Restoration, not Revolution

We no longer need to imagine the possibility of a destructive revolution in this country. Today we endure a system of government which operates ostensibly under the same constitution we have long enjoyed. We have elections where votes are cast and counted, a robust separation of powers and an extensive web of checks and balances seemingly in full effect. This external veneer belies the true nature of our government. The true political power rests not in the hands of the citizenry, but in the hands of a plutocratic combine of commercial and industrial interests, their media mouthpieces and their politico-governmental proxies known as Senators and Representatives. In the current scenario, our legislators are only acolytes and functionaries. If they move with sufficient alacrity to defend or advance the interests of the combine, the combine showers upon them the funds and favors they desire.

Congress has become the stage for a decadent formalism, with legislators going through the motions of representative democracy, yet without content. This is a republic in name and form, but not in fact. Article IV Section 4 of the US Constitution guarantees to each state a republican form of government. At what point do the inequities and iniquities in our pay-to-play electoral and legislative systems result in a government that ceases to be republican, and devolves into an elaborate procedural facade concealing a kind of new aristocracy? Congress now serves their donors and corporate sponsors, and only these narrow interests are heard at the capitol.

The majority of citizens of this country should be very aware of the problem by now: put simply, we have representatives who do not represent us. Either they fail to represent our expressed opinions and our shared interests, or they favor the entrenched power structure to the ultimate detriment of all. But the result of all of these failures is the same: unjust government.

Today we witness flagrant levels of corruption at the national level that at one time would not go unchallenged. Every week there is a new outrage: the recent passage of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill contains giveaways to the wealthiest Americans and is rife with earmarks, including funds for unneeded Naval vessels. The bill does away with a requirement that the meat we consume be labeled with the country of origin. Efforts by the IRS and the SEC to ensure that stockholders are informed about which politicians their companies give money to have been neutered. Someone is being represented by Congress, but it isn’t the American people.

Our senators and representatives ignore us because they have been liberated from that irksome responsibility of actually representing their constituents by the outcomes of various court cases (including – but not limited to – the infamous ruling in Citizens United v. SEC) and a long series of novel legal interpretations over the past century.

James Madison provides us in Federalist No. 39 with the most basic criteria for what constitutes a republic:

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.

So would the United States of America today be reckoned a republic by the man most responsible for drafting our constitution? Certainly we fail the “essential” criterion of government power not being derived from a favored class. If we accept that somewhere along the line a drastic change took place, one that altered or subverted the legal republican form of government and established a new form of government that can no longer be characterized as a republic, and instead takes the form of what we endure today, then the American government has already been overthrown.

The revolution has already happened, and it was televised, and tweeted and the so-called free press told us exactly what was happening and no one gave a damn. To accuse those advocating a return to a regime of reasonable campaign spending limits of espousing revolutionary ideas is quite incorrect. What they demand is nothing so radical as revolution, but restoration.

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