I’m a republican

Author: Gary Hart

 Those who founded this country spoke the language and upheld the ideals of the republic.  Most of us find that quaint and rarely take the time to ask why.  But it’s a question worth asking.  Why did the Founders want to create a republic and not a democracy?

The Hamiltons, Adamses, and most Federalists were frightened of democracy.  For them it meant mobs in the streets.  They believed in a aristocratic elite that would supply national leaders.  The more radical Jefferson, his close ally Madison, and most of the Republicans embraced democratic principles and thought leaders could come from all social strata and all should participate equally (except, tragically, for slaves).  This led them eventually to form what was called the Republican Democratic party.

But they all wanted to create on these shores a republic, patterned after the ancient Greek and Roman models, albeit on a scale never before realized.  Up to our founding all republics had been small.  Nevertheless, all republics throughout history have shared at least four common denominators: civic virtue (duty to participate); popular sovereignty (power to the people); resistance to corruption (special interest lobbying); and a sense of the commonwealth (we own many things in common that bind us together). 

We have moved to the far end of democracy (my rights above all) at the expense of the republic (responsibility and duties).  We’ve lost sight of the fact that we the people are the sovereign authority.  The lobbyists control government.  And we don’t want to be told we share a common-wealth and the responsibility for it.

If someone comes along to start a classic republican party, it would attract great interest among those of us who still believe in those four basic principles upon which our nation was founded.

31 Responses to “I’m a republican”

  1. Ross Warnell Says:

    As the Founding Fathers also said (Jefferson?), an educated populace is necessary for any democratic form of government.

    Sadly, we have become an over-entertained, under-informed society. In fact, as you stated in an earlier blog, many on the right side of the political spectrum deny that there is such a thing as “society”.

  2. Bud Warren Says:

    “…all republics throughout history have shared at least four common denominators: civic virtue (duty to participate); popular sovereignty (power to the people); resistance to corruption (special interest lobbying); and a sense of the commonwealth (we own many things in common that bind us together).”

    And where, pray tell, do you see these attributes on the present day political stage? Rather than by virtue, our “leaders” appear to be in it for themselves; rather than sovereign people, individuals are obstructed and frustrated in redressing wrongs or effecting change; rather than resistance to corruption, the legislators and courts are openly for sale; and rather than a common interest, everything is being concentrated of/by and for a shrinking but all powerful few- too short sighted to see their own fate at the logical conclusion of their agenda. Cyclical Theory of Civilization would seem to be consistent with a view that the USA is in decline; a decline which might be avoided, but which requires a return to those republican values which the Republican Party seems to have lost.

  3. Gary Hart: I’m a republican | maxinity.info Says:

    [...] comment, please visit Senator Hart’s bloag at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=660 Tags: control government, roman models, social strata, republican party, democratic [...]

  4. McCauley Hart Says:

    Well I have to say I agree with a lot of what you say. Whatever happened to republicans I could respect – real conservatives who were fiscally responsible, and could ostensibly make decisions that might benefit everyone, and were good for the overall health of America? What happened to our responsiblity for the common good? I see an America headed towards poverty for most, stripped bare of its unity, and ending up a third rate country – can we change direction? I am a Democrat by the way, but the parties are looking worse and worse all the time…

  5. Gary Hart: I’m a republican | Politimo Says:

    [...] comment, please visit Senator Hart's bloag at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=660 Read more of . . [...]

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    Before the roof blows off my office, clarification is required. As used in this blog, “republican” means a political theory tracing to ancient Athens and the Greek city-state. It does not mean the present-day Republican party. Those seeing this blog on HuffingtonPost will see the headline use of the word capitalized. I have not changed parties.
    So, Mr. Warren is largely correct. The four attributes of classical republicanism have virtually disappeared from the political arena. And to Mr. M. Hart, please understand that my comment is about the theory of the republic, not the present day Republican party. Judged by the four historical standards I cite, both parties fall far short. That’s why I muse about the rise of a truly republican party.

  7. Trevor Burrowes Says:

    I’m confused. What are the advantages of a republic over a democracy?

  8. L Wells Says:

    Hmm so we should start talking about the Universal National Service Act as a ‘fix’ for the second amendment, and start lobbying for another admendment to repel Citizens United.

    Yeah, Right. You want to start the petition? We can’t even pass the ERA, talk is just talk in this country anymore. Unless you have 100 million to sell your idea. Know anyone Democrat or Republican that would start fund rasing for those ideas?

