A republic, if you can keep it
By Frank Salvato
When Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was approached by a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia. It was then and there that she asked the now famous question, "Well, Doctor, what have we, a republic or a monarchy?" It is said that Dr. Franklin, without hesitation, said, "A Republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."
By definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, a Republic is "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." In other words, and to paraphrase without deviating from the definition's intent, a Republic is a system of government where the ultimate power lies with the people; that power executed by way of elected representatives who are responsible to those who elected them and according to the rule of law.
The United States of America is a Republic, a Constitutional Republic. By this it is meant that we elect representatives who execute government per the rule of constitutional law, the United States Constitution being the ultimate and exclusive basis for that law.
Nowhere, in either the definition of "Republic" or in the United States Constitution, is it stated that those elected to represent the people in the execution of government do so only for the majority of their constituents. In fact, the Founders and Framers were vehemently adamant that our system of government be a Republic specifically for the purpose of protecting the rights of the minority in the face of the majority, thus protecting the inalienable rights for all American citizens.
It is for this reason that we all should boisterously admonish any and all that refer to the United States of America as a "Democracy"; it is not a Democracy, it is a Constitutional Republic that uses a unique Democratic system to elect those who execute government on behalf of the citizenry. The reason this indisputable fact is so important is playing out, today, in many different arenas, but none as apparent as the events playing out in Wisconsin regarding collective bargaining rights for public-sector union employees.
As the protest over Gov. Scott Walkers plan to limit – not eliminate – collective bargaining rights for public-sector union employees progressed, some elected representatives, the Democrat faction of Wisconsin's State Senate, fled the State of Wisconsin so as to avoid having to vote in what they viewed to be a losing proposition, given the fact that Democrats, by virtue of the 2010 election, are currently in the minority in the Wisconsin Senate chamber.
The Democrats who fled, did so citing their belief that to do so was to act in the interest of their constituents; they did so providing the excuse that it is what their constituents "wanted them to do." Truth be told, their knowledge of our system of government, of how our government works – legally, of their role in a Constitutional Republic, is delinquent at best.
For the record, Wisconsin has one of the oldest continuously enacted constitutions in the United States. That constitution mandates the election of "representatives" to both the Wisconsin State Assembly and the Wisconsin State Senate. By virtue of the legal definition of a Republic, as stated above, the elected members of both of Wisconsin's legislative bodies are bound to the action of representing their constituencies and executing state government per the laws of that state and within the federal constitutional mandates of US statehood. This means, literally, that they represent both the majorities and minorities of their elective districts.
In fleeing their state to avoid having to vote on a measure that they knew, ultimately, they would lose, Democrat Senators of Wisconsin have abdicated their responsibilities to "represent" their constituencies. While they may very well enjoy the support of Progressive Democrats in their districts in their flight from the governmental process, they most certainly do not have the support from a totality of their constituents to do so. If even one person in their district objects to their actions – and not one of the Democrats in question received 100 percent of the vote in the last election, then, by virtue of the definition of representation, as it applies to a Constitutional Republic, they have abdicated their responsibilities to represent. Remember, representing the electorate in a Republic means representing both the minority, as well as the majority, in the execution of government, per the law.
Further, a cursory examination of the Wisconsin State Constitution reveals that nowhere in that document does it allow for elected representatives to abandon the state under the guise of acting in the interest of their constituents. In fact, under Article IV, Section 7 of the Wisconsin State Constitution it allows for compulsory attendance and application of penalties for those who are found in juxtaposition to said section:
In fact, Section 8 goes a bit further:
The case can be made that the absent Wisconsin State Senators are not only delinquent in executing their duties as elected representatives, but that in the face of a call from the Senate Majority leader to appear and perform their duties, are essentially in contempt and acting in a disorderly behavior. Because a simple majority in the Wisconsin State Senate is the only requirement for the execution of business other than that relating to finance, it is well within the constitutional boundaries of the Senate majority to hold the absent Senators in contempt, levying fines and penalties. In fact, on March 2, 2011, those in attendance did just that, levying a $100 fine "for each day they miss, if they miss two or more days."
And while the Senators in question are, by definition, delinquent in executing their duties as elected representatives, the more egregious result of their acts is that they are disenfranchising the minority citizens of their constituencies of representation in government. The people who reside within the boundaries of their districts who do not agree with their actions literally have no voice in their state government because these elected "representatives" are refusing to "represent."
The actions of the Democrat faction in the Wisconsin State Senate not only prove that "Democracy in action" does not protect the rights of the minority, they prove beyond all doubt that Democracy – or mob rule, as the Founders and Framers referred to it – can very easily be co-opted by special interest groups to the detriment of the rights of the minority.
Further, the actions of the Democrat Senators of Wisconsin serve as a perfect example of why it is so intrinsically important that we recognize the United States of America as the Constitutional Republic that it is and not a "Democracy," which it most certainly is not.
Lastly, the actions of this rogue delegation of Progressives, who have been lucky enough to hoodwink their electorates into believing that they would represent them in Madison, prove beyond doubt the immediate need for an increase in the level of Constitutional Literacy throughout our country.
It is important to remember, that when factions rail against the process of "government," they are railing against the people who empower that government; they rail against you and me, the voters. We are the government...and that's what makes the United States the greatest nation in the history of the world.
So, the next time you're watching the news channels and see one of the unwashed Progressive protesters railing against the governor and Republican Senators in Wisconsin (or Ohio or Indiana for that matter) for "attacking the middle class," or hear a pundit or activist try to justify a contractual advantage for unions over the states and/or federal government, the next time you hear one of the faction of the agendized or uninformed demand more, more, more from government, understand that they are demanding more from you...you are the government. They want you to give them more from your pocket.
Now, I don't know about you, but I simply can't afford to give any more... not... one... dime.
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is a member of the International Analyst Network and has been a featured guest on al Jazeera's Listening Post. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel, and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Captain's America Radio Show, nationally syndicated by the Phoenix Broadcasting Network and on NetTalkWorld Global Talk Radio catering to the US Armed Forces around the world. Mr. Salvato is also heard weekly on The Roth Show with Dr. Laurie Roth syndicated nationally on the USA Radio Network. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally. He is a featured political writer for EducationNews.org and is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.