Monday, December 17, 2007

Small "R" republicanism and the United States

Our dear friend recently sent us a link to a March 6, 2001 Bill introduced into the House of Representatives by sometime Texas Republican, sometime Texas Independent, and current 2008 presidential hopeful, Ron Paul. M.O.W. was shocked upon reading the Bill, "Expressing the sense of the Congress in reaffirming the United States of America as a republic," not because she disagrees with the premise of the Bill, but because she never heard about it in 2001. We find it intriguing that Mr. Paul both knows the difference between a republic and a democracy and knows that the United States is a republic (as we have often mentioned here: democracy is a lie).

We find it beyond extraordinary that Mr. Paul asked the House to declare that the United States is not a democracy. Indeed, we never thought that we would see a politician propose that the government would unmask its own greatest weapon of social control. Yet, apparently, one did. Let us spare you the suspense now: the Bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee, which buried it, never to be acted upon. Upon reflection, M.O.W. is pleased that the Bill was buried, for R. Paul did not actually mean what we hoped that he had meant with his little Bill.

The Bill itself is of interest, especially to we founder-stalkers. Let's set the stage shall we? It was March 6, 2001, which means that George W. Bush had been acting as president a mere 45 days by our count. His January 20, 2001 Inaugural Address had promised that America's "democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear and pass along." Mr. Bush recognized that there were divisions among Americans, but he had made "a solemn pledge" to "work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." A single, united, American nation devoted to freedom and equality, was his avowed agenda. And while he believed that it would be a challenge to unite Americans thusly, Mr. Bush also knew that "this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger than ourselves who creates us equal in His image."

Ahem. [We find that we simply must pause for editorial comment]

Yes, Mr. Bush, you are the great uniter because God told you to unite Americans and you united them. Oh, and, also, you will succeed because "we [you, Mr. Bush] are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward."

So confident you are, Good work!

Oh, and Mr. Bush, this is a little creepy in retrospect: "Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small. But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led." I mean, September 11, 2001 is just eight months away and it kinda looks like you're saying here that we need a war to unite us and it kinda sounds like you're kinda saying the same thing here that you will say in your January 29, 2002 Axis of Evil SOTU.

We are not sayin', we're just sayin'.

Anyway, so Mr. Bush had been saying inane things like these and golfing a lot and trying to act like he had actually won the 2000 election or trying to play it off like he had not actually stolen the election and was generally not paying too much attention to things like the Constitution and whatnot when Mr. Paul offered H.Con.Res 48 for his fellow Representatives' approval.

Mr. Paul's Bill*, as is customary, contained as series of propositions--14, in this case--all beginning with "Whereas," which formed the Bill's argument:

1) Whereas the form of government secured by the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the Constitution of the United States is a republic--not a democracy;**

Yes, while the Declaration did not use the word "republic" it also did not use the word "democracy" and most Americans understood in 1776 that the Revolution had created a republican form of government in each state and a Confederated republic of States. By 1787 Americans self-consciously rejected democracy and embraced republicanism (see our posts on the shenanigans surrounding the ratification of the Constitution and Shays's Rebellion
) largely due to their fear of the people ruling.

2) Whereas the Nation's founders understood that pure 'democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths' (Federalist No. 10);

Yes, R. Paul, J-Mad wrote in Fed 10 that he feared democracy, yes.

3) Whereas throughout the 224-year history of the United States as an independent and sovereign nation, the people of the United States have never exercised power as a democracy;

Yes, R. Paul, you are right again. America has never been a democracy.

4) Whereas the people of the United States have always acted by and through the Federal Union of the several States, electing Members of Congress from each of the several States and the President and Vice President by electoral votes proportioned to the number of Members of Congress representing each State;

Yes, the people have always acted through their Representatives--that is the definition of a republic, what is your point?

5) Whereas in the 2000 election for choosing electors for President and Vice President, it appears that the President-elect and Vice President-elect have won a majority of the State electoral vote, but not a plurality of the nationwide popular vote;

Uh-Oh! Oh, snap! Now R. Paul is getting going and he's going to let you have it GWB! You didn't win the popular vote and you know it! (and, you shouldn't have won the Electoral Vote and the Supreme Court shouldn't have decided the election and you know that too!)

6) Whereas the prospect of electing to office a President and Vice President who did not win the largest number of popular votes has generated proposals calling for a constitutional amendment to provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice President;

Yes, abolish the Electoral College, do it, DO IT! As M.O.W. wrote in a little USAToday Letter to the Editor in November 2000, the Electoral College is premised upon antiquated and insulting logics, meant to prevent the people from ruling. You tell 'em, R. Paul!

