that pretty well summarized Ross Perot's platform.
That was nine years ago but the situation today is little different. I think that the fury that President Clinton's sexual proclivities produced in some Americans had much to do with this tendency to subconsciously elevate the President to some kind of ideal personage, pure of heart and body, without the weaknesses of mortal men. That tendency is especially strong in times of perceived national crisis. It is all pervading today.
Bill Clinton was not a "savior." George W. Bush is not a "savior". He is a decent, dedicated but limited man trying to do a job for which he was ill prepared. He is, I think, doing his best. BUT- unless he is responsibly criticized, he will take on the aura and the powers of an "imperial president." And if that happens - if we allow the "sacrilization of the presidency" then our much cherished Democracy will become an idol. A thing worshiped but of no use whatsoever.
Government of, for and by, the people is one of the greatest inventions ever wrought by human intellect. It is counter intuitive. It is "unnatural" but it works to preserve liberty and that is why our founding fathers, when they needed to replace the articles of confederation which had held the un-united former colonies together - just barely - for 12 years, when that time arrived they came up with the Constitution of the United States of America. It was brilliant compromise in a time of crisis but its greatest virtue was that it had built in the power to evolve. .... end.
(Evolve, yes—by way of constitutional amendments and not by redefining the words and phrases then stretching it like a rubber-band “to meet the needs of the day.” According to Scalia, our Constitution is an enduring document, but not a “living” one.)
Rev. Eddy makes several claims, using marginal reasoning for the most part, as his justification, only a few of which I commented on above. However, his primary point regarding his claim that America is a democracy is his partial interpretation of “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” He focused on “by the people” as the most significant, thus, my pick of the three (of, by, and for) is where I will focus my rebuttal.
America is not a democracy; we are a constitutionally mandated republic which utilizes limited democratic tools. What do we mean by democracy? The word itself is a combination of two Greek words: `demos' --people; and `chrateow' --to govern. A democracy then is a government "for the people, by the people." It is defined in Webster's 1828 Dictionary, thus: "a form of government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the people collectively, or in which people exercise the power of legislation. Such was the government of Athens." Thusly, no elected representatives chosen by the people acted for them. Rather, the people themselves created and enforced the laws. This is an example of government "by the people, for the people." Do we not pride ourselves in having a representative form of government?
Perhaps you have heard the term/phrase "Representative Democracy," one that Eddy uses which, by the way, challenges his own assertion. In today's elitist liberal demagoguery this term may have some context. But to their dismay, the study of politics is still labeled as a science, and as such, politics and its terms can be specifically defined and clearly identified. Either the "supreme power is lodged in the hands of the people collectively" or it is not. Remember, politics is a science, not an art. If it's not pure, i.e. “representative” democracy, but rather kinda-sorta, isn't it then something else?
As Eddy noted above, Abraham Lincoln spoke of our government as being, "Of the people, by the people, and for the people." I’ve established that "For" and "by" are descriptive of a democracy- but what about "of" the people; such a simple word, “of.” Now let's put some meaning to it. Simply, "of" adds the element "from among" to our scientific equation; thus, we speak in whole of a representative form of government. (Do not confuse the terms "democratic" and "democracy,” or “Republican” [Party] and “republican/republicanism.”)
Having then chosen a representative form of government we have added two new dimensions to government, for, having others represent us, it follows that those persons chosen by the people are acting only under delegated authority. . . they are our public servants (more specific, subservient to the Constitution) for delegated authority by nature is always delegated down. And, delegated power is never as extensive as it is in the original authority; naturally, delegating authority upwards is impossible and it is axiomatic that the greatest power lies with the Originator. Our representatives in Congress, in our state assemblies, as well as local government, do not exercise the authority of a father, corporate president, chairman of the board, nor of most of the responsibilities over which we, the people, exercise responsibility; this is contrary to Eddy’s view that, “The Germans called him Fuhrer, the Romans called him Tribune, we call him President, but whatever the title, the idea is the same … .” No, their delegated authority is carefully defined AND CONFINED to specific outlined areas by those who delegated it (even though the erroneous nationalization of the Bill of Rights has partially modified this original intent).
