Ever notice how conservative propagandists always refer to the Democratic Party and the “Democrat” Party? That’s not just a slip of the tongue or an occasional mistake, it’s an intentional mispronunciation designed to distract you and make a false impression. The term ‘democrat’ is a subtle yet effective epithet used by those of the “right-wing” political ideology to paint those if us on the left as something other than what we are; supporters of a more democratic society.
Republicans are quick to point out, whenever the point is raised, that we don’t live in a democracy; the United States of America is a constitutional republic. It says so right there in the constitution. Section 4 of article IV clearly states:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
That is the only instance of the words ‘republic’ or ‘republican’ in the entire document, but just what is a republican form of government anyway?
According to our friends at Wikipedia a “republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people.”
Well, it looks we are indeed a republic, not that most of us didn’t already know this. So where is the the part about us being a democracy. Wasn’t everyone taught about how the founders looked to ancient Greece when setting up our legal/political parameters of government in school? I was. The word democracy is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. What’s up with that? Where does the misconception that we live in a democracy originate?
Our republican form of government is often referred to as a representative democracy. It came about as a compromise between the powerful, landed gentry and wealthy mercantilists (the 1% of the late Eighteenth Century) and the much larger portion of the population who had so recently done much of the fighting and dying. That the American Revolutionary War was fought primarily to free a bunch of rich white guys from their economic competition across the pond is and always has been lost on most of us.
The 99% that fought our revolution wanted, no, demanded to have their say in the government of our newly formed republic, so the 1% made just enough concessions to shut them up for a while. Once they got the Constitution ratified it was back to business as usual, with the powerful few exploiting the ignorant masses for their own personal gain. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
That’s not to say the working class has taken it lying down for the last two centuries. A few of us have always fought back, and insurrections against the one percent began almost before the signatures on our founding documents were dry.
Look up events like Shay’s Rebellion, or the Whiskey Rebellion, or the entire U.S. labor movement up to about 1940. Do a little digging, reading, and thinking for yourself; the documentation is there to be discovered, it just isn’t taught in our educational system controlled by the oligarchs at the top of the economic pyramid scheme.
Today our political landscape is dominated by two entrenched political parties; the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Almost everyone now agrees that both of these parties are controlled by powerful financial interests. You can call them industrial lobbies, political action committees, corporate donors, or any number of other labels, but what it all boils down to is that money our politicians need to fund their overpriced re-election campaigns every few years comes with strings attached to a very powerful minority of super wealthy billionaires.
Don’t line up at the trough or bow and scrape low enough while kissing your benefactor’s hand; they’ll find some other miserable whore willing to do the dirty work. There’s never a shortage.
Most people now agree that money in our politics is our greatest problem, but we keep getting manipulated and train wrecked by semantics and confusing terminology; such as Republicans calling their opposition the Democrat Party, rather than by the correct name, Democratic.
You see, the word democratic is much easier to understand. It implies, rather blatantly, that those within that movement support expansion of democratic principles – one person, one vote. That idea doesn’t fit the agenda of the 1% or their pawns within the Republican Party, so the word democrat is used, and equated with other words like liberal, or socialist, or worse in an effort to distract regular working class folks from the real meaning of the party’s name – democracy. At the same time, the word republican has been manipulated to imply an uber-patriotic love of the Constitution, God, and country.
Propaganda like this has been used for the better part of a century now.
Something similar was behind the ‘red scares’ of the early Twentieth Century painting socialism as something dangerous and un-American, not because socialism was any more un-American than capitalism or any other ideology, but because socialism threatens the existing order. Heaven forbid we enact laws that eliminate poverty, hunger, and homelessness, while offering adequate education and medical care to our most productive citizens – the workers who make this civilization possible.
Propaganda – the deliberate distortion of reality and twisting of the truth – is used to push sensitive emotional buttons in the Homo sapiens brain, and makes us willing to fight, and die if necessary, to defend certain ideas, even if those ideas work against our own best interests.
Getting back to the question of our republican form of government; what’s so great about being a republic that makes us the ‘greatest nation on Earth’? Republics have existed, in many different forms, almost since the dawn of agricultural civilization. Ancient Rome is an example of a republic that grew too large to be effectively governed, and eventually collapsed under its own weight. Some people think the United States is headed for a similar demise, but that’s a subject for another day.
The Soviet Union was a republic, as is the People’s Republic of China. Both began as socialist republics but descended into tyranny and corruption. The Soviet republic eventually collapsed, in a fall similar to that of the ancient Romans, while the Chinese continue to evolve toward a capitalistic form of fascism, similar to the place many believe the U.S. is headed, but from the opposite direction.
There are also a number of Islamic republics in the world today; like Iran, Iraq, and Azerbaijan. I could spend several hours finding examples of republics all over the world, past and present, but my point is this: just being a republic doesn’t make the United States of America better or worse than any other nation on the planet. It’s how we operate that counts.
Beyond language and culture, government is what sets nations apart from one another; delineates good from evil, and freedom from tyranny. I hate to break it to you, but we are leaning more and more toward the latter descriptions with every passing day. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take a long damn time to dig out from under it – if it’s not already too late.
I sincerely believe that most Americans, deep down, beneath the partisan bickering and name calling, would much prefer to live in a nation governed by their peers – ordinary working men and women from every imaginable background and career path – than by a bunch of super-rich bazillionaires totally removed from the challenges of everyday life.
I am convinced that most Americans, even those who themselves can barely read and write, value education and understand that in order to avoid the pitfalls of the past we must teach our children to understand their history – warts and all, and not just regurgitate facts from a book approved by the ruling class.
I believe in my fellow Americans’ ability to govern themselves, to work together, listen to one another, and find the best way forward for all of us, but that isn’t what’s happening today, and hasn’t happened in the lifetime of anyone now living. We have been duped, misled, bribed, drugged, and sold to the highest bidder for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many. In one way or another, that has been the way of things since the very earliest experiments with the division of labor and civilization, but we can do better.
To help awaken the our misguided brethren still caught in the conservative propaganda trap and mislead into voting against their own economic interests, I have a suggestion for my progressive brothers and sisters. Every time you have a conversation with someone who embraces the conservative ideology, don’t use the term Republican Party. Instead, call it the Republic Party. Odds are they’ll stop you in mid sentence to try and correct your error, but even if they don’t, you’ll have made them stop and think.
Whenever possible, use those pauses as an opportunity to educate them about what democracy truly is and should be. Having a republican form of government doesn’t guarantee the most freedom, the lowest taxes, or the best of anything else government can and should do, and it’s been used as an excuse to deny the people a voice in their government for far too many generations. The time for change has arrived.
Today, both parties are corrupt beyond repair, and they have a stranglehold on our electoral process that must be broken. After examining my own local and state political infrastructure and talking to a few people from other regions of the country, I’m not convinced that the party apparatus can be reformed from within, but for now it’s all we have to work with.
Educate yourself, read widely, especially on the Internet. Question everything. Verify all that you see and hear. Seek candidates from outside the party structure and help them to run grassroots campaigns. Sign every ballot access petition you can find, even for parties you find repulsive; the more diversity we have to choose from, the better off we all will be. The fight is just beginning, and we absolutely must win this war.