WE THE PEOPLE so often forget that, in our presumed American democracy, our democratic way of life that we actually live in a republic rather than a true democracy.
There are controls everywhere. We presumably live by the wonderful tenets of our beloved Constitution and its 27 amendments. But in reality, our Constitution has been interpreted, reinterpreted, expanded and this original American document, once implemented by ORIGINALISM has now become ORGANIC in so many ways that the principles, language and intentions of the Founding Fathers hardly exist. Courts, many consisting of one man or one woman as judge often do as they please, what they think is right, or follow a path to a desired objective and goal which may or may not be constitutional. Opinions differ widely. In fact, they now go well beyond the old liberal – conservative divide. We have so many in positions of power who may wish to radically change our form of government, now many with deeply held socialistic points of view and philosophies, and even communistic. There are those passionately anti–capitalism, determined to control the economy through taxation and regulation.
There is often deep distrust of the individual, the American citizen. The elitists, the politically power hungry and the cultural know–it–alls have growing disrespect for the common man and woman, seeking their vote, support and money at election time and virtually ignoring them thereafter. Two hundred and fifty years ago, in that aggressive revolutionary time, the indifference to any average American citizen would never, ever have been tolerated. The attitude of the early revolutionaries, the 13 states was tough, independent, involved and often highly suspicious of politicians and those in power. The key to the early revolutionary mentality was INVOLVEMENT. Citizens aggressively participated in the political process. They held elected officials accountable. They were intolerant of corruption and they were determined as the old state motto so well said to:
LIVE FREE OR DIE.
Having fought the Revolutionary War and won freedom, REAL FREEDOM, these early citizens of our great country, the very first Americans would never, ever give up that freedom.
Two things characterize the early Americans which hardly exist in today’s cultural – political American environment. The first was involvement. Life was hard, demanding and time consuming. But these early Americans always had TIME for all things political. They trusted political leaders but only if they were ethical and lived up to their promises, following the lead and direction of the patriotic citizens of their state. Early American citizens were very concerned not only about freedom, but the economy, and of course banking and the control of funds. They were concerned with morality. They had their own views of foreign policy. For the most part, they wanted limited government, especially the federal government seeking to protect state governments and state rights at all times. They were committed to the famous statement of Patrick Henry in everyday life:
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH.
They would not live under any tyranny, bondage, political or even military pressure or control. They were politically involved in order to make certain freedom was never lost. They responded aggressively to the challenge of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who challenged the citizenry when asked what the Founding Fathers created in terms of the Constitution and the governmental structure. Franklin stated the Founding Fathers had given the new America a constitutional republic and then echoed his famous challenge to them:
IF YOU CAN KEEP IT.
If you can keep it. And what a herculean task it would be to keep that republic, to live under democratic principles and freedoms and never lose them. What an unbelievable challenge it was then and, my fellow Americans, that challenge is even greater today, FAR GREATER!
The second fundamental principle demanded and aggressively followed by early citizens was ACCOUNTABILITY. If one became an elected official, that person was held to the highest standards of conduct, required to function as a true fiduciary, a true representative of the people. When that citizen trust was broken, and of course it was from time to time in those early days, that elected official was held accountable. Not only individual citizens, but states and especially the original 13 held the federal government accountable. If that government usurped too much power, and began the trampling of states rights, those states, holding the federal government accountable were ready to resist or secede if necessary. It was an aggressive, action–oriented political environment in those early revolutionary days as the new America evolved. The expectation, the demand for accountability was extremely strong. Fledgling America was an experiment in democracy, a republic at work, trial and error but with involvement by the citizenry which was so special at that time, soon to be taken for granted, and challenged more than ever in every possible way in today’s political climate. If founder Benjamin Franklin could observe America 2020, he would undoubtedly know that WE THE PEOPLE surely would not be able to keep the republic originally founded. Democracy, American style, would be indeed on its last legs.
It is really so very interesting, even amazing that in this democracy of ours, power, ultimate political power is so highly concentrated. We the people, some 335 million strong, are ruled by:
545 MEN AND WOMEN.
They are all powerful. They control our government, our decision making and our lives. There are 435 Elected Representatives, supposedly so, of we the people, who form THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. They come from 50 states and supposedly represent the will of the people. The Constitution thinks in terms of those Representatives bringing fresh, local, state–driven ideas and political points of view to the federal government. The Constitution was structured in terms of diversity, differences of opinion, men and women who would really express the ideas and political philosophies of their citizen voters, their state for the good of their local citizens on the one hand but also the federal government for the nation as a whole on the other. In theory, that works. But practically and functionally, it doesn’t! The House of Representatives is structured, controlled, influenced by seniority. The longer you have been there, the greater the power. There are heads of committees and committee members who can in so many ways control legislation. Then there is the Speaker of the House, now one Nancy Pelosi, with incredible power in so many ways, dictating and defining, controlling and making certain the prevailing party line is followed no matter the beliefs and commitments of the individual representative or the state he or she represents. In so many ways, the way the House of Representatives functions is anything but democratic. Individual voices are seldom ever heard nor are they of influence in this highly controlled, seniority driven House of Representatives. In reality, these 435 elected officials are really controlled by 15–20 old line, long tenured politicians, elected term after term often without any real competition or opposition and the will of the people, certainly the will of the MAJORITY is often completely ignored. Democracy and the free flow of ideas can be eviscerated, weakened and made irrelevant so easily. The HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES has turned into a political body hardly representative of the American citizens who elected them.
