Can Our Constitution Allow Us a Republic?
By Mark E. Smith at May 19, 2010
The United States does not have a democratic form of government, it is neither a democracy nor a republic.
In a democracy, by definition, supreme power is vested in the hands of the people. You can look up the definition yourself if you don't believe me. Obviously we don't have a democracy and I don't know anyone who claims that we do. Most people say that we have a republic, so let's look that definition up also.
In a republic, which is also a democratic form of government, supreme power is still vested in the hands of the people, however rather than exercising their supreme power directly, as they would in a direct or participatory democracy, they exercise their supreme power through their elected representatives. But we do not have a republic. Benjamin Franklin lied when he said that the Framers had given us a republic. He knew that the Constitution had not given the people any way to hold elected officials accountable during their terms of office, and that unless you can hold your representatives accountable while they are in office, you cannot exercise your will through them during the only time that they are supposed to represent you. Waiting until their terms of office are up and then attempting to elect new unaccountable representatives, is not an exercise of supreme power.
Benjamin Franklin had misrepresented his own state when he attended the Constitutional Convention. He had been delegated to present a petition against slavery to the Convention, but he withheld it when he realized that the possibility of forming a union hinged upon getting the slave states to ratify the Constitution, and that if slavery was not protected by the Constitution, they would not ratify. He and the other Framers therefore betrayed the Founders and the Declaration of Independence, by writing a Constitution that did not ensure equality, did not vest supreme power in the hands of the people, and left the sole protections against abuse by those in authority, in the hands of those authorities themselves.
If we cannot directly hold our representatives accountable during their terms of office, which is the only time that they are supposed to represent us, we do not have supreme power over them and we cannot exercise our will through them. We can, when they betray us, ask them to hold themselves accountable, but Congress has never removed a sitting Member of Congress, and petitioning the powerful, the way that our founders futilely petitioned King George, is not at all the same thing as having supreme power over them and being able to exercise our will through them. So if we do not have a democracy and we do not have a republic, what do we have? I think what we have is a Constitutional oligarchy, but I would be happy to debate with anyone who thinks otherwise.
The next question is whether or not reforms to our system of government that would enable us to have a democratic form of government, either a direct democracy or a representative republic, are possible. Some people seem to think that such reforms are possible. Here are a few, in no way a complete list, of the problems with our government and our electoral system that could possibly be fixed through Constitutional amendments:
Problem: We cannot vote directly for President and Vice-President.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College and allowing us to vote directly for President and Vice-President.
Problem: We do not have a right to have our votes counted.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment stating all citizens eligible to vote have the right to have their vote counted before the results of any election can be announced, and that no candidate can be sworn into office until every vote has been counted.
Problem: More than 80% of us cannot know for certain if our votes are counted accurately.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment guaranteeing that all election processes be transparent, verifiable, and subject to full citizen oversight.
Problem: Corporate money in politics.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment establishing publicly funded elections and stating clearly that only biologically human persons who are eligible to vote can donate to political campaigns, lobby legislators, or take part in any way in U.S. elections.
Problem: The two-party, winner-take-all system.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment establishing equal ballot access and proportional representation.
Problem: Interference by the Supreme Court in elections.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment stating clearly that elections shall be decided by counting the votes, that the vote count shall be the final determiner of the results of all elections, and that no elected or unelected officials can stop the vote count or nullify the will of the voters.
Problem: Media interference in elections.
Solution: A Constitutional amendment restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
There are many more problems of course, like gerrymandered voting districts and elections where the outcome is predetermined by the political parties nominating "opposing" candidates with the same agenda so that no matter who voters cast their ballots for or against, the same agenda continues, but it is likely that these problems and all other problems could be solved through Constitutional amendments.
Unfortunately, we the people do not have the right to directly enact Constitutional amendments, and most of the amendments above would not be in the interests of the dominant political parties, their candidates, or their big corporate donors, so they can't actually happen. And it isn't enough for one or two amendments to be ratified, as even if all the other amendments were to become part of our Constitution, if the Supreme Court were still allowed to make decisions which, no matter how unprecedented, unconstitutional, illogical, or even totally absurd, cannot be appealed, it would be to no avail. They could simply "interpret" the new amendments to mean exactly the opposite of what they clearly state, and thus decide the elections themselves. Nor do we have the right to write a new Constitution, as our "representatives" are the only ones who have that right, and we have no way to force them to represent us.
It seems obvious to me that we cannot bring about change by voting in elections where we cannot be sure that our votes are counted, no less counted accurately, and where the popular vote is not necessarily the final say, for candidates we cannot hold accountable once in office. As long as we are willing to vote in sham elections, we cannot demand free, fair, open, and honest elections. What would we say, "Give us free, fair, open, honest elections, or else we'll settle for sham elections and continue to vote anyway?" That doesn't sound like much of a threat to me and I think it would just make the oligarchy laugh themselves silly.
There are still remnants of direct democracy in the Town Hall Meetings in parts of New England. Some people, due to being mentally incompetent, need guardians to handle their finances and make their decisions for them. Competent adults don't need guardians and can handle their own finances and make their own decisions. As far as I can determine, voters in the United States do not consider themselves to be competent adults.
All the leftists I know here in the U.S. favor participatory democracy. But many of them are still granting their consent of the governed to corporate rule by voting in our sham elections. You can't have both. Either you consent to be governed by a corporate hierarchy, or you insist on participatory democracy and withhold your consent from the oligarchy. The framers of our Constitution were so afraid of "too much democracy," that they didn't allow any democracy at all. Instead they created the illusion of democracy. Yes, states may allow citizens to vote, but not for the Executive Branch, not for the highest law of the land which is appointed by the Executive Branch, and the popular vote need not be counted, need not be counted accurately, and need not be the final say in determining the outcome of elections. And once candidates are "elected," they cannot be held accountable to the people during the time that they are wielding power, even if they lie, cheat, steal, and betray their constituents and their oaths of office.
If there is a good foundation, no matter how corrupted an edifice has become, it can be reformed and rebuilt. But if the foundation is rotten, anything built on it will become corrupt. I don't see that our Constitution provides a foundation for a democratic form of government, and that's why I'm not a reformist.