What are we?

Many of my right wing friends(yes I have many) keep saying that its “MOB” rule at the capitol. They also like to make fun of one of the standard chants that have been going on for weeks:

Show me what democracy looks like.

This is what democracy looks like!

They like to point to the famous Ben Franklin quote “Its a republic Ma’am, if you can keep it.” I get the desperation in trying so very hard to diminish what is happening in Madison and all over the state. While we are a republic we have grown to be so much more. What we truly are, as Thom Hartmann states is:

If you want the most technical term, our country is a constitutionally limited representative democratic republic. Our form of government, the constitution limits the power of government. We elect representatives, so it’s not a pure democracy. But we do elect them by majority rule so it is democratic. And the form of, the infrastructure, the total form of government, is republican, it is a republic.

In the early days of this country, James Madison basically created a distinction that didn’t exist before this, and this was in 1787. The, it used to be, if you look at dictionaries pre 1787, the words democracy and republic were interchangeable. The Roman republic was referred to as a democracy, the Greek democracy was refereed to as a republic. The words were interchanged. And in one of the Federalist papers, and I forget which one it was, I think 14 maybe, but it’s been a long time since I read them, in one of the Federalist papers in an effort to, which were put into the newspapers by Hamilton and Madison, and John Jay wrote a couple of them, to sell the constitution to people, because we were operating under the articles of Confederacy in 1787.

To sell the constitution, Madison created this artificial distinction. And what he said, basically, was that democracy, that we weren’t creating a democracy in the United States, and in a technical sense it is not a pure democracy, because like Greece, you had to have at least 6,001 people show up for a decision to be made. It had to be real majority rule. And so Hamilton, excuse me, Madison made the point that democracy could arguably be considered a form of mob rule, whereas a republic imposed, you know, an infrastructure of laws and prevented mob rule.

Now, what he omitted, intentionally, because he was trying to sell the constitution, he was trying to basically reinvent language, what he omitted was that we democratically elect our representatives. And later in his life, in the 1830s, after his presidency was over, keep in mind this was in the 1770s or 1780s, in the 1830s when he was an old man, when he was writing his memoirs, he came out and said, and there’s a whole, if you go to buzzflash.com and look at my book reviews, the very first book review that I ever did for BuzzFlash, which was like five years ago, it’s the oldest one on the list, is all about this topic, or it has several chapters on this topic. And I forget the title of it now, but it’s a great book and it’s written by a guy who’s a constitutional scholar [“How Democratic Is the American Constitution?” by Robert A. Dahl.] And Madison in 1834 said, you know, after all these years, we can, you can use the words interchangeably. And that was about the time that the Democratic Republican party that Jefferson created dropped the word “republican” from its name. And that was about the time that Madison, who was one of the early founders of the Democratic Republican party started again using the word democracy.

So from the 1830s, so from the founding or in the mid 1780s until the mid 1830s we referred to America as a Republic. From the 1830s until the modern era we referred to it as a democracy, but then when Joe McArthey came along he started, he and some of his advisors, and Karl Rove really got on this big time, said, “wait a minute, calling this a democracy sounds too much like the Democratic Party. We should call it a Republic because that sounds more like the Republican Party.” And so the talking point on right wing radio has been, and Limbaugh’s been pushing this for 20 years now, has been that we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic, and that you shouldn;t call it a democracy, it’s a republic. And the reason why is because they like the word republic because it sounds like republican and they hate the word democracy because it sounds like democratic. And … that’s the bottom line, we live in a democratic republic.

Carry on with the chants, they are relevant!

2 comments to What are we?

  • econ101

    Well explaining that there is no consensus in defining republicanism and democracy still doesn’t exactly explain how a mob inhibiting business at the Capitol is the purest form of democracy… still seems rather obstructionist at its best. If 100,000 angry protestors do not intimidate state officials, it would appear that not much else would. In that regard, the protesters seem to be trying to create an ochlocratic environment.

    Democracy is exercised through the act of voting. Ochlocracy is exercised though the act of mobbing legitimately elected legislators in hopes that you will intimidate them into appeasing you.

    While classical ochlocracy generally employed violence to achieve its goals, I would argue that modern ochlocracy simply uses the implied threat of possible violence to achieve its goals. Further, the numerous death threats and menace that a very few disturbed individuals partake in stains the rest of the protestors and makes their presence that much more intimidating. After all, when 100,000 some individuals congregate to protest something, there is always the chance one lunatic may be among them.

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  • Econ, thanks for coming back through our little down time. Unfortunately nothing said makes sense. There was absolutely NO mob at the capitol it was hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens who made peaceful protests a priority.

    Democracy is exercised through the act of voting and hopefully everyone learned a lesson this year. 1. We need to pay attention to who we are voting for and 2. Politicians will think twice again before the say one thing and do another.

    As for the threat of possible violence, absolutely it was there, the Governor himself admitted he kept it as a possibility. I still brought my family with me everytime we went to the capitol anyway.

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