Then comes the United States Senate. There are two such members from each of the 50 states, 100 elected by the people for six years, rather than the two–year term of the members of the House of Representatives. These men and women were thought by the founders to be a check and balance with respect to the House of Representatives, a body perhaps more deliberate, more constitutionally protective. But these 100 rulers can function in ways so easily undemocratic, easily avoiding accountability for six full years once elected. The power each possesses in the political process is really unbelievable, often independent with the potential to ignore political promises made to get elected, often ignoring the very citizens who elected them. The Senate Majority Leader has unbelievable power. That leader can control the votes, the political actions of so many Senators who surrender political autonomy, independent thinking and promises to their Electorate for the good of the party and at the will of the Majority Leader. So much for democracy at work.
Four hundred and thirty–five House of Representatives. One hundred Senators. Five hundred and thirty–five governing political figures. Add to that nine Supreme Court Justices, NINE! Ultimately, we the 335 million American citizens are ruled by nine people! The decisions they make in the majority control our lives, set our laws and determine how we should and must legally live. Often, critical life decisions are made by a mere majority, that is five Justices deciding THE LAW OF THE LAND. FIVE! That, at the bottom line, is anything but democracy at work. So that, a mere 218 Representatives in the House can decide on legislation. Fifty–one Senators can do the same. And five Justices of the Supreme Court can decide the law of the land. So that, in reality our rulers are not as many as 545 but even fewer at 274! So much for our democracy.
And then of course there is THE PRESIDENT. This person, only men to this point, is undoubtedly the most powerful person in the United States. The power of the President expands over and again, expanding considerably so it appears with each new President. The power to veto, the power to rule our military, the power to appoint judges just to name some is simply unbelievable. There are indeed some checks and balances but so much of the presidential power through executive orders and the like goes unchecked. This one American individual seems all powerful for four years.
Democracy, the democratic way of life is built on trust. We elect political Representatives presumably of the highest character, morality and nobility. We elect true Americans who believe in and protect the Constitution and the rule of law. We elect those who would represent us as citizens of one of the 50 great states, and concerned with commonality through our federal government for all Americans. But a close inspection of the House of Representatives, and the Senate and perhaps even the Supreme Court Justice, and of course the President would indicate that fiduciary standards and morality are at an all time low. In fact, a recent survey indicated that a mere 12% of Americans, one in eight, have respect for the integrity and morality of any of our political figures. Sad, and tragic, and undoubtedly the beginning of the end of the great American experiment in democracy.
I firmly believe it is our fault, this political American mess. We the people have ignored the two most important factors which democracy requires:
We have lives to live and the vast majority of us simply do not do what we are required to do as citizens. We do not make the time to study, learn, and stay involved in the political processes. In some elections, more than half of Americans do not even bother to vote. Small wonder 545 people can rule us. We have little respect for the political process and those who are elected consequently have little respect for us.
Perhaps even more importantly, we do not hold those officials accountable. They often break the law, and with impunity. They act independently, ignore their political promises and often care so little what the American think, believe or want. What a tragedy, anything but democracy at work. We can lose what we have in the way of freedoms to socialism, even communism and perhaps even some form of dictatorship in the future. All of that was thought impossible some years ago but now very possible in today’s culture. Now comes elections 2020. We will vote for the President of the United States. The political system we have, the parties we condone or put up with, give us two choices, Donald Trump or Joe Biden, none other. Which will you choose? And will you even bother to vote?
And we have 435 choices to make for election to the House of Representatives from our 50 states. For whom will you vote, and why. The entire House of Representatives could be changed that election day. Of the 100 Senators, there are 34 who will be reelected or newly elected. For whom will you vote? And you will vote, will you not? Political power is predicated on the indifference, the lack of involvement, the inability to hold accountable elected officials by we the people. There is always the hope that we will rise up, become involved and hold the ELECTED accountable. America can turn socialistic overnight if certain individuals are elected. Fundamental freedoms can be lost, and lost forever. If either happens, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We so presumptively ask GOD TO BLESS AMERICA. But there is no way we will ever get that blessing because of the way we live, and act, and govern ourselves. But that can change. But only if you, and I, and all right–thinking Americans stand up, and vote, and become and stay involved in the politics of our country, and hold our elected officials accountable.
Otherwise, as President Ronald Reagan has well said, the freedoms we enjoy and unfortunately take for granted once lost will in fact be: