Bear with me for a bit and let’s do a little pretending. Let’s assume a portion of the Democratic Party was high-jacked by some very left-wing radicals, beyond socialist and very dogmatic. Let’s further assume that a very poor, very left-wing (sometimes), very charismatic (occasionally) person with a giant ego who lied about almost everything (most of the time) somehow got the Democratic nomination and at first blush we just gritted our teeth and tried to make the best of it. Then, even beyond expectations, this person won the presidency and we held both the House and Senate–we are now in charge!
We desperately hoped things would work out because we had an agenda that for years we had wanted to pass, and here we were in the proverbial catbird’s seat. We only had one problem: a crazy, self-serving president of our party that we had to deal with. What if a few, a very few, of our leadership team (generally those not running for reelection) rose up and said “enough is enough, we can not continue down this path even though a large portion of our constituency likes him and like his style. Even if some of us get beaten in our primary or lose our election we must stand up for what is right.”
My question is, as a Democrat who is loyal to the party, its principles and getting its agenda passed, what would you do? The core question is, does an elected official have a responsibility to the party and retaining power or is their responsibility to the core values of our country? That, my friend, is the question the Republicans are now facing. This is not a new question, but one dealt with by James Madison in the Federalist Papers during the founding of the country, when he spoke about the differences between a democracy and a republic.
In 1887 James Madison wrote:
“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”
So, given Madison’s thoughts of 130 years ago, where are we today?
In the same circumstances, would our Democratic Party elected officials fold and put up with it, or would they stand up and fight for what is right and good about this country? I really don’t know, but I would hope for the latter. If at the end of the day more Republicans stand up for what is right, we on the Democratic side need to stand with them and support them. We can argue about politics, about tax policy, about abortion rights, about changes in health insurance, and the multitude of other important issues of the day; but this is about our core values. Even if it’s hard and detrimental to various careers, it is important enough to fight for.
So, cheers to George W. Bush, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and my favorite, John McCain, for standing up for Democracy (or our Republic according to Madison)!
Once we get our country on track we can go back and argue about our differences on legislative issues, but for now this is the important stuff!
by Dick Goodson
Photo via Gage Skidmore