"A Republic, If You Can Keep It"

I'm embroiled in an ongoing argument with an a friend who just cannot get wrapped around the notion that America is not a democracy. This view all is too common (we constantly hear politicians - particularly the leftists - call this nation a democracy) but this one surprises me - he's a sharp fellow - graduated from one of America's elite military academies - and should certainly know better.

"If You Can Keep It" - I chose Benjamin Franklin's famous quip as the title of this post. He uttered these words upon emerging from Independence Hall at the closing of the Constitutional Convention on September 18, 1787: A lady history records as "Mrs. Powell" approached Franklin and asked if we had ended up with a Monarchy or a Republic. Franklin, displaying his characteristic wit, responded "a Republic, if you can keep it."

If, indeed.

Now, Franklin (and likely Mrs. Powell) knew that a monarchy was essentially not on the table - after all, we had just thrown out an abusive monarchy by force. The absolute power of a monarch was well understood and widely feared. A democracy was never under serious consideration either. What the revolutionaries wanted, at that moment in history, was a minimally intrusive government whose responsibility was to provide a framework for commerce and the common defense and otherwise stay the hell out of our way.

The people as a whole might have accepted George Washington as our first king, in that mindless way the Brits still worship the Royals (and Americans worship Obama). Thankfully, the Founders knew better. The hallmark of the Founding was the recognition of man's inalienable God-given rights, and of the urgent need to protect those rights from the power-hungry among us. Thus was born our Constitutional Republic.

It is historically rare and conspicuously noble that a group such as our Founders - who could have handed themselves unlimited power over the new nation - rose above that temptation and set course for limited government and individual liberty instead. American exceptionalism is a very real thing, and this, precisely, is the reason why!

Here's what the words mean: The republican aspect of our government is that our head of state is not a monarch. We're the antithesis of a monarchy. The fact that our head of state and legislators are elected but ALL their actions are governed by the supreme law of the land means that we are not a democracy. We have this rule of law that protects us from our government, called a Constitution - so we're a Constitutional Republic. Once our leaders are in office, that constitutional aspect overrides (or was meant to, anyway) anything our elected leaders might try that diminishes our liberty. No matter how gullible we become when choosing leaders, the law of the land was written to intervene and protect us from ourselves. The overriding power rests in the Constitution. (How many ways can I say this??? We'll soon see...)

"A Republican Form of Government" - Article IV Section 4 of the US Constitution states: " The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government..." Not only must the Federal government take a republican form, it must guarantee the same to each state. Thank God it does, too: A pure democracy is nothing more than mob rule. In a democracy the majority can do anything it wants - hence the illustrative example in which two wolves and a sheep vote on dinner. Rules are needed to protect individuals. Evidence of the Founder's fear of "too much democracy" can also be found in the Electoral College, which was established as a compromise between election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote.

I'll say it again: In a Constitutional Republic the law of the land is in place to supersede the will of the people and the power of government, keeping the rights of individuals safe from mobs and megalomaniacs. (At least that's the idea - not that we've done a great job of "keeping" our precious gift.)

"Democracy" is Never Mentioned - It should be noted that the word "democracy" does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States.

"The Pledge" - In the much maligned Pledge of Allegiance, we pledge ourselves to the flag "and to the Republic for which it stands." The Republic. The Constitutional Republic.

"Protect and Defend" - In the oath all elected officials and military personnel take when they are sworn in, they make a promise to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (It was chilling when word recently leaked out that President Obama wanted the military oath rewritten to have soldiers swear allegiance directly to him. That's how NAZI Germany worked - soldiers pledged their lives directly to the Fuhrer. We certainly don't need that here!) The one aspect of America worth defending is the rule of law - the Constitution. That's what makes America, so that's what we swear our oath to!

The brilliance of our system of government cannot be overstated. The constitution recognizes only individuals. Each and every right is an individual right. The wisdom of this is more and more apparent as various aggrieved groups have managed to distort the process and negotiate special privileges for themselves. Now we find these groups lined up at the trough, votes for sale, and even vying with each other for government favors and power. The politics of individual liberty have been replaced by the politics of pull, and we are much the worse for it.

That friend I mentioned served in the military after graduating from the academy. When he was sworn into the armed forces, he himself took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution. He served with honor and is now a success in the private sector. He's a good guy, as patriotic as they come, and I'm thankful for all like him who serve.

It's just a little unsettling to discover that he never had a clearer idea what we're fighting for.

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