Capitol Riot: America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy

Advocates of President Trump take on with authorities throughout a “Stop the Steal” demonstration beyond the Capitol in Washington D.C., January 6, 2021. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

The Capitol riot was a wake-up call: We should stop abandoning the virtues of republicanism and need sound judgment from our chosen agents.

It is tough not to despair in our capability for self-government sometimes like these. When the mob makes the worst type of headings and hack political leaders gush fallacies and negative arguments to calm its unproven complaints, one cannot assist however question whether we’re up to the job. However it’s worth keeping in mind that American self-government is created to avoid the impulses and lack of knowledge of the mob from winning.

Maybe the violent outburst on January 6 — and those still to come — will advise us of the knowledge that the Creators loved centuries back: We are a republic, not a direct democracy, and we’d best imitate it.

We’ve all seen the perplexing videos of deluded Americans verbally confronting political leaders in public. Prior to the violence at the Capitol, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah was considered a “traitor” by future insurrectionists at the airport and on the aircraft en path to Washington. After the riot was over and Congress had actually licensed Joe Biden’s Electoral College triumph, political leaders such as Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Agent Lou Correa (D., Calif.) were madly challenged by Trump patriots as they made their method house from D.C. “No it’s not a democracy! This is a republic! This is a republic!” one male shrieked at Correa, obviously uninformed of the paradox.

As James Madison composed in Federalist No. 10, a republic is a type of federal government “in which the scheme of representation takes place.” Madison stated how problematic “popular government” had actually shown traditionally: “The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.” In regreting the historical failure of popular federal governments to “break and control the violence of faction,” Madison held forth a republican kind of representative federal government as a method to square the circle: Without rebuking the standard reasoning of popular sovereignty, a republic might present a little bit of reasoned reflection into the governing procedure, alleviating the hazardous popular enthusiasms that control simply democratic systems.

For Madison, wedding event the republican kind of federal government to the country’s substantial piece of physical area was the remedy to the widely known vices of direct democracy. While there would still be a risk of agents of “factious tempers” and “sinister designs” leading their constituents astray, the hope was that “the delegation of the government . . . to a small number of citizens elected by the rest” would “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

Madison and his fellow Creators talented us this republic, however we will stop working to follow Ben Franklin’s charge to “keep it” if our agents continue treating it like a pure democracy. Those turned over with excellent political power cannot function as simple vessels of popular opinion; they are charged with management, with fine-tuning the views of their constituents.

Citizens have lives to lead, tasks to keep, and households to feed. They are not indicated to live and breathe politics. So it makes good sense that their viewpoints on public affairs — while typically rather sensible at heart — might be rather rough around the edges and misdirected in specific essential aspects. The role of the elected representative is to harmonize the interests and passions of his constituents with the dictates of reason and the common good. This requires a specific independence of mind and spirit, as well as a hefty dose of prudence. In the famous words of Edmund Burke: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

A republic cannot persist if our chosen representatives fail to summon the requisite factor and nerve to work out judgment. The violence at the Capitol was a wake-up call: It’s time we stopped abandoning the virtues of republicanism for the vices of direct democracy.

Thomas Koenig is a current graduate of Princeton University and a member of the Harvard Law class of 2024.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.