The road to democracy has no backup lane

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Column by Jim Flynn

Nothing inspires a steamed-up column more than confusion about the nature of our government. This steamer was generated by letters in the daily papers about capitalism and democracy, neither of which has any status in our form of government.
Adding to the misconceptions, a headline writer used the words “democratic republic” as a title caption to a letter. That is not now and never has been our form of government. However the future is uncertain.
Our nation is a constitutional republic, or federal republic, if you prefer. “Federal” means a federation of states (united states). Political power is separated between the federal government and the states. Federal power is divided among Congress, the Executive branch, and the federal court system.
At the end of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, as he was leaving Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin was asked “Well Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?” He answered: “A republic, if you can keep it.” None of the delegates sought to be a king, not even George Washington. Nor did they intend to create a democracy led by one party or one person.
James Madison, who drafted the Constitution, defined a republic as a delegation of limited powers to a few citizens elected by all the rest - in other words government administered by representatives chosen from among the citizen voters.
By contrast in a democracy people vote as an organized whole to put the power of government in the hands of one party, which is often led by a supreme leader, such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Raoul Castro in Cuba, Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Many countries claim to be republics but are nothing more than flawed democracies, in which all the people can vote, but a few political party leaders wield the power.
The founders of the United States of America considered democracy a disgraceful idea. They believed democratic government leads to mob rule, as it did during the French revolution. In democracies leaders often operate independent of the legislatures, and stay in power by buying votes.
Some folks believe not every vote counts in our system of government. Not true. The founders created a republic in which every vote counts for election of various representatives - members of the House, the Senate, and the electoral college.
Currently, many Americans are being led down a road to social democracy in the name of fairness. Americans should beware the temptation to exchange our long and successful republic for the Obama administration’s promises of social democracy. The elite leaders of democracies are put in power and kept in power by government dependents until the nation goes broke, as happened recently in Greece.
In this election year Americans should heed Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “A republic if you can keep it.” Once lost, no true republic has ever been resurrected.


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