  9. Gary Hart Says:

    For Mr/Ms Wells: I started on National Service in the late 70s and have been on it ever since, including a small role in helping AmeriCorps get established. There are already organizations working on both issues you mention, and for less than $100 million.
    To Mr. Burrowes: in very shorthand terms, a democracy emphasizes citizen rights; a republic emphasizes citizen duties. A political theorist at Cambridge, Prof. Quentin Skinner summarizes it this way:”we must earn our rights by performance of our duties.” The shortest summary I can give of the themes of a republic are in this blog.

  10. In the Bluff-A Blog from Wisconsin’s West Coast « Fulcrum Publishing Says:

    [...] just read the newest post by former senator Gary Hart on his “Matters of Principle” blog. In it, he reminds us that our Founders (whose words and works are so often misinterpreted and [...]

  11. Lorena Terando Says:

    Senator Hart,
    It’s problematic to say that those who founded our nation “spoke the language” – what language? If the reference is to English, then I don’t see its relevance to the argument at hand, but I do see it as highly controversial. Those who “founded our nation” were not native speakers of any of the languages of the land – their language was imported from Europe.

  12. wade Says:

    This feels like half an article, or a summary from a chapter in a history book. It’s like the author was about to make a point, but then it just sort of ends without really favoring one particular idea. “We have moved to the far end of democracy (my rights above all) at the expense of the republic (responsibility and duties).” Really? Gays, women, and pot-smokers have rights? Voters have absolutely NO say in the wars, bailouts, new wars, cutting funding for planned parenthood, keeping medicare, and all that other stuff that’s happening right now that more than half of us DIDN’T ASK FOR. Elaborate. How are we on the far end? And if by “responsibilities and duties” the author means “paying taxes” I made less than $20G this year, and I owed! Yup, paid into Social Security and Medicaid (even though the chances of seeing any return on those taxes is minimal at best). What’s wrong with a commonwealth? The republic is what it is because rich white men want power over their fellow man. They are the “greatest” and they run the show, so being a part of something greater is out of the question. That’s the way it’ll always be. “Power to the people” is a joke. We live in an aristocracy. You can call it a republic, but that would imply that voters ideas are actually represented… We seem to only get to vote between 2 clowns, and once elected, they do what they wanna do.

  13. Sarah Says:

    The disgust felt by mainstream Americans towards politicians in general but for republicans specifically is that the GOP has completely lost its ethical responsibilites. Its allegiance is to the corporations and not the people. They are selfish, rude, fearmongers.

  14. Chris Maraschiello Says:

    I teach 8th grade American History and intend to use this in class. I agree 100% with Senator Hart. Our Republic has been polluted by self-centered, self-interested people who put their own good above and beyond the good of the commonweal.

  15. MIKE ALESIO Says:

    Senator:

    I would add to your list of four qualities that of “Liberty” to protect the rights of minorities to express their viewpoints without being persecuted.

  16. MinerSam Says:

    Ironically, Mr. Hart, In 2000 when the Republicans successfully fought hand and claw against the recount of the Popular Vote their spokespeople defended their criminal actions by claiming that: “This is not a Democracy it’s a Republic”!!

    Some key events:

    The Attorney General of Florida (who was chair of the Bush/Republican campaign) Refused to give Dade County an additional hour to complete their recount, then Judy Woodruff had the audacity to turn to the CNN camera and state: “Now Florida has counted all their votes.”

    While the Attorney General & Governor (Who was the brother of the Republican candidate) refused to spend 200,000 on Voter Education, they had no trouble at all paying a vendor 4 Million to kick registered voters off the roles because their names merely RESEMBLED those of former felons. 10,000 people
    were unjustry eliminated and nobody answered the phone when districts tried to rectify it.

    Republicans sent Paid Aids (On the Enron Plane..their largest contributor
    along with the Moonies and indicted Abromov) to riot outside the vote recount room which caused the counters to go home.

    In the court case about the Voting boxes that cause the (mostly Gore) chads to hang the inventor testified that these machines need to be cleaned out periodically because the more chads pile up inderneeth (the more votes a candidate gets accumulated chads prevent subsequent ones from coming off)
    This fact made no difference to the Republican Judge. So the case was
    brought before the Florida Supreme Court which ORDERED A RECOUNT.

    And while the recount finally in full progress (Was so proud of our country that Saturday afternoon) The Republicans on the Federal Supreme Court (people who normally claim: “State Rights! States Rights” Ordered the Recount to stop!

    Why?: Since GWB did not question the Count, it was against his civil rights
    to recount the votes. And by the way, unlike every other court case of theirs, this ruling is not a Precident and should never be used again!

