…if you can keep it

Author: Gary Hart

A small group of patriots, myself included, has been working for weeks under the banner “Keep Our Republic” to combat treachery in its many tentacled forms leading up to and after the looming election.

More and more Americans are being reminded, including those who possibly never knew, that this phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin toward the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in response to a question from a citizen outside the Convention who asked what kind of structure and government was being formed.  He said: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

There has possibly never been a time in our nation’s complex 240-year history where that phrase has become more significant.  The American Republic and its ideal of democracy have never been more threatened from within.

Thus, Franklin’s epic challenge has never been more important.

At the expense of repeating several past essays, it is still worthwhile to state the elements of republics throughout history.  They are: civic virtue, the obligation to participate; popular sovereignty, political power belongs to the people; a sense of the common wealth, what we all hold in common for ourselves and our posterity; and resistance to corruption, maintaining the public interest against the tide of special and narrow interests.

So, for Franklin and his citizen heirs, “keeping” the Republic meant participating, paying attention to government activities and the public interest, voting above all else, attending public forums at all levels of government, discussing, even debating, the issues of the day civilly and knowledgably, engagement, gathering knowledge, resisting demagoguery, questioning authority, paying taxes, educating young people, and practicing citizenship every day.

For all our country provides us, this is not too heavy a burden.

The autocratic tendency among the incumbent president and those around him does not want us to do these things.  Undemocratic power is hoarded in secret.  The meaning of language is twisted and perverted.  There is little regard for the truth.  Spokespersons are economical with facts.  The pattern is crystal clear because it has been repeated for so long.

Republican thinkers since Rome have feared corruption.  Now we see it all around us.  The representatives of special interests now run our government.  The public’s interest is disregarded.  Corruption on every level is rampant.

Corruption of this kind is a fatal cancer on any republic, including ours.

With close to half our country complicit in this corruption, the American Republic is in great danger.  It is left to all the rest of us to keep our Republic.

Vote and urge all others to vote.  From this day forward, remember that the president of this country does not want you to vote.  Demand that election officials at State and local levels be prepared for long lines, for “poll watchers” illegally demanding identification from those waiting to vote, for officials from the president on down insisting that mail in ballots not be counted, for massive voting challenges, for voter intimidation, especially in minority precincts.

Be prepared for extended vote counting for days and possibly weeks.  Also be prepared for intricate Constitutional processes if the popular vote and the electoral vote are close.  The variations of possible outcomes are bewildering even for election scholars.

We Americans are going to be tested both by the watching world and by future generations for how we go about keeping our Republic.

History will be our ultimate judge.  In two months and for weeks to follow, will we lose our Republic…or will we keep it.



14 Responses to “…if you can keep it”

  1. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    “So, for Franklin and his citizen heirs, “keeping” the Republic meant participating, paying attention to government activities and the public interest, voting above all else, attending public forums at all levels of government, discussing, even debating, the issues of the day civilly and knowledgably, engagement, gathering knowledge, resisting demagoguery, questioning authority, paying taxes, educating young people, and practicing citizenship every day.”

    Unfortunately, far too many of our “citizens” consider this to be too heavy a price tp pay for their freedom in our democratic republic. They are just too busy to do any of this. At the beginning of your letter, you quoted Franklin saying a “A republic, if you can keep it.” I’d like to quote him with my favorite quote attributed to him: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”. That, I’m afraid is more apropos to today’s situation and citizen.

  2. Michael Says:

    If the worst happens it won’t be because we were invaded and occupied by a malevolent power, or because we suffered an economic collapse that threw our society into chaos and sent people feeing to political extremes. It will have happened because we succumbed to our own worst instincts as a nation, and after 240 years and immense pain, suffering, sacrifice, and promise, simply didn’t care enough to save ourselves.

  3. Brian C McCarthy Says:


    Curiosity prompts me to ask who some of the other members of your small group are, but perhaps you’re not at liberty to say. Or perhaps you are at liberty to say but, for easily imaginable reasons, it would still be indiscrete. I feel confident that some well-credentialed statesmen and stateswoman are among them and am hopeful that they represent both major parties. Trusted leaders will be almost certainly needed to assure the public that a legitimate, bona fide election has taken place—or to raise the alarm and explain that it has not.