7) Whereas such a national popular election for President and Vice President disregards the constitutional integrity and inviolability of the 50 States as independent and sovereign governments;

Whaaaaa? I'm sorry R. Paul, but you've lost us a little here. What do you mean about the "national popular election" potentially disregarding the "integrity and inviolability of the 50 States as independent and sovereign governments??" Oh, wow, like you mean that if those crazy "abolish the Electoral College" nutjobs (like M.O.W.) get their way, then the States will no longer be independent and sovereign? Oh, dude. No. That was not where we thought that you were going with that. We thought that you might be a man of the people. You are SO not a man of the people, you are a man of the States! Let's hear it for States' Rights and R. Paul! Wheeeeeeee.

8) Whereas in their foresight and wisdom, the people of the United States, meeting by representation in State conventions, adopted a national Constitution preserving the independence and equal standing of the 50 States;

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We totally see you now. I mean, we could mention that there were obviously not 50 states in 1787-1789, but what would be the point, really? We could also point out that there was equal representation in the Senate only and that proportional representation prevailed in the House and in the Electoral College, which would mean that "the people of the United States" did not preserve "the independence and equal standing of the 50 States." In fact, J-Mad's original Virginia Draft was meant to do this, but it was shot down. Ever hear of the "Great Compromise"? I guess not.

9) Whereas the Federal system of equal and independent States is an essential safeguard against shifting wills of the majority overriding the unchanging rights of the minority;

Well, ok, see my response above for the "equal and independent" canard, but did you just say that you are against majority will and the people? But, you just said that the 2000 election was messed up because the popular vote was disregarded. We are so confused. Do you like the people or don't you? Cause it kinda seems like you don't.

10) Whereas to preserve the rights of the minority from a tyranny of the majority, the Constitution of the United States struck a principled balance between the people of the most populous States and the people of the least populous States;

That is one way of looking at it. Another way would be to say the small states threatened to walk out of the Constitutional Convention unless J-Mad changed the method of representation in the House, thus holding the entire Convention, the Constitution, and the nation hostage to their "minority rights."

11) Whereas to that end, the Constitution of the United States provides that the legislatures of each of the several States, without interference from Congress or any other branch of the Federal Government or State governments, determine the manner of election of the President and the Vice President by State electors from each State;

Once again
R. Paul, you are very confused. As we've already mentioned, the Electoral College is premised on the same proportional representation as the House is, which means that it is specifically not equal. Haven't you ever noticed that Texass gets more Electoral College votes than Maryland, for example?

12) Whereas the number of electors is distributed in accordance with each State's representation in the House of Representatives and in accordance with each State's equal standing in the Senate, not by a direct nationwide election in accordance with population alone;

Right, not equal, then, right? OK, but also, as you say, not by a direct nationwide popular vote.

13) Whereas the constitutionally prescribed system in the 2000 election for choosing electors for President and Vice President continues to function as originally designed, protecting minority and States' rights from the exercise of majority power; and

We are sorry, but what part of the 2000 election appeared to you to follow the constitutionally prescribed system? We are getting tired...

14) Whereas the electoral college system thereby preserves the diversity of the American people and maintains the United States as a Federal republic--not as a democracy:

Oh, R. Paul! This is a mess. What have you done? You've not proven diversity of the American people, this is completely off topic; nor have you proven that the Electoral College maintains the U.S. as a Federal republic. You see, the people could directly vote for the president and the nation could still be a republic. One thing technically has nothing to do with the other. We call non sequitar, false cause and red herring on you! Bad arguments, R. Paul. Very bad, indeed.

Thus, and to these ends, R. Paul made his argument that the United States is a republic rather than a democracy. He did not make these arguments to liberate the people from the democratic myth, but rather to further the Electoral College and protect what he believed was the States' "equal and independent" status.

You sir, are no man of the people.

And that is about the worst thing that M.O.W. can think to say to someone who hopes to be president. We see you R. Paul and we are not pleased.

*Technically it was a Concurrent Resolution, meaning members from both the House and the Senate authored and submitted the Bill, but Paul was the first author and the submitter, which is why we can call it his Bill.

**Editorial note: like a good debater, we've number the propositions to facilitate our rebuttal.


MosaicMe said...

Yeah Ron Paul! Too bad he doesn't have a chance, and he's a libertarian. I do agree w/ Ron that a popular vote is a terrible idea, and that it is a dangerous fad ridden hazard that must be controlled. I do not think that Ron claimed that the 2000 election was messed up b/c of no popular vote, but rather, that popular votes and democratic type structures are not used or regarded by the American government (and shouldn't be for that matter.) If we were a democracy then we would have cared about the popular vote, but we aren't so we didn't. All in all, the republican tragedy lives on, and safety, order, and control continue to make the world go round. Yeah!

E.L. Beck said...

I include a detailed definition on small-r republicanism under the "Pages" column on the right-hand side of my website;