It was on September 17, 1787 that our rule of law, the US Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. History tells us of an exchange that occurred outside of Independence Hall between Benjamin Franklin and a Philadelphia socialite, Mrs. Powell. Mrs. Powell inquired of Mr. Franklin, “well, what is it that we have, a monarchy or a republic”? Mr. Franklin replied, famously, “a Republic, if you can keep it”.
That was the challenge of 230 years ago, and now we must ask ourselves, do we truly want to keep this Constitutional Republic. However, there is a greater question, how many people know what it means to live in a Constitutional Republic? America is not a democracy. The means by which we elect our representation is through a democratic process of voting. Therefore we are a representative democracy. Sadly, this was something once taught in High School civics, hardly the case today.
In our governmental structure, as learned by James Madison from Charles Montesquieu, we have three coequal branches of government, kept in alignment by a system of checks and balances. Now, however, that system is totally out of whack, and what we are witnessing is complete breakdown and dysfunction.
Consider last week as President Donald Trump signed an executive order on our healthcare system, opening up cross-state competition and ending health insurance company subsidies. There are those who were decrying his use of executive action, yet these were the same folks who said nothing as Barack Obama used executive action some 40 times to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. Any basic high school student would be able to understand that a law cannot be amended by executive action or order, it must be amended by legislative action. That is how it works in a Constitutional Republic where our legislative branch has the most enumerated powers.
But, in the case of Mr. Obama, who had lost the House of Representatives, then later the US Senate, he sought to circumvent our system of governance, and overrule our checks and balances all for his political purposes. And the same can be said about the executive agreements he entered this Nation into with the Paris Climate Accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the Iranian Nuclear agreement. These and many others represent an Executive branch that was seeking to rule by edict, let’s not get started on the plethora of bureaucratic administration rules and regulations of the Obama era as well. Those government agency regulations represented a taxation without representation, you remember that line right? Our Constitution clearly states in the origination clause that all revenue-generating measures must emanate from the US House of Representatives.
If we are to keep this Republic, maybe we should study, and go back to our fundamental principles…then again, Barack Obama did say we were “five days away from fundamentally changing the United States of America”. If there is one thing I admired about Barack Obama, he did tell us who he was and what he wanted to do, he did not want to keep our Republic.
And as for President Trump and his executive actions, well, this is a result of a complete breakdown in the duties and responsibilities of the legislative branch. I understand that President Trump wants to get things done, sadly, he has a legislative branch that seemingly does not. What else can be the reason when you had the entire US Senate taking a Columbus week break, while Americans only got Columbus Day, or as some absurdly call it, Indigenous Peoples Day.
A major threat to the future of our Republic is that we have a dysfunctional legislative branch. Now, I am not one for any semblance of progressivism, statism, Marxism, socialism, or any ideology of governance that places the institution of government over the individual. That is a critical aspect of our Republic, individual sovereignty. However, in examining where our legislative branch has gone it is apparent they are focused on creating more dependency and subservience of the individual to their institution. Look at the massive deficits and debt we have incurred, and the fact that the basic functions of our legislative branch go undone, just wait, there will be another massive Omnibus spending bill because they cannot pass a budget.
This current GOP controlled House and Senate has failed, and guess what, they still left their duty in August for a taxpayer-funded break. And we had to endure the dismissive and obtuse excuse of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who told us that, “our expectations were excessive”. When we have a legislative branch that is woefully failing, then the executive branch seeks to take up the slack, or even an activist Judiciary. Legislation, measures, are created and passed in the House and Senate based upon the representation of the people and the consent of the governed…notice I said governed, not ruled. Those bills, measures, legislation are then passed to the Executive branch for signing to become law. And if said law needs amending, it must go back through the legislative process. And the Judicial branch is responsible to ensure we are adhering to our rule of law.
Now we have such a breakdown of what we all learned from watching Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings eating our cereal that our Republic is unrecognizable. I mean even a city, county, or state can now dismiss our rule of law by becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and certain courts will uphold their illegal action.
What must happen? First of all, the American people must accept Franklin’s challenge and take seriously those whom we elect to public office. Taking the oath of office cannot be seen as some cursory mumbling of words, it is something that must be embraced. True liberty comes when the individual is elevated over the institution of government, our Founding Fathers recognized that premise and created something the world had never known, or seen, but needed. The words of Scottish political philosopher, Alexander Fraser Tytler, were so prescient, and relevant to where we are today in our Constitutional Republic, America.
He said, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”
Ask yourself today, what are you doing to keep this Republic, that is if you want to? And where in the cycle articulated by Tytler do you see the American Republic…that we are individually responsible to keep.