    The Economist reported days ago that 30% of Republicans would approve of Trump refusing to leave if there were claims of widespread illegal voting (which he himself is likely to supply) and 40% of Democrats would favor a do-over if the popular and Electoral votes do not agree. That is a very large percentage of the population already preparing to reject the legitimacy of this election. We may all be in for a long November with much to discuss at our socially distanced Thanksgiving tables.


  4. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Thank you Michael. I fear that your last statement is unfortunately and unforgivably correct. Those of us who do care, will continue to care and do everything that we can to save this nation.

  5. Gary Hart Says:

    Responding to Brian McCarthy: I have no way of knowing over the past nine years whether there were any “false flag” commentators. But I have no evidence that those who comment here regular are other than who they hold themselves out to be. If otherwise, you are urged to provide your correct identity. It is interesting that you raise the question, however. GH

  6. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Well, I still believe in the promise of America.

    Mostly because without it, what hope is there for the rest of us out in the world.

    After all, ‘Wakanda Forever’ is just a great line from an even greater movie. Ahem.

  7. Stephen D. Pillow Says:


    You raise an interesting point when you “ask who some of the other members of your small group are”. I for one am nothing other than an interested, life-long liberal Democrat, who has a long and abiding interest in our society, nation, Constitution, government, and especially our electoral process. If others are other than they appear or represent themselves to be, I have not noticed any obviously objectionable comments or ideations, with the possible exception of my own frequent rants on the wild-side. Most of those are products of my anger with the lack of concern regarding the current issues of the day, and/or the inappropriate actions taken, or not, by our supposed elected officials in regard to these issues.

    I welcome all of our community and have enjoyed reading your comments, holding stimulating discussions with you, and learned a great deal from each of you. Thanks to all for your participation and freely sharing your knowledge and wisdom. I hope to never stop learning from the likes of this community. We have a great leader.


  8. Gary Hart Says:

    Apologies to Brian McCarthy and all on board: I mistook a question he asked about a group called Keep Our Republic and thought he meant the regular commentators on this site. The KOR group, composed of former senior government officials, is working night and day to prevent treachery, in the form of voter intimidation, disqualification of mail in ballots, and much else, in the forthcoming national elections. Those involved in this effort are tried and true patriots. GH

  9. Bill Pruden Says:

    Perhaps I am wrong, but I took your comment about a band of patriots to be, at least in part, a reference to the widely distributed op-ed that you former senator Tim Wirth and former officials, Joel McCleary, and Mark Medish had published this summer in an effort to raise awareness about the stakes in the upcoming election itself as well as security surrounding the election.

    Happily such efforts are continuing and are wholly in line with the long time commitment to the nation’s welfare of all of you patriots. Indeed, itis critical that such carry on right up until election day. Indeed, as I wrote in response to your last post and as Brian alluded, such efforts are critical if we are to guard against this election revealing that after 240 years we Americans have lost our will and the commitment necessary to keep the republic, as we have known it, alive. 

    What we have did not happen by accident.  It has been the result of an ongoing and concerted effort, one that has included the sacrifices of many, including the brave men and women of the military, who were not, as the president characterized them, “suckers,” but rather heroes, people willing to give their lives to defend the principles upon which the country was founded, upon which our system, an experiment in government that was based on a distinctive set of ideas, ideas that have been reaffirmed and refined on a regular basis by “we the people.”   

    America was born in 1776, and as Lincoln said it had “a new birth of freedom” freedom during the Civil War.  Since then we have continued to refresh and reenergize it–in the civil rights movement, in the women’s rights movement, through efforts at social justice, the list is long, but the efforts cannot stop.  We move forward because there has been an ongoing commitment–from the people.  But if we ever stop being vigilant and abandon that commitment, we run the risk of losing it all. 

