As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone asked him, ”Dr. Franklin, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Now, 233 years later, America may be losing the republic Franklin and the founders crafted.

A republic form of government is one where elected individuals represent the citizens and exercise power according to the rule of law under the Constitution. In America, those representatives are democratically elected. In a "direct democracy," the citizens directly deliberate and decide on legislature. When elected officials in a republic abrogate their responsibility, citizens often take matters into their own hands. True democracy is "mob rule." Based on the recent civil unrest, the U.S. is looking more and more like a true democracy.

Some believe the U.S. has moved from a republic to an oligarchy. In a study by two political scientists, Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern, they concluded the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics. Gilens and Page write: “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.” Gilens and Page are liberals and clearly had a predetermined outcome, but they are correct: The wealthy are more engaged in politics than the poor.

But no oligarchy can survive mob rule. The numbers just won’t work. So how does America get back to a representative democracy? How does the U.S. get back to the form of government the founders intended? Three ways:

First, average citizens must actively engage in their government. They have to do more than vote. They must pay attention to what is happening all the time, not just every two years at election time. That involves attending meetings, getting to know their elected officials, helping candidates, and contributing money. The reason big money has taken over politics is because so few average people are engaged in the process.

Second, the American system of government must be taught to the next generation. Most millennials have little knowledge of our system of government and the genius of the founders. Pew Research, in a March 2020 poll, found two-thirds of millennials want the Electoral College eliminated and the president be elected by popular vote. They fail to not understand it is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy.

Third, Americans must commit to a democratic republic. The mindset to understand the importance of being involved in a republic is critical. Without widespread commitment from individual citizens taking equity in their self-governing system of government, America will not survive.

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to peacefully assembly, but not to destroy private or public property. What we are seeing in America is mob rule because some elected leaders capitulate to a mob. Until citizens hold them accountable at the ballot box, America’s system of government is doomed.

Steve Fair is the District 4 Oklahoma Republican Party chair.

Recommended for you