A Republic: If we can Keep it!

Unfortunately for all of us, we are now faced with a huge crisis. The crisis is viewed differently on either side. Yet, it is a crisis all the same. On the one side, the crisis is seen as the final crusade to assure that everyone in the U.S. is mandated as equal. Not equal in opportunity but equal in the outcome. The key to this ideal is completing a federalist agenda and expanding federal power to supplant most states’ control.  The opponents to this desire have painted the promoters as wanting to create a socialist or fascist state, eliminate all personal holdings and remove profit from any equation creating methods to redistribute wealth to the poor and eliminate any accumulated more to one person than another. Much of this group’s attack is unfounded; what they think they are doing is simply creating an effective democracy!
On the other side, it is seen as a crisis over governance. While the same Ad Hominum-Ad Nauseaum rhetoric has tried to paint this side as wanting to hurt the poor, take food out of starving babies mouths, and punish poor people, this is not their agenda; it is the simple premise that the constitution is constructed to put checks and balances to protect against the rise of a tyrannical, oppressive government and preserve individual rights and equal opportunity–not equal outcome–a huge philosophical difference.
In the end, one of the great things about our constitution is that it grants the people the power to control our rule. Notice I said to control our rule, not rule directly. While we like to think we are a democracy, we are not. We are a constitutional republic. We place decisions in the hands of our elected officials, who serve at our discretion. We can un-elect them. While this has been inconvenient on a micro-decision basis, it has been a stellar success in the macro sense over the years.
Still, we have systematically weakened the controls of the constitution and the original mechanisms over the years, often for very reasonable needs temporarily. Still, in the end, they have become permanent changes. The original role of the federal government was not to act as the seat of all power.  The seat of powers was constructed to be as close to the people as possible in the states and the cities. The federal government’s role was to act as an interface to the states, control and administer the connections between the states, and prevent actions where one of the states tried to behave in a manner that harmed the republic as a whole.
The primary vehicle of federal expansion has been through the expansive interpretation of the commerce clause. (see HealthCare Mandate and the Commerce Clause if you are interested in some history) This was the prime argument for the insurance mandate in the ACA/Obamacare that the Supreme Court adjudicated. The tax authority issue was a minor issue that, in the end, had a major impact. This is now important because while the Supreme Court ruled that the Mandate was legal as a tax, it also ruled that the Commerce Clause did not provide any constitutional authority for the mandate. In effect, it reversed a long trend in federal expansion and set a precedent for potential challenges to previous expansions.
This is important because now is the time for the nation to decide what it wants to be. Are we to remain the Constitutional Republic as founded, to see if we could find a structure that would survive the ages, or do we become a democracy, a structure that the founders well knew had specific structural weakness and led to historically documents defined duration leading to a failed state? Or do we think we are smart enough to create a new structure?
The problem is, for close to 50 years, we have no longer educated our citizens on the differences in these governance structures. It is safe to say that few born in the 1970s are even aware that we are not a democracy; they have been taught that we are a democracy. The concept of a significant threat of the rise of a tyrannical government, so imminent in the mind of the founders of America, has dissipated from our experience like the vapor from a hot drink on a cold day. Yet unbeknownst to us, this is a potential of what we face by expanding federal control. Not because it is a purposeful conspiratorial act but because, as was said by a sagacious man, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, the first Baron Acton (1834-1902), “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”
In closing, it may be good for us all to review the words of Benjamin Franklin. Upon leaving the constitutional convention in Philadelphia immediately after the vote to approve the final draft of our new constitution, a woman asked, “Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?” To which he replied, “A Republic, madam if you can keep it!”

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