Can we keep this republic?

Terry Garlock's picture

As mid-term elections draw near, the chatter of TV news escalates in points and counter-points of the political tug-of-war. Whether you are on the left or right in the arguments, if you can set aside pre-conceived notions long enough to read this column, please consider that much of the noise completely misses the larger point.

For example, much was made of a mid-September televised town hall meeting arranged for President Obama to talk to citizens on camera. Whether you believe this CNBC event was fair in its presentation or that it was staged with a pre-selected friendly audience, you may remember how Velma Hart told the president she was exhausted in her defense of him.

Ms. Hart, a black woman, said in part to the president, “I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m an American veteran, and I’m one of your middle-class Americans. And quite frankly I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are.”

She said, “The financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family.” She said, “My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot-dogs-and-beans era of our lives. But, quite frankly, it is starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we are headed.”

The talking heads chattered for weeks about this and other examples of unhappy citizens pleading to the president their case of personal and family travails, lost jobs and worries about paying for healthcare. While they asked each other how the president can repair the damage to public confidence in his ability to make our lives better, I wondered how the pundits could miss the larger point.

The president is not, and should not be, responsible for our individual well-being. His job is to provide for national security, see that our laws are enforced, conduct foreign policy, appoint major government functionaries and influence a legislative agenda, including policies to promote the general economic well-being.

The president does not create jobs – business does that by taking risks in hopes of making a handsome profit. Pleading an individual family case of woe to the president is just downright silly.

Of course, TV news loves the personal drama of citizens publicly heaping their suffering on a president trying to strike a patrician pose, and they keep the camera focused on him to capture every twitch of empathy so the pundits can debate whether he was sufficiently contrite and reassuring.

This recurring American farce should have a spot on Broadway.

I don’t know how long presidents have been conducting the charade of promising to make our lives better, but in 1928 Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan was, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” In 1980 Ronald Reagan struck a nerve when he asked in his televised debate with President Jimmy Carter, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

A rich irony closer to home is that President Obama made “hope” a major campaign promise, and now the faithful are losing theirs. I can understand children or the mentally weak falling for a politician’s offer of hope, but any thinking adult who looks to a politician, whether Republican or Democrat, as their source of hope is in serious need of spiritual counseling or a head examination.

Two major disappointments are elements of my meandering point.

First, the news media fails to remind the public that the president’s job has limitations, that the policies he enacts to nudge economic results in one direction or another sometimes take years to show their effect, and that we citizens are responsible for pursuing our own happiness without any government guarantees.

Second, we seem to be raising generations of citizens well-educated on rights, self-esteem, gender equality and tolerance of sexual preference but wholly ignorant of our country’s history and the capitalist system that has made America the envy of the world.

And so we have earned an electorate that foolishly looks to the federal government to take care of them and solve their problems.

These are the voters who elect administrations like the present one, an administration that doesn’t understand or appreciate our own capitalist system and has become downright anti-business in its rhetoric and policy.

I have heard much about the strength and resilience of America, but our system can be broken and I worry about the dangerous combination of an ignorant electorate and irresponsible media.

In 1787, as Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall in Philadelphia after the final day of deliberation at the close of the Constitutional Convention, he was met by a gathered crowd. There was much controversy over what shape the new government should take, and the deliberations were held in secrecy.

A lady asked Mr. Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?”

Franklin replied, “A republic, ma’am, if you can keep it!”

The founding fathers knew very well the difference between a democracy and a republic, something I will save for a future column, and with great care they established a republic. Thomas Jefferson observed, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.”

As you watch TV news and see more examples of citizens expecting the president to take care of them, ask yourself whether our citizenry is sufficiently enlightened on our form of government. Maybe you will join me in wondering, “Can we keep this republic?”

[Terry Garlock is a Certified Financial Planner. He lives in Peachtree City and writes columns occasionally for The Citizen. His email is tgarlock@mindspring.com.]