    Not a Democracy? What a twisted way of insisting that the Electorate should be educated! Why not just propose That the Republican ****Repetition of Lies Machine*** — perpetrated by their Benefactors beholden to them for Media Consolidations and Tax cuts — is Unpatriotic and must stop.

    Your obliviousness to the realities we face is scarey Mr. Hart….

  17. Reward of the mortgage is a different investment | Muniworks.com Says:

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  18. brux Says:

    I think you are emphasizing the Greek and Roman influences, which explains our current problems, it looks just like ancient Rome in the US right now.

    I think you are ignorant of or short-selling the influence of the American Indians, the native Americans that had a great tribal council type of government that was both representative and democratic as well, and more modern … it worked where Greece and Rome did not.

    But further, I think it is a foolish point to make that you are a Republican, no one is going to read the nuance you wanted to put into the post, since you did not express it well, and no one is going to care, so it defaults into bin of supportive of the status quo. Sad.

    Of all the things you could say as a “Democrat” to support the people of this country – saying that we share a “commonwealth” is just pure nonsense. The founders had no conception at all of what is going on in the US today, and invoking them and whatever aegis of their’s that whomever wants to is really becoming every Americans right to bore the hell out of all the rest of us.

  19. Michael S. Levinson Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    In your presidential campaign you coined the phrase, ‘new directions,’ which was a paperback (and hard cover I suppose) imprint that published Ezra Pound.

    Near the end of Pound’s career, when he had stopped talking, a young poet visited him, mentioned the publishing house, and Pound scribbled on the blank page of Selected Poems, ‘nude erections.’

    I was on the ballot, in New Hampshire, 1988, and I delivered a live extemporaneous speech on New Hampshire Public Television, the only candidate for president ever to have done that. At the end I put Ezra pound’s pun on a white board and then erased it because it wasn’t presidential.

    In 2001 the FCC quietly removed 356 PBS stations from their §312(a)(7) public interest obligation to allow access to candidates for federal office to deliver a speech. Not constitutional. I’m challenging their jurisdiction over our First Amendment rights to access, and in the same petition, the broadcast licenses of ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and FOX for their “willful and repeated failure to have allowed me access in the last election.

    I’ve kept my erasers in order. We all have First Amendment rights. I’d love for you to read the brief.

    In good faith,

    Michael S. Levinson

  20. Kadellagroove Says:

    Now, I’m sure Mr Hart could explain it a little better. As I’m no professor but feel that this article doesn’t really explain much.

    A true democracy means every person has a say. literally. When democracy was formed in Athens each citizen could put either a black rock (For no) or a white rock (for yes) into a pot. That is how they voted on issues ranging from taxes to roads etc.. The founding fathers thought this impossible. To give every single person a vote would be chaos and inefficient and frankly they thought the general population not smart enough to make good decisions for themselves. BUT, they believed in the principle of democracy.

    In a republic, the people are represented. Hence, congress and the senate. So, the founding fathers combined the principles of democracy with the framework of the republic giving us a democratic republic. Which is not how Mr Hart described it. so… I could be wrong. but that is my understanding.

    I agree with Mr. Harts premise though. if we could get back to those 4 principles we would be much better off. Course thats how I feel about most of what the founding fathers said. we would be much better off listening to them then the people currently in office.

  21. Chuck D Says:

    The larger it gets, the more important it is that the focus remains on the protection of the individual rights. You liberal Democrats will simply never get that.

    I owe you nothing (except, if I choose, to actively oppose infringements upon your rights, which I would likely do). You owe me nothing (except, if you choose, to oppose infringements upon my rights).

    The only possible tangible “responsibility” that you could ever even hope to defend is one at a more local level, and even then, only to the extent that my rights as an individual are not violated.

    To understand better why I will probably never again vote for a Democrat for high office, see Rahm Emmanuel’s plan for “mandatory national service backed by threat of imprisonment”. You monsters will never understand why you’re so awful.

    For Chris Maraschiello above, in case you jump on board and try to enforce a policy like Rahm’s, just know that if you attempt to force me to engage in “national service” (defined by bureaucrats only with their own personal interests in mind) by coming to my home and attempting to forcibly remove me, you will be shot between the eyes… twice if I feel like it.

    Democrats, would you have supported a draft that forced you to fight and die in Iraq? Of course not. But you’re too G-D stoopid to realize that the big government policies you promote inevitably become the policies you claim to be against.

