Todayís Political Climate


By Patrick Flanagan



            I donít know if Iím imagining this or just getting older and perhaps more intolerant.  I canít remember a time in my life when I saw our great country be so polarized as it is today.  And it worries me more than the intolerance for and to opposing views.


            Our government was always based upon the debate of opposing views in an effort to get to a solution which all could support.  Then we moved on to the next problem.  We called it compromise and the search for truth and it worked.  Lately that just doesnít seem to be happening.


            Oh, we can blame the left and the right media.  I watch both and it is entertaining but it is not the news or the information that I need to make an informed decision.  In the past, it seemed that Walter Cronkite reported more facts than opinion.  If he did give an editorial, he told you.  You could tell the difference.  Today we get editorial all the time and very little real facts or news.  But it is entertaining and thatís what sells media.  Edward R. Morrow was one of a kind.  America, both left and right, were behind him whatever the issue.  We trusted them.  Today I donít trust anyone in media.


            And there is good reason not to trust.  Most of them canít spell, and as for the use of good logic and investigative reporting, those no longer exist with few exceptions.  Why would I trust any of them.  I do trust Christiane Armapour; she is old school but rarely on television.  She is too busy trying to find the truth like a good reporter used to do.  And there is a reason for all of this.  The major networks have cut their budgets down so much that they no longer can afford to do investigative reporting.  As a result, it is dying out.  Just watch different channels.  For most, they are all repeating the same stories.  Depending on the station, it is the same news but with a left or right editorial.  What really drives me nuts is a picture of a politician speaking but the reporter is telling me what he is saying.


            Or, better yet, the station keeps interviewing the same experts day after day after day.  Isnít it interesting that we are constantly being told about the economy by the same economists over and over.  God knows we have thousands of reputable economists teaching at our great universities, but only two or three are asked the unanswered questions that we want to solve.  And again, these few are the liberal or conservative economists.


            But this isnít the whole answer.  Just part of it.  We can find other causes of this.  Voter apathy.  It amazes me that a very small minority actually elects our public officials, yet everywhere I turn, people are complaining about their politicians.  Iraq, where they are murdered for voting, they are threatened to stay away from the voting booths, even they vote more than we do.  It is embarrassing.  At least to me.


            Maybe we can blame our bent on materialism.  People seem to be more involved in their RVís than they are in getting our personal and national debt down to where it belongs.  I still canít understand a family of two, yet they now have a garage for four cars.  The most that they can drive is only two.  And they really donít own any of them.


            Oh, no, itís education.  That is the real problem.  Well, maybe.  Iíll leave that up to you all as most of you all ready know that education is not doing well.  We can blame the teachers and the teachers can blame the parents and both blame the government.  And there is that polarization again.  As a result, nothing gets solved and we have the same problems today that we had in education 30 years ago.


            The point of all of this is that something really has changed in the last 30 years.  And it isnít for the better.  I just read David McCulloughís Truman and 1776.  I am now on his John Adams.  The question keeps coming up: where are these types of men today?  Now I will grant you that McCullough might stretch things a bit and make them look better than they really were, but, even then, he canít stretch the truth that much.  There must be something about these men and how they lived their lives for their country at a great expense to themselves and their families.  Whatever happened to the men and woman who John Kennedy wrote about in his Profiles of Courage?  These men inspired and continue to inspire me.  Where are they today?


            Now, these issues that Iím raising are not just ours, nor are we to believe that we are the only ones beset with these ills.  No, this same kind of attitude befell Rome, Greece and even the Egyptians.  What Iím reaching for are the same questions that bedeviled Plato, Socrates, Cicero and other brilliant minds of Western culture.  Obviously they didnít find a full answer as their societies finally vanished, but, and this is a big but, they lasted for hundreds of years, much longer than our nascient culture.  Many in those days looked at the big picture of society in trying to explain and find answers.  Iím sorry, but bi-partisanship just wasnít one of their solutions.  One thing that I can be sure of: Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Truman were all well versed in the great thinkers of the past.


            Ah, then it may have hit me.  We are a Republic; we are not a Democracy.  Yet everyone today talks about Democracy; nobody says Republic.  All these men that I mention knew full well that we are a Republic.  Somehow that word got lost in the last 30 years and has been replaced by Democracy.  Now Iím not simplistic enough to believe that herein lies the answers to all of our ills.  But it could be the solid foundation on which to build some solutions.


            So, do you think Iím crazy?  I ask you now, without looking anywhere, what is the difference between a Republic and a Democracy?  I used to be able to answer that years ago, but somehow I forgot.  It was drummed into my head by my teachers in those days.  I still had to look it up.  You probably will also; if not, you belong in Mensa.


            In that search for an answer to this question, I came across a concern of Socrates as to what constituted a ďjust personĒ and a ďjust governmentĒ.  He believed that the soul of a man and the soul of a government is made up of three parts.  The first and most important is the desire for wisdom and truth.  The second is the desire for honor.  And finally the third is the desire for gains.


            A Republic assumes that we elect politicians who desire wisdom and truth.  A Democracy elects politicians who desire gains.  These are the dangers that we were warned about by the Founding Fathers.  We have turned it all upside down.  It is clear to me that all the men I mentioned strived for wisdom and truth during their lives.  Jefferson went bankrupt in the end, but still managed to keep his library as he lost his farm.  Truman kind of followed in his footsteps, losing his farm but never stopped searching for wisdom and truth.


            I am convinced that Obama was elected for only one reason.  People were hoping that he was motivated by the search for wisdom and truth instead of gains.  They subconsciously wanted a ďChangeĒ.  Whether we get that still is left to be determined.  So far, I donít think this is happening, but only time will tell.


            Now in closing, I will relate a truth to you all and allow you to judge and research for yourselves on Google.  Just search ďRepublic vs. DemocracyĒ and you will find it.  Then perhaps all of this will be a bit more clear.  Perhaps we might even have a goal that we can all together strive for.


            Our military training manuals used to contain the correct definitions of Democracy and Republic.  It was in Training Manual #2000-25 published by the War Department in 1928.  These manuals were ordered all to be destroyed about the time that Franklin Roosevelt took office.  The definition is consistent with Plato, Socrates, and all the others.  I was shocked and think that you also will be.  It is as if our history has been rewritten like Orwell predicted.  It was the time when Republic was eliminated from our language and replaced by Democracy.


            Once you have seen the differences, think about Benjamin Franklin and what he replied after signing the Constitution when a woman asked him what kind of government do we now have: ďA Republic, if you can keep it.Ē