Georgia Patriot
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No riding Brooms!

But Brooms will be used to sweep some of the communist trash from the US House and Senate! -GP

Joe Kawfi
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Barack Obama is a failure

It's so much fun to watch you libs floppin' and flailing as your miserable party goes right down the tubes. All you have left are meaningless insults to dead people.

AAAAaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

PTC Observer
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Mr. Garlock - Republic

Sadly we haven't had a Republican form of government for many many years.

We in fact have a democracy a form of government that our founders feared and attempted to avoid through the Constitution.

"We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest -- which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves."

T. Jefferson

tgarlock
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If you mean in practice the fools in Washington . . .

. . . have been unfaithful to our intended limited government, I couldn't agree more.

I'm not a scholar on the subject, just writing my observations, but the term "republic" is rather vague since it can be used in a number of ways, and many like Madison in the Federalist Papers equate it with representative democracy, where we elect representatives to speak and vote for us in Washington, as opposed to direct democracy, which involves citizens voting directly on all significant decisions, and that nightmare might be doable with current technology. Of course the mob rule result of direct democracy was wisely feared when our country was founded, especially given the limited education so many citizens held.

If you meant that our drift has gone so far that the word republic no longer applies, I'd have to say you could be right, and tell me more.

Terry Garlock

PTC Observer
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What I mean Mr. Garlock

Is that a Republic is defined by a limitation on the franchise. It is not one man or woman, one vote. Now I know that this concept is pretty foreign these days but back when the country was founded the vote was limited to white males with property and in some states freed men with property. Slaves, women, non-propertied whites were all excluded from the vote. This was not an unusual concept in the 18th Century; eight out of ten citizens in England during this period were not eligible to vote. So, a Republic is defined as a form of government that limits the right to vote.

No, I don’t believe that only white males with property should be the only people eligible to vote. I do believe however that the concept of a Republic has merit in today’s world. The problem with a democracy is not simply that it is mob rule but it assumes that we are all equal. The problem with an equalitarian ideal is that not all people are equal. They are born equal but each person has their own abilities through which they derive their property through their labor, and as we know from the Constitution the primary role of government is to protect individual property. But in our form of democracy those with less ability are able through the vote to deprive others of their property. The idea of a redistribution of wealth dates primarily from the early 20th century, but it has its roots in the Hamiltonian notion that the central government should control the states and all the people within the states. Clearly this was not what the founders had in mind. During the ratification process Hamilton assured states in the Federalist Papers that he agreed that states would always have primacy over the central government. Once ratified he immediately worked to use the Constitution as a tool to consolidate centralized power and usurp the power of the states. In other words he was dishonest and without honor. He proved this throughout his life, but that’s another story.

So what’s the answer? If we could somehow return to a Republican form of government the most logical way to restrict the vote would be to not allow those that derive their income from government to vote. It is a conflict of interest. What rational person would not vote to increase their wealth at the expense of others? So, who would be excluded? People who work for companies that have contracts with the government, all government workers state, local, or national would lose their vote. Military personnel would lose their vote. I know this is an emotional point but as you well know in past the vote was lost when you joined the military and this was changed after the Second World War. It wasn't until the early 1960's that officers started voting as they still felt it was honorable not to vote. All elected servants and their staff would be excluded. If people wanted to vote they would simply have to find a company that did not do business with the government.

This would put the power of the vote back into the hands of the people that create incremental wealth and it would restore some sanity to the out of control spending we have seen since 1913. It would also stop redistribution.

Hope this clears up what I meant.

tgarlock
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PTC-O, I have to disagree with your definition of . . .

. . . a republic as a form of government that limits the right to vote. That could be one style of republic, but the broad definition of republic is a system of electing a non-monarch government through representatives of individual citizens. Ours is described interchangeably as a democratic republic or representative democracy, though it has morphed from the original as you pointed out, and the fools in Washington have long ago pushed the Constitutional limits aside.

