Representation and the Rights of Individuals
A true democracy is ruled by the will of the majority.¹ However this creates an imbalance between the rights of the majority and the rights of individuals. One solution is to limit the rights of the majority to protect the rights of the individual. This is done by way of a constitution or charter. The result is what’s known as a republic. In all democracies, the basic idea is for the people to be represented in the government. This is in contrast to monarchies or aristocracies where a family holds power under a reigning individual (i.e., King or Queen). Monarchs hold all power for life and can have no responsibility to the people being governed other than that by which they maintain their control (e.g., medieval feudalism). The less representation the people are provided, the greater the potential tyranny and oppression to which citizens may be subjected. Where a dictator or monarch has absolute power, this is called an autocracy. Where power is shared between a small group, this is called an oligarchy.
Sovereign nations usually have heads of state. There are three basic types of heads of state.² In a parliamentary government, the head of state has little power and is under the control of the legislature (e.g., Germany and United Kingdom). In a semi-presidential government, the head of state shares power with a cabinet of ministers (e.g., France and Russia). In a presidential system, the president is the head of state and holds executive power (e.g.. the United States).² In the United States, the Constitution provides for an equal division of power between the President (Executive Branch), Legislature (Legislative Branch), and the Courts (Judicial Branch). Our founding fathers knew that it was all too easy for governments to be overthrown by dictators and oligarchs. Thus they separated the powers of government into three institutions for the exact purpose of preventing any one person or group from acquiring all the State’s power.
Immunity from Prosecution
One of the things that I don’t remember covering in my government classes was immunity from prosecution. It turns out that heads of state are generally given some type of immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while in office. In the United States, only two presidents were impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.³ Neither of them were convicted by the Senate and thus served until the end of their terms. The only president, however, who committed “high crimes” while in office was Republican Richard Nixon. In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned because he was about to be impeached and possibly convicted! In my mind Nixon was the lowest of presidents. Nixon tarnished the Office of the Presidency by debasing himself to criminality (i.e., directing a break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters).
Problems with the Republican Party
Following Republican Richard Nixon’s State crimes, Republicans joined Democrats to clean up the Executive branch; and they took their consequences. Republicans lost the Presidency, 49 seats in the House, and 5 seats in the Senate.4 However, this attitude of the 1970s of holding presidents accountable as provided by the Constitution is a far cry from the Republican party of today! Under Republican Donald Trump, the Office of the President has become a laughing stock nationally and internationally as Trump has taken it upon himself to undo the norms of his office – an office that was hither fore respected throughout the world. In fact, the United States was seen as the leader of the free world and the epitome of democratic government.
Among Trump’s suspected crimes are conspiring with an enemy of the United States (i.e., Russia) to win the 2016 election and money laundering. Among Trump’s known crimes are campaign finance violations, bribery, tax law violations, anti-trust violations, and fraud. Among Trump’s many high crimes and misdemeanors are separating immigrant children from their parents, refusing to pay workers and contractors, use of undocumented workers and laborers, and using the Office of the Presidency to personally enrich himself, his family and Cabinet. And this list goes on and on….
Thus far, except for appointing a Special Council to investigate Trump’s collusion with Russia, the Republicans in Congress have refused to hold Trump accountable for his atrocious behavior as president. Most recently, Trump nominated a judge (i.e., Kavanaugh) to the Supreme Court who has argued that presidents cannot even be indicted, much less held accountable! I suspect Trump is hoping that Kavanaugh will save him from having to answer for his crimes? This is why it is absolutely vital that all U.S. citizens vote in the midterm elections of 2018. Failure to do so will only allow corruption to become entrenched in our government! We, Americans, may then end up with no real way to hold power-holders accountable! Donald Trump and the Republican party today are the seeds of a corruption that could grow to consume our country and entire way of life. I urge, each and every one of you, to wake up to the very real danger that is lurking in Washington, D.C.
¹What is the difference between a republic and a democracy? Wisegeek.com. Retrieved September 29, 2018 from https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-a-republic-and-a-democracy.htm#didyouknowout.
²Head of state. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved September 29, 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_of_state.
³Impeachment. History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved September 29, 2018 from http://history.house.gov/Institution/Origins-Development/Impeachment/.
4. Kabaservice, B. (May 22, 1917). How Watergate helped Republicans and gave us Trump. Politico.com. Retrieved September 29, 2018 from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/22/donald-trump-james-comey-investigation-watergate-republicans-215175.