by: the Common Constitutionalist
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We often hear, especially from the left, arguments either for or against American democracy. If you’re like me, every time I hear the word democracy mentioned as the correct form of American government, I roll my eyes and wonder if the politician or pundit is purposely trying to plant the notion in the viewer’s or listener’s mind that this is in fact our form of government, or do they just not know we have a representative republic.
I fear that in a lot of cases they just don’t understand the difference, despite being “Representatives” themselves.
Dr Larry Arnn and some students at Hillsdale College briefly covered this very topic in Hillsdale’s new online course – “Introduction to the Constitution.” Specifically, it was lesson five entitled, “Representation of the People.”
I would invite and encourage everyone to watch these short presentations and discussions, for this is not your average Introduction to the Constitution. They cover some pretty heady stuff. There are 12 segments, or mini-courses, averaging only about 9 minutes in length.
Watching these videos also allows for a fascinating juxtaposition of the knowledge of Hillsdale students vs. the pampered know-nothing snowflake variety from “mainstream” and supposed elite schools.
Having thrown off rule by the King of England, the founders had to decide on a form of national of federal government. Their choices were of course, a monarchy, a democracy or a representative republic. Obviously they were not going to return to rule by monarch, but a democracy, as attractive as this sounds, where everyone has a voice and a vote, was utterly impractical. In order to accomplish anything, every citizen would have to be present for every vote. This was as unworkable then as it would be today.
There was no way of assembling all Americans in one place every time a vote was required.
We, from several states away, can’t run to D.C. every time there is a need to affect our government. The sheer size of our country makes a democracy impossible. Imagine what an advantage those living in Virginia or Maryland would have over those in Hawaii, Alaska or the other Western States.
Therefore, in our stead, the founders chose a form of government that would be conducive to our geography. They chose a representative republic, where, as Dr. Arnn describes, the people choose their rulers, but they themselves do not rule. This is what is meant by the consent of the governed. The citizens consent to be governed. But in order to maintain proper representation, the citizenry must continue to consent.
Unfortunately, this only lasted as long as the representatives considered themselves citizen legislators and maintained direct contact with their consenters. It all fell apart when our representatives left behind we they represent and took up permanent residence in Washington D.C., effecting disengaging from us consenters. Out of sight truly did translate to out of mind.
Now they represent only the interests of themselves and the government.
Dr. Arnn describes the Constitution as the mechanism of the consent of the governed, and it must be employed to regain proper consent. “Ultimately, representation allows for citizens to entrust the governing of the country to a few people while still retaining the crucial ability to control the power of the government.”
We’ve obviously lost that ability – which brings us again back to Article V, Convention of States.
With the technological advances we have today, such as video conferencing, there is no reason why our representatives must spend the overwhelming majority of their time being corrupted in the D.C. swamp.
Term limits would help, but I would also propose an Amendment requiring those of who we consent to govern, stay in their districts a minimum of 75% of the time. This would make them more accessible and accountable to us consenters, severely limit backroom deals, as well as virtually shutting down those who are presently steering the ship – K-Street lobbyists.