This, then, introduces the second dimension of a government "of the people," i.e. the adoption of guidelines which delegated authorities must follow. These guidelines are referred to in any organization, club, or group as, 1) their constitution and, 2) their bylaws. Their constitution spells out the purpose for the group and the kind of officers, their duties, and their limits. Their bylaws further regulate the manner in which the group will carry out its activities. A constitution! . . . and bylaws! . . . just like the government of the United States! A government "of (from among} the people."
Now, what happens when the members/employees/delegates of this corporation/activity disembark its designated jurisdiction? What happens when they are no longer acting officially? Are they still under the purview of the corporate/activity finger? Of course not. Any such entity is greatly limited in its reach, only exercising a level of sovereign status within its own narrow domain. And any one corporation/activity is foreign and sovereign from another. IBM does not dictate to Texas Instruments and California does not dictate to Maine; they are each foreign powers to another. Delegates elected to the Board have their official activities regulated through a constitution and a set of bylaws. The same logic applies to the power and authority of our national government; the people are not specifically governed within their private, republican domain, but only in their official capacity (The only exceptions to this are in times of contract and in times of being accused of a crime: by hook, or, by crook).
This, then, our country's government, is a government "OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE PEOPLE." . . . a government in which chosen representatives, acting under delegated authority, regulated by the mandates of the Constitution of the United States of America, represent those by whom they are elected . . . represent US . . . you and me. Ours, therefore, is that form of government which our forefathers created and is, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "A republic, if only you can keep it."
Our republic is founded upon the principles so eloquently expressed in the Mayflower Compact by Governor Bradford, and in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The republic is the “sphere” in which the people go about their daily private lives; the limited democratic dimension is that delineated and enumerated man-made piece of American politics where our public institutions exist, separate and distinct from the realm of the people, less such authority (warrant), limited in scope and dimension to its specified domain; a democratic machine by the people within a republic of the people empowered by the delegation of certain inalienable rights- a constitutional republic where the people are guaranteed the protections of common law by government recognition of the mandated habeas corpus and the acknowledgment of the one true Sovereign as so recognized in our Declaration of Independence. We all have rights that cannot be voted away, thus, clearly our existence is not within the confines of a democracy, but rather within the protective wings of a republic.
Eddy, Robert M., (2002/3). Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola search term “democracy.” Pensacola, Fl: Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola. Retrieved April 22, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.uupensacola.org/democracy.html
Fitz, Marshall, (2003). Alliance For the Separation of School and State home page. Clovis, Ca: Alliance For the Separation of School and State. Retrieved April 23, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.sepschool.org/misc/contact.html
Scalia, A. (2001, March 13). Journal Sentinel Inc. Milwaukee, Wi: Journal Communications. Retrieved April 24, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/mar01/scalia14031301a.asp
Wilmoth, Ross A., (2002). The Great Australian Gun Law Con. Sidney, Australia: The Gun Law Con. Retrieved April 24, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~confiles/index.html
Youth Against Racism in Europe, (2003). London, England: How Hitler Came to Power. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.yre.org.uk/hitler.html
A few quotes-
‼ Actions controlled only by law do not demonstrate Virtue. Distorted and “spun” information is not knowledge. Wisdom is the action from virtuous knowledge. Thus, Samuel Adams said, "If Virtue and Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security."
!!When asked in 1790 about an income tax to support war costs George Washington said,
“It is an abomination to a free society for its government to live off the sweat of the people.”
!!James Madison, referred to as the father of our Constitution, said, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
!!Have you read the new Patriot Act Congress recently passed? Is your immediate personal safety more important than tomorrow’s liberty? Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
!!At the close of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Do you want to live in a democracy where your rights are at the whim of the voters, or do you want to live in a republic where the rule of law guarantees you inalienable rights? The choice is to either serve Man, or serve God. You decide.