Your point about limiting who can vote is certain to make some knees jerk, but it's an interesting notion worthy of exploration. Of course in the PC world in which we live everybody would run from the idea. I have often thought while politicians blather about new ways to make it easier to vote, I would prefer to make it harder to vote if there were a way to screen voters to weed out the ones who don't know who the candidates are, much less the issues involved. The consensus is that the goal is more voters, but consensus is overrated; I would say a higher percentage of SERIOUS voters should be the goal.

Terry Garlock

Davids mom
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The Goal
Quote:

I would say a higher percentage of SERIOUS voters should be the goal.

Informed voter should be the goal. Some very serious voters are misinformed.

tgarlock
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Good point DM . . .

. . . informed is a better goal, just as Jefferson observed.

Terry Garlock

Georgia Patriot
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Agree, Informed is what we need

No more falling for catchy slogans, like ...."Hope and Change" -GP

Observerofu
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If you don't know who or what you are voting for

then you are just another drive by American.

But then again that is how we got this President. Most of the people that voted in 08 had fallen for the "Hopey Changey" stuff. Few actually looked at who and what Obama was and what he really stood for. Granted McCain was no better, but an uninformed voter is no less a danger to our Republic then say Iran is.

PTC Observer
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Republic Definition by Webster

"a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government."

Key word is "entitled", we of course restrict the vote today based on age and citizenship.

Yes, you can call it a representative governnment if you wish but it is a "right" to vote that we should focus on. There is nothing like self interest to get people to pay attention to the issues and candidates. Today many have simply given up on the political process and thereby given up the process to theives. They have given up because their vote makes no difference. Your idea to keep people from voting by making it harder is not the answer, the only answer is to return to the Republican ideal and ration the vote to those that produce.

Georgia Patriot
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Theocracy?

We are closer to a theocracy with the gods in washington delving out from their looted booty entitlements to their subjects. Worshiping at the altar of redistribution. The masses don't seem to care what the form of government is as long as they get a piece of the pie, the fact that the pie was stolen is irrelevant to them. Who is John Galt? Pray for us all. -GP

Courthouserules
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Garlock

Yes, that is how I feel also! We need to limit voters by stricter qualifications---somewhat like we used to have.
A voter should be able to read and write, look like a real American, be serious about voting---know the issues like Ms. O'Donnell and Mrs. Palin do, and all should be quizzed at the door to the polling place as to who they are going to vote for and why! They need to be able to name all running.

They should be able to give a serious explanation about all the serious issues they will vote on and how they will vote. No one is to wear a hood however. Georgia's poll workers should be from New Jersey and do the quizzing.

Not all citizens are equal and some are so dumb that they will even vote for socialism. If they come to the polls in a limo or on a bus, they are to be automatically disqualified.

The poll tax must be reinstated except the fee should be the amount of the average Social Security check---somewhere around $1000 + per voting date.

All voters should have sufficient assets to qualify to vote. A voter with nothing to lose might vote for just anyone! If they are conservatives it will be assumed that they have more assets than debts, except for bankers and developers and insurance employees.

It should be "easier" to vote for most people. If the vote were to be cast by Internet, it should be done only on a 52" HD SONY, or better, and the password should be the name of the current head of the Republican Party and his net worth in pounds! (as of that morning).

New suits and armani ties must be worn with polished shoes (on their feet not on their ties!) They must act with suitable decorum anywhere they can be seen and have an IQ of at least 180 as determined by the Atlanta schools erased tests people. Must show the unerased card!

No biased person can not be allowed to vote. If you are drawing welfare, on a federal pension (except military), getting food stamps or low rent supplements, and have been caught with a tail light out, you can not vote.

If you have never flown a helicopter or took off from a carrier deck, you can not vote until you do and parachute into the water!

We must also change the name from democracy to republicracy to avoid all the voting confusion.

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