American, not Roman
Letter to the Editor | Monday, May 1, 2017
I value the democratic process. I think the type of government the Founding Fathers established in the Age of Enlightenment is something to be marveled at as well as protected. The beauty in the government they created was that it was the amalgamation of some of the best attempts at democratic nations of the past. By taking what worked best for other countries in the past and by adding some of our own values as people once a part of other nations, we made something entirely our own. Overall, this conglomerate of states has worked cohesively; but if the recent election is anything to go by, that may be changing. Functional governments, over time, naturally begin to show signs of wear. I worry that we are becoming more similar to the republic of Rome than the representative republic we once knew and loved.
Our Founding Fathers made the conscious effort to avoid a Roman-style republic by adding representation by the people for the people rather than just having a elite, ruling class that made decisions for all citizens. But we are falling for some of the same issues that plagued the late Roman republic, especially elitist rule. While it may not be a traditional ruling class, we are now seeing that our leaders — from Congress to the presidency — are coming from the upper echelons of society; consequently, these groups do not always have the best interests of the American people in mind. Rather than any person being free to be a part of the political process, only those with sufficient financial backing are able to attain high office. The people leaving our states for Washington, D.C., and the White House have more in common with wealthy lobbyists than the people who they are elected to represent.
Within our government, we continue to witness a degree of stagnation that has not been seen in our history. George Washington warned against the polarization of political parties, and we are seeing the worst effects of this polarization: Both parties are less interested in compromise than ever before, and the widespread corruption is becoming better documented through media sources. The same phenomenon occurred in Rome. While we may not have a country based solely on the conquest of others, as Rome was, we do share a government form with an increased divide in social hierarchy and a shrinking middle class. Rome, in its final days of being a “republic,” was more akin to an oligarchy than a government of its citizens, and I fear that our government — based in part on theirs — is vulnerable to a similar fate. This will not be an overnight change, but it is instead something that happens over the course of years. For example, the leader of Gambia has recently refused to leave office after losing the general election, and there are signs that a civil war could break out over the results. We cannot treat these instances of failing democratic nations as separate from our own. Our republic survives only as long as our citizens continue to be civically-minded. Be active and engaged so our republican form of government can continue to flourish.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.