Kevin C Shinn

Kevin C Shinn

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

False Issue: Republic or Representative Democracy

The current rhetoric surrounding the issue as to whether the United States is a republic or a representative democracy has been sparked by those intent on dividing our people as a distraction from other, far more important issues and continues to be stoked by well-intentioned Americans whose passion has simply been misguided by nefarious forces. When the Founding Fathers came together to form what has become the most successful form of government for a free people in the history of our planet, they had no template to draw from and few sources to try and cobble together a new government to replace the failed Articles of Confederation.

Few expected this new document to last forever, most notably Ben Franklin, one of the few Americans of the time with an international reputation. On Monday, September 17, 1787, during the last day of the Constitutional Convention, Ben wanted to give a short speech to the Convention prior to the signing of the final draft of the Constitution. Too weak to actually give the speech himself, he had fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson deliver the speech. It is considered a masterpiece.

The following is as reported in Madison's notes on the Convention for Monday, September 17, 1787.
“Mr. President

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said "I don't know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that's always in the right — Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison."

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.”

What is lost on many in this debate is the reality of the circumstances surrounding the crafting of our federal government. We are unique. There is no other society like us. The best minds of the time, coming from a diverse array of circumstances, bound together by the single necessity of preventing their hard-won freedoms from being lost to the growing anarchy fostered as a result of the limited power of the Articles of Confederation, established a system of government that has become the beacon of freedom to the masses yearning to breathe free from around the globe and throughout history. The living quality of the document has been the true genius of its nature. A brief examination of the history of its amendments leaves no doubt as to the significance of the Constitution’s ability to adapt to the evolution of our political process while simultaneously providing a fixed point of justice for our citizens to be judged.

The United States is a representative democracy, but its system of government is much more complex than that. It is not a simple representative democracy, but a constitutional republic in which majority rule is tempered with a respect for the rights of political minorities. The Constitution of today is far different from the Constitution of 1787, yet it is still the rock upon which our freedoms rest.

Before we get caught up in the false debate over names consider this list and ask yourself, "What is in a name?":

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Islamic Republic of Iran

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

People's Republic of China

Republic of Cuba

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Syrian Arab Republic

Republic of Colombia

Republic of Uganda

Somali Republic

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Republic of Iraq

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Whether to use the label "representative democracy" or "republic" is not what is significant. As bullets fly around Libya and the people of Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, and other nations struggle to obtain what we take for granted; the real name we should all remember is that we are "Americans." We may not agree on the manner in which we believe government should work but surely, we can all agree that the system works as well as those who cast their ballots every single Election Day makes it work.

To deny that fact is to deny what is undeniable. Elections matter and have consequences. Those who win power make policy; at least until they offend enough that the voters replace them with their opponents. At which time, the cycle begins again. God bless the United States of America because until the day we go to meet our Lord, America is the closest to heaven on Earth as man has ever been able to fabricate.

Attacks On Teachers and Unions

As a money manager, I'm not very good. Every year, I spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on my students. I buy them meals, shoes, clothes, classroom supplies, and other assorted items as needed. Both of my parents were teachers and I never really considered doing anything else with my life as a career.

The Democratic Party has been asleep at the wheel and Republicans have seized the initiative to swing the pendulem back in favor of the wealthy in this country and strip what little gains working class people have made via the labor union movement in our nation. Unions are being hammered at every level and the average citizen is oblivious to the significant assault this current wave of attacks are going to have on the standard of living for the average American. For years, non-union workers have benefited from the coattails of union members and the rights won for them in hard-fought battles in every field.
The Republican Party continues to reveal itself at every turn as the bastion for the wealthy, the racist, and the anti-intellectuals. They are effectively turning back the clock to the 1920s. The question is whether or not the Democratic Party will regain it's backbone and go to work actively and ferociously defending the rights of the average working class man and woman in this country.

Our future depends upon it.