We are close to losing our democratic republic

In 1787, as the U.S. Constitution was being written, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “What have we got: a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin famously replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Recently our willingness to keep our democratic republic has been in question.

The 2020 Presidential election was close, but decisive. There were recounts in states decided by narrow margins. Sixty legal challenges to the election were made. All save one were firmly rejected by the courts. One particular legal challenge stands out from the rest.

That lawsuit was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. He sought to overturn the results in four states that went for Joe Biden. His suit would have made a mockery of our democratic republic. In our democracy, we choose our leaders. In our republic, states determine how they run their elections. Paxton sought to reject the will of 20 million voters in states where he didn’t like the choice they made. The case was immediately branded as “far-fetched” and the U.S. Supreme Court swiftly rejected it.

I don’t really blame A.G. Paxton for bringing his desperate lawsuit. Mr. Paxton is currently under criminal indictment and currying the favor of the president as he prepares to dole out pardons is likely a smart move. Here’s the troubling part of this story. Over 70 percent of Republican attorneys general joined the lawsuit as did over 60 percent of Republican members of the House of Representatives. Among the 126 House Republicans who joined the lawsuit was our representative, Elise Stefanik. Was this action driven by ignorance of our Constitution, by blind loyalty to the leader or by political cowardice? It’s hard to know, and it’s hard to say which is worse. Regardless of the motivations, damage is done to our democracy by this kind of norm breaking.

We have now kept our republic for over 240 years. Our democracy survived this test. But judging by the behavior of Rep. Stefanik and many of her fellow Republicans, we should not be confident that we will keep it for many more.




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