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Ben Franklin Would Be All In for Trump 2020

Ben Franklin Would Be All In for Trump 2020


By    |   Tuesday, 27 August 2019 10:30 AM

One of the most enigmatic throw-away lines in American history was allegedly offered by Benjamin Franklin, in the late 18th century, at the end of the Philadelphia Convention, during which our federal Constitution was drafted.

Franklin, a venerated participant in that gathering, was a fascinating self-made entrepreneur, diplomat, and civic leader. He was asked whether the Framers had given Americans a monarchy or a republic. "A republic," said the sage publisher of Poor Richard's Almanac, "if you can keep it."

In these times of political turmoil it's still worth pondering just what Franklin meant.

How do you keep a republic?

What is a republic exactly? How does it differ from a democracy?

Most Americans probably believe their country is a democracy. It most clearly is not.

It's true that like a democracy, our republic is bottomed on the sovereignty of the people (we have no monarchy, as Franklin reminded us, and we are hostile to the notion of a class of our "betters" born, as Jefferson once archly remarked, "booted and spurred" to ride upon the backs of the rest of us).

Unlike a democracy, however, the unfettered will of the majority does not rule with us.

A republic has come to differ from a democracy in two ways:

The first is that popular sovereignty is exercised indirectly, through a government composed of elected representatives, not by actual decisions made by the people themselves. In the classical Greek city-states, where only a tiny minority of the people had the vote, it was possible actually to implement direct democracy, but in a country of more than 300 million, this cannot be accomplished.

A second quality of modern republics makes this even more evident.

This second aspect is that republican government must not be arbitrary.

Republican government must be carried out, as the Latin derivative of the term – res publica ("public thing" or "public good") indicates — to accomplish what is of merit for the whole society. This is what Jean Jacques Rousseau, the colorful 18th century social contract theorist, called the "general will" of the people.

That general will presumably includes the preservation of the polity, and that preservation can only be accomplished if decisions are made following the established rule of law and if the government operates for the benefit of all — not just a privileged and entrenched elite.

The recognition of these simple notions of republican government led our Framers, like Franklin, to understand that republican government could not be maintained without what they called "virtue" in the American people.

By this they meant not only a striving for excellence, as the ancients had understood the term, but also the ability to put the interests of the country before one’s own selfish concerns.

Thus, without a spirit of altruism, then, Franklin and others like him believed, any republic would perish.

If the country were to degenerate into a welter of factions of self-interests, the Framers knew, the American experiment in self-government was doomed.

Accordingly, our constitutional structure, with checks on arbitrary power, with strong protections for private property and private contracts, with authority spread among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and with a central government of limited and enumerated powers, allocating control over our daily lives to the state and local governments, it was understood that we might actually be able, in the words of the Constitution’s preamble, to "secure the blessings of liberty."

The 2020 presidential election  campaign is best understood as a referendum on whether virtue in the people is still important, and whether this classical conception of republican government in this nation will endure.

In the Barack H. Obama administration, in a manner that departed from the rule of law, an effort was implemented to concentrate much more power in the federal government.

In that administration, a far-from-disinterested bureaucracy (especially in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and our intelligence agencies) came close, as we are now coming to understand, to deciding to shred the constitutional scheme of presidential selection, to promote a favored candidate (Mrs. Clinton) and, eventually to seek to depose a duly-elected chief executive (Donald Trump).

President Trump, and his administration now understand this, and he and they are determined to continue his ongoing effort to reverse the flow of power to the bureaucracy, or as they call it reining in "the deep state" or "the swamp."

The Democrats, whose candidates have their own plans for increasing taxes, restricting private property, implementing some form of socialism, and redistributing resources to meet the selfish needs of their core constituencies, fail to understand that their program would fatally undermine the Framers’ design.

Republicans in 2020 are, in the President’s new campaign slogan seeking "to keep America great," simply striving to preserve small "r" republican government itself.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Without a spirit of altruism, then, Franklin and others like him believed, any republic would perish. Benjamin Franklin would vote for Donald Trump in 2020.
democrats, greeks, doj
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 10:30 AM
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