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OPINION: America's Federal Republic

by Ted Weathers | June 2, 2021 at 5:24 a.m.

Democracy, as rule by a simple majority without concern for the rights of minorities, has never been part of the American constitutional tradition. I champion limited democratic thought when consistent with our historic Constitutional law.

As individuals, as a society, our concern should be "What is right for the country as a whole? What is truly fair?" -- not, "What's good for me?"

A first principle upon which our nation was founded was the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" should govern our behavior. Beyond that: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Our Republic is "a government in which ultimate power resides in a body of law approved of by the citizens." Elected officers who are responsible to the citizens are to execute this [temporally] "supreme" power. Ours is a government of law -- not of fickle caprice by those temporarily in power. While our republic is founded on the principle that just powers emanate from the consent of the governed, our Constitution requires a super-majority to break with its traditions. A simple majority's whim does not constitute a "consent of the governed" to overthrow law or tradition.

Our Federal system is one in which powers are distributed between a central authority (the "Federal" government) and a number of constituent territorial units (State governments). The central government has certain powers; the locals have certain other powers; and both share in yet other areas. The Constitution of the United States did not provide America with a democracy but with a federal republic.

The members of the Constitutional Convention in an effort to protect minorities from the caprice of the majority and to preserve legitimate tradition provided for a republic under the status quo of The Constitution of the United States of America as "fundamental law." So a major concept of our Constitution is that traditional Law trumps fickle popular whims and may be amended only by defined super-majorities.

Further protection from tyranny was sought by limiting the power exercised by any one individual or group. The power to make law was vested in the Legislature, the power to enforce law in the Executive, and the power to interpret the law in the Judiciary. Under this system neither Courts nor executives have power to amend the Law, only to interpret or execute law as written.

The Constitution is the result of numerous compromises, many of which attempted to resolve deeply held differences between the "Small States" and the "Large States." Two of these compromises, creating the United States Congress and the Electoral College, address the need for, and the character of, the United States' federal republic. In creating the Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives), the convention provided that the large states (in a concession to democracy) would have representation in the House of Representatives numbered according to the population of each State, and provided each small State an equal representation with each large State (two senators per State) in the Senate.

The framers provided for a special group of the peoples' representatives (the Electoral College) to perform the service for the people of choosing their presidents. In defining the Electoral College, the framers accorded the same representation to each State as in the Congress, by awarding it a number of presidential electors equal to the number of Representatives in the House of Representatives plus the number (two per State) of Senators in the Senate. When we vote on Election Day, we are technically voting for members of the Electoral College.

Today's "cancel culture" calls for abolishing the Electoral College. Congress and the Electoral College were designed to help resolve tension between major concepts (State sovereignty and popular sovereignty) by giving recognition to both but ascendancy to neither.

In order to help protect minority rights, to confirm the rule of law over the rule of the mob, to provide working relationships between populous and less-populous States and between advocates of States' rights and popular sovereignty, the Constitutional Convention provided in The Constitution of the United States, and presented to the States for adoption, not a democracy, but a federal republic.

I am a small "r" republican who champions limited democratic thought when consistent with our historic traditional law.

-- Ted Weathers is a Siloam Springs resident and member of the Siloam Springs Writers Guild. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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