    Shame on me for thinking that Gary Hart was a smart fellow when I was in about 2nd grade. My bad. Lesson learned.

  22. Gary Hart Says:

    Chuck, I may not be a “smart fellow” but I do know how to spell stupid.

  23. Tom O'Brien Says:

    I am sincerely confused on an important point here. Mr. Hart writes (I’m paraphrasing) that Republic stands for shared responsibility and duties, and civic virtue implies a duty to participate. But isn’t it so that our Constitution speaks only about rights, and is silent on the subject of responsibility? I’ve always thought that this witnesses a fundamental flaw in the document; we are not even required to participate (vote) in our representative democracy.

    My question is: has the author only implied these characteristics of a republic (responsibility and duties), or have I misperceived the Constitution’s flaw? I would like to learn more about the subject of responsibility within our Republic, but only if it has an empirical foundation and is not the byproduct of wishful thinking.

  24. Gary Hart Says:

    To brux: I am not “ignorant” of the North American Indian tribal culture, but a blog is not the place to include everything. Jefferson’s concept of the “ward” or elementary republic was, in part, based on the tribal custom of collective problem solving and participation. Further, Massachusetts, Virginia, and other states did not call them selves Commonwealths by accident or ignorance. And, finally, I was not trying to fool anyone by claiming to be a Republican. If you read above, you’ll find that the title was in the lower case on purpose. If this site bores you, you may want to return to those who tell you what you want to hear.

  25. Gary Hart Says:

    To Kadellagroove: a democratic republic is exactly what the Founders, especially the Jeffersonian republicans thought they were forming.

  26. Gary Hart Says:

    Mr. O’Brien raises an interesting and important question. Much of the Constitutional debate involved what scholars call “republican language.” They were almost all scholars of the Greek and Roman republics (often in the original language) and they intended for this nation to follow, to the degree possible, the ancient ideal. Many of them took civic virtue for granted, that is to say they assumed a commitment their fellow countrymen to maintaining and nurturing the republic by participating in collective self-government. Jefferson himself thought they had gone to far ddown the path of representation and late in life espoused the local republican ideal where people could participate directly (today’s town hall meetings, still carried out in Vermont, local school boards, county commissions,e tc.)

  27. Tom O'Brien Says:

    Thank you, Senator, for responding to my question re: the linkage of responsibility to Republicanism. If I am interpreting your response correctly, it seems that the framers of the Constitution took a lot for granted; they presumed that those who would benefit most from the privileges of a modern republic would understand and acknowledge their implicit responsibilities.

    I believe that the Constitution has served us well for the past two-and-a-quarter centuries, and that the Republic remains strong. But if we can’t occasionally openly acknowledge the flaws how will we ever create a more perfect Union? Increasingly I see uncurious people on cable programs equating the Constitution with a Rorschach test; they see in it what they choose, and ignore the rest. They seem to feel that their only responsibility to the Republic is to remind everyone of their rights. I’d like to see fewer Gadsden flags and more American flags flying at rallies. I’d like to ask participants if they can explain Dr. Johnson’s famous quotation “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” And whether they think JFK’s entreaty to “…Ask what you can do for your country” also applies to them.

  28. George Harben Says:

    Senator Hart, this is a very interesting post. As I recall, Mr. Jefferson believed in an agrarian society and Mr. Hamilton believed in manufacturing and exporting as the means to create a middle class. I know people will disagree, but look at the historical trend of the economic base of NY and VA. You are correct; we go too far to “it is my right to…” Finally, I appreciate you pointing out that the U.S. is really a republic, not a democracy like the town hall meetings of the Northeast.

    Do you have any new books coming out? I read “Restoration of the Republic” and “The Good Fight” and enjoyed both immensely.

  29. Gary Hart Says:

    To Mr. Harben: both Jefferson and Hamilton were products of their respective economic environments at the time and reflected the difference between the South and the North(east) about the nature of our future economy. Hamilton estimated the future better, but Jefferson warned of the economic concentration it would bring.
    Thanks for asking about books. I have a new memoir out: The Thunder and the Sunshine (Fulcrum Books)

  30. Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 93 « A Frank Angle Says:

    [...] Former Democratic candidate Gary Hart writes why he is a republican. [...]