    As I said in my last post, I really believe that this election is a referendum on the American experiment.   Do we really believe it is worth it?  If so then we need to join your band of patriots, and do our part as generations of “we the people” have before.  It is only through our effort that the republic will be kept. 

    Thank you, Senator for your leadership and for reminding us of what we must do.

  10. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    Heartfelt thanks to those Keep Our Republic members who are diligently working to help keep our republic safe!

  11. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    Stephen, as the Senator said, I was not questioning the identity or credentials of the Matters of Principle blog commentators, though I now see that my post could be taken that way. However, having inadvertently raised the issue of who we are, I will volunteer that I am an insurance defense attorney in Maryland, political science graduate of Hofstra University (1997), and, like you, long-time Democrat who worked a number of local Democratic campaigns in Nassau County, NY before my relocation to the DC area. As fellow commentator Lorenzo Cherin knows, I also keep an eye on British politics.


    And yet amongst the most content, equal, fulfilled countries populations, reside in constitutional monarchies!

    Mine alas , though a constitutional monarchy, figures quite low, near the US, for happiest, in surveys of such issues, as well being.

    I have often thought it interesting that in England, before the revolution in France, and the war in america for independence, a king was killed, replaced with a republic, that became a dictatorship, and saw a people bring back the monarchy as a result, the son of the king who was killed!

    the principles of a republic are no more unique to a republic, than they are owned by the party in the US that takes that word.

    The little country that has done great things with this virus, new Zealand, even now has the Queen, of the Uk with a role!

    We ought to celebrate the shared values of all democracies regardless of their different systems.

    But I get the point….

  13. H Patrick Pritchard Says:


    In order to sustain a vibrant democracy it is imperative the electorate have a sustainable knowledge of the functioning parts of governance and participate at some level.

    Simply put if you’re an auto mechanic you best know the inner workings of an automobile engine!

    If you design and build houses you best know the fundamentals of architecture!

    Unfortunately, in this country at least in the recent past we have failed the citizenry by not preparing them in the fundamentals of their responsibilities as citizens.

    According to a recent survey conducted in 2016 only 26% of those surveyed can name the three branches of government much less how they function. Only 18% of those surveyed registered any trust in government.

    Only 23% of eighth graders performed at or above the proficiency level on a National Assessment of Educational Progress Civics exam.

    Furthermore only twenty-six States require one course in Civics to graduate high school.

    Three States require students to pass a civics test to graduate.

    Eight States have no civics requirement to graduate.

    Fourteen States require a course in civics and passing a civics test to graduate.

    There are a few States that have created a program to allow student to receive an educational credit for performing community service.

    Needless to say the quality of the civics learning experience is dependent on the designed curriculum and the teacher.

    While understanding history courses provide some background in the function of government, civics courses should provide student specific knowledge of skills necessary to apply to the functions of governance in a democracy.

    A working democracy requires its citizens take responsibility for its role in making government work. This does not mean everyone should run for office or spend all their spare time involved in issues of the day or promoting a political philosophy or cause. It does mean they should know how each level of government functions, how decisions are made and how those decisions impact them.

    An educated electorate is essential to keeping this Republic. A basic knowledge of how the government operates allows its citizens to think critically about the impacts of certain legislation on their lives and press their representative for facts instead of accepting political doublespeak or demagoguery!

    Our tolerance of civic ignorance significantly contributed to the election of people like Donald Trump and his enablers. This must stop. We cannot continue to cosign our responsibilities as citizens to perpetual politicians whose primary interest is re-election. When our choices of candidates are perfunctory guided by a designated R or D we have abdicated our franchise! And people wonder why the same folks keep getting re-elected.

  14. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    I once asked a favourite political analyst why there isn’t more of a focus on civics in schools and he said that a lot of money was already being spent on that. I found it hard to believe.

    Citizens do indeed have a responsibility to protect the democracy they live in and be engaged, in one way or another, even if it only means keeping up with news and times.

    And, the pandemic has given whole new meaning to the importance of an engaged citizenry and how important national leadership is in having empowered communities who know how to keep themselves and others safe.

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.