What If the Republic Fails?
“Yes, if you can keep it,” was Benjamin Franklin’s reply after he was told that he had helped found the American republic. Mr. Franklin, besides being a scientist, inventor, and statesman, was also a serious student of history. In recorded human history, with one exception, no one form of representative government, either a true democracy or a republic, has lasted indefinitely. The one exception is in Iceland, with its “Althing,” established in 930 A.D.
The first recorded history of democratic governance can be traced back to 507 B.C. Cleisthenes, an ancient political leader in Athens, established “demokratia” which is a combination of the word “demos,” the people, and “kratos” or power. Instead of having elected political leaders, the voters of Athens, only males over the age of 18, who were legal residents of Athens, would directly vote on proposed laws, as well as serve on juries. This system lasted for two hundred years before evolving into an aristocracy under Pericles. While Great Britain can claim to have a long history of representative government, it was not until 1918 that universal male suffrage was achieved, and it was not until 1928 that women were allowed the vote.
The first formal republican form of government can be found with the Roman Republic. Founded in 509 B.C. after breaking away from the tyranny of the Etruscans, the Roman Republic endured, with a 10-year dictatorship of Sulla, for 482 years. With the coming of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, the Roman Republic failed and led to the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.
Divisions in the United States
Political extremism in the United States can be blamed on both sides. The political gerrymandering by both political parties has made their party’s congressional seats predisposed to the election of members of their own party. This has made the holders of congressional seats more beholden to their party and to their party’s philosophy, rather than to the voters in their congressional districts. The only concern these members of Congress have is being primaried by someone from their own party. With the increasingly partisan districts, the polarization of the American people keeps increasing to the point, where some Americans have begun raising the prospect of secession. While the country as a whole is more valuable than the sum of its parts, radical secessionists in Texas and in other deep-red states have not thought through the consequences of such an act.
The business and moneyed elite of this country would never allow such a breakup to happen. With a volunteer professional military class today in existence, and its dependence upon a unified country to provide them with their pay and benefits, it is doubtful that the military would allow such a thing to occur as well.
Why Caesar crossed the Rubicon
Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was caused by his enemies trying to indict him and label him as an enemy of Rome. The supporters of former President Donald Trump consider his possible indictment for criminal behavior, whether by the federal government or by a state prosecution, to be the harbinger of violent political behavior. They have loudly proclaimed that such an indictment would be the spark that would ignite a wave of violence to overthrow the federal government. The attempted coup by countless Trump supporters on January 6 is only a harbinger of the political strife ahead.
With the Republican Party now the party of Donald Trump, with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislature’s increasingly placing obstacles to vote in the path of their political opponents, and with the courts increasingly becoming involved in the electoral process, and with members of Trump’s White House refusing to acknowledge subpoenas from the January 6 House Committee, and with governors of two states, Texas and Florida, now openly defying the federal government on the issue of vaccine mandates, the chance for civil strife and violence is becoming frighteningly real.
Corporate America and the military will not allow a breakup
American businesses enjoy access to a large consumer market within the political boundaries of the United States. They enjoy the stability of the courts, and a friendly business environment, which allows them to maximize their profits. If there was a schism between polarized segments of the two political parties, the large corporation’s profits would be reduced, and this would not be in their own economic self-interest.
The United States military is one of the most lethal militaries in the world. It is also an all-volunteer force that over time has developed its own culture and its own set of values. Over time, the military’s identification with the civilian populace has become distant. The military is well paid and enjoys generous benefits not available to the rest of Americans. A break-up of our current form of government would threaten the military’s economic status. If the United States were to fracture, and different countries emerge, they would lose these benefits.
It was the Roman Praetorian Guard who enforced the rules of the Empire and prevented the return of the Roman Republic upon the death of Emperor Caligula. It is not hard to realize that a breakup of the American polity would hurt the U.S. military and that given a choice, the U.S. military would actively work to prevent such a political dissolution.