  31. francis x. suozzi Says:

    MAY 2011- PRESERVE THE MIDDLE CLASS
    PRESERVE THE MIDDLE CLASS -TAKE THE PLEDGE FOR AMERICA- FOR A RESPONSIVE GOVERNMENT IN WASHINGTON D.C. WHICH ACTIVELY SUPPORTS THE MIDDLE CLASS WHICH IS IN AN INEXORABLE DECLINE.
    PLEDGE TO VOTE FOR ONLY THOSE CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT, THE SENATE AND HOUSE WHO TAKE THE PLEDGE. IF NEITHER PARTY CANDIDATE ACCEPTS THE PLEDGE ( AT LEAST STEPS #s 1 & 2 WHICH ARE ESSENTIAL ), DON’T VOTE IN THAT ELECTION FOR A MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATE UNLESS A THIRD PARTY ACCEPTS THE PLEDGE. BACKGROUND OF IDEAL CANDIDATES WOULD INCLUDE SOME SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS EXPERIENCE. NOT SEEKING CAREER POLITICIANS.
    WE PLEDGE TO ENACT THESE STEPS:
    1. CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. ALLOW CONTRIBUTIONS ONLY FROM INDIVIDUALS UP TO $10k. NONE FROM PACS, CORPORATIONS, UNIONS, PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS & LOBBYISTS. NO CIRCUMVENTION.
    2. PASS A CREDIBLE ( audited by outside prominent auditing firm ) TEN YEAR DEFICIT ELIMINATION PLAN ( RECEIPTS MUST EQUAL OR EXCEED EXPENDITURES ) THAT: REDUCES FEDERAL EMPLOYEE HEADCOUNT BY 18 % ( 1.8% per year ) THRU ATTRITION, RAISES THE RETIREMENT AGE FOR SS TO 68, MEANS TEST SS BENEFITS, WITHOLDS TAXES FOR SS UP TO $1 MILLION INCOME, RAISES TOP INDIVIDUAL TAX RATE ABOVE $1 MILLION INCOME TO 45%, CUTS DEFENSE; INVESTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE, NEW INDUSTRIES, AND EDUCATION INCLUDING TECHNICAL ENGINEERING AND SKILLED VOCATION SCHOOLS. FOR EDUCATION, NO GOVERNMENT FUNDS FOR COLLEGES THAT RAISE TUITION/FEES, NO FUNDS FOR STATES FOR EDUCATION UNLESS LIFO ELIMINATED AND UNLESS STATES HAVE RIGOROUS/VERIFIABLE PROGRAM FOR GRADING TEACHERS. THE DEFICIT REDUCTION PLAN GRADUALLY INCREASES EACH YEAR THE AMOUNT OF DEFICIT ELIMINATED UNTIL ZERO DEFICIT IS ACHIEVED BY THE END OF THE 10TH YEAR.
    3. TERM LIMITS . 12 YEARS FOR NEW CONGRESSPERSONS; 6 TERMS FOR THE HOUSE, 2 TERMS FOR THE SENATE.
    4. NO LOBBYISTS ALLOWED ON CAPITOL HILL.
    5. FEDERAL PUBLIC SERVICE UNIONS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR HEALTH AND PENSION BENEFITS SIMILAR TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR.
    6. ENERGY INDEPENDENCE IN 10 YEARS MAINLY THRU GROWTH IN NATURAL GAS ( PROVIDED EXTRACTION CAN BE DONE SAFELY ) , RENEWABLES, CONSERVATION AND THRU THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES/INDUSTRIES .
    7. MORE BALANCED MIDDLE EAST POLICY BETWEEN THE PALESTINIANS AND ISRAEL BUT MAINTAINING SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL’S SECURITY.
    8. EXIT AFGHANISTAN AS SOON AS PRACTICAL SUBJECT TO THE SAFETY OF TROOPS.
    9. AMEND OBAMACARE TO INCLUDE MALPRACTICE REFORM, TO REQUIRE NEGOTIATION OF DISCOUNTS FROM INSURANCE AND PHARMACUETICAL COMPANIES AND TO ALLOW STATES TO ENACT THEIR OWN PLANS SUBJECT TO CERTAIN GUIDELINES.
    10. RE CORPORATE CASH OVERSEAS OF $1.2 TRILLION, PERMIT ITS RETURN TAX FREE TO THE U.S. IF INVESTED IN NEW PLANT & EQUIPMENT AND R&D IN THE U.S..
    11. SEC MANDATE. SHAREHOLDERS MUST VOTE DIRECTLY FOR TOTAL COMPENSATION PACKAGE OF CEO AND DIRECTORS AND NO INCREASES UNLESS SHARE PRICE RISES.

    FRANCIS X. SUOZZI 112 Brown Avenue, Spring Lake, New Jersey 07762
    Email fsuozzi@aol.com

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