At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, a Mrs. Powell anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the convention, she asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it”.
Well, after all these years, the jury is still out, but I submit that there has never been a point in time since the Civil War in which her question is more relevant, even as the words “democratic despotism”, as later contemplated by Tocqueville, would now be somewhat more appropriate than “monarchy” as an alternative to a republic. For what we are witnessing is a crisis much more threatening to our constitutional order than any we have faced in over a century.
And the tipping point to which I refer is not just the reality of the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the health care bill, but rather the implications of the convergence of conditions in America that made such a travesty possible or even provided it with credible discussion space. And I don’t want to hear that we as a people have been misled or duped by President Obama and his support base in the media and the leftist elite. We made this possible because we abdicated our duties to self-government in a long train of seduction by the lure of entitlement, of the sacrifice of freedom for security, the pursuit of consumption out of all balance with production, and the expansion of “rights” without regard to responsibilities.
So, what now? I have said before that we are at a point roughly equivalent to 1857 and the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case in the ramp up to the Civil War. Tony Blankley recently put it at 1854 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The ultimate point is that, as Lincoln wisely observed, “A House divided against itself cannot stand……………it will become all one thing or the other.” Neither of us have in mind another civil war, but we have a situation in which a large percentage, a majority in my estimation, of opinion leadership as well as the people at large remain committed to the principles as espoused in our founding documents, while a large percentage are convinced that these principles are outdated and should be replaced, overridden, or simply ignored. This is a collision course that has been underway for at least a century, but never has the latter group had such a leader as Obama, the most ideologically progressive President since Woodrow Wilson, who profoundly disagrees with the foundational basis of the American experiment, not to mention the entire notion of American exceptionalism.
I am an eternal optimist, and, in spite of our sleepwalking, this remains a center-right country, so I am betting on the traditionalist strains and the exceptionalist nature of our culture to rise to the occasion, but the outcome is far from certain.