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Why a Republic?


THE VIEW FROM HERE - After Ben Franklin answered the question what form of government the Constitutional Convention had created, the questioner did not ask, “Why a republic?” 

In order to get the Constitution ratified, however, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of a republic.  The Federalist Papers (never to be confused with the Federalist Society) explained how the republic would satisfy the Declaration of Independence, i.e., the government’s purpose was to secure each individual’s inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   

Since the revolution was against the tyranny of King George, the Convention rejected Thomas Hobbes’s belief that an only absolute, central authority was the way to prevent mankind’s existence from being “nasty, brutish and short.”  In fact, the fear of a strong central authority had resulted in the weak Articles of Confederation which the Convention had been convened to rectify. A democracy was likewise shunned as history had shown that democracies devolved into tyrannies.  The folly of a democracy was placing too much power in the people, who were ruled by intemperate passions and would vote away all inalienable rights, as de Tocqueville later explained in Democracy in America (1835, 1840). 

The Founding Fathers understood the threat which democracies posed to inalienable rights – sooner or later the mob mentality would seize a majority of the public and they would elect a tyrant.  (In fact, in times of great stress, it is common for most people to look to an authoritarian solution) The Convention labored to fashion a republic as the best form of government (1) to safeguard individual inalienable rights and (2) provide for the general welfare.  As the Founding Fathers realized, without promoting the general welfare there can be no inalienable rights.  Even Thomas Hobbes understood this fact, but he thought that men were so base that only a strong dictator could control men’s angry passions.

The Founding Fathers rejected both a monarchy and a democracy because both forms of government result in tyranny.  A republic based on a constitution which limited the power of any particular faction was seen as most able to provide for individual liberty and prosperity. 

Constitutional Checks And Balances Against a Democracy 

The theory was that government had to institutionalize certain checks on people’s passions in order to balance power against power.  The Constitution chose not to make voting the hallmark of the new government.  Rather, they restricted the role of voting.  The very notion of a constitution limits the role of voting. Once the government is based on a constitution, there has to be a way to interpret it to constrain men who would disregard the Constitution.  In a pure democracy, the mob can vote away the entire constitution and install a dictator.  

A Constitutional Pure Democracy Is an Oxymoron 

The Founding Fathers feared that whenever the masses got near the voting box, civil life was in peril. Thus, direct voting was severely limited.  One invention to protect the nation from the mob was the electoral college.  One part of the Electoral College was that level headed electors who would not be swayed by the passions of the voters and the electors would not allow a crazy person to assume the Presidency. After all, King George had been mentally unfirm for much of his adult life.  The Electoral College has proven a complete failure in this role.  (Other aspects of the Electoral College are not pertinent for this article.) 

Constitutional Naivete 

In other instances, the Constitution relied on the intelligence and integrity of  office holders.  In order to make certain that judges placed the Constitution above political passions, it gave judges life time tenure.  That way judges would not have to fear being voted out of office. As we have seen, the Founding Fathers’ faith in judicial intelligence and integrity was misplaced. As the demands of voters have played a larger role in selecting justices, the appointments to the Supreme Court have deteriorate to a low.  Sen. Mitch McConnell’s claim that the timing of a justice’s nomination should be based on the next Presidential election was an unforgivable violation of the essential wisdom of the Constitution to make certain the courts were free of the voters’ passions. 

The Constitutional Role of Impeachment 

Recognizing that tyrants and fools can be elected, the Constitution provided for the removal of a President when his conduct was too injurious to the general welfare to await the next election.  It balanced the power to remove a President between the House, which would bring the indictment (by clear and convincing evidence), and Senate which could conduct the trial. Members of the House would act as prosecutors in the Senate trial.  Presently, the prosecutors have to provide enough evidence for the 2/3rd of the Senators to convict the President by beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Founding Fathers naively relied on the intelligence and integrity of House and Senate to fulfill their duties. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Has Shown No Love for the Republic 

Because a conviction in the Senate required evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it would be folly to make an indictment without a firm belief that the indictment could be proved beyond a reasonable day.  As the law professors advised Nancy Pelosi in December 2019, the House lacked sufficient evidence to prevail in a Senate trial.  Thus, the House had to gather more evidence or else the Senate would acquit Trump.  In egregious derogation of her constitutional duties, Nancy Pelosi halted all evidence gathering in the House, thereby guaranteeing that the Senate would not convict Trump in the January 2020 trial.   December 5, 2019, CityWatch, Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman’s Roadmap to Nancy Pelosi’s Subversion of Impeachment. 

Rather, she prefers a democracy where one party has bought enough votes to seize control of the government.  That is the raison d’état of her Identity Politics -- assemble a group of voters based upon granting them special rights and privileges. Calculating that within the foreseeable future the various minorities would become the majority of the voters, they could simply vote away the rights of the White majority.  In other words, Pelosi’s goal is to replace the Republic with a Democracy where the Democrats would become the permanent ruling party.  

Removal of Trump during the second Senate trial in January 2021 would similarly thwart Pelosi’s plan for Dem minorities to out vote the White voters in the GOP.  Knowing that many insurrectionists were furious with Trump as he had incited and then abandoned them, the House managers refused to allow this damaging testimony.  Had the majority of GOP voters heard the insurrectionists themselves turn on Trump and accuse him of cowardice by hiding in the White House, more than 17 GOP Senators would have voted to convict Trump and bar him from future office.  The GOP would become heroes and they’d be free of a Donald Trump who had been barred from running for public office. 

The Republic has the impeachment process which was designed to protect the nation from the passions of voters who elected a would-be tyrant. Yet, the Dems have ignored their constitutional duties in hopes that they can seize power by turning the Republic into a Democracy.  Right now, it is far more likely that the GOP will sweep into power in both the House and the Senate. 

(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor.  You may email him at [email protected])