A republic or authoritarianism?
I start these thoughts with the premise that the American Revolution has really never ended. It continues from the Declaration of Independence until this very day.
Our revolution is the Constitution. Over the past 240 years, our country has undergone numerous changes. But, it is the continued interpretation and adaptation of the Constitution to reflect those changes in our society, our attitudes and demographics that continues the revolution started with the words of that simple document of 1776, that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the preamble of the Constitution that “we the people … in order to form a more perfect union.” Our revolution continues to strive toward that perfection, though we may never be perfect.
During these same 240 years, we have endured numerous counter-revolutionary forces to try to undo all that we have accomplished. Shey’s Rebellion, Jacksonian “democracy,” the Civil War, the anarchists of the early 20th century, the Great Depression, “America First” (the original of the 1930s who were fascist supported) and now Trumpism.
Our system of government has brought forth the greatest innovations, economic boom, and military might the world has ever seen. Yet we have, for the most part, been benevolent with other nations, if only for our own security. We have exported our form of government to many who envy us and want to emulate us. Many peoples have struggled, and many times failed, to be free, to be like us.
And yet those who support Trumpism would have us abandon what we ourselves have struggled to create, and under which we have prospered, for a regression to a time they nostalgically consider better and more perfect than today. As we strive to be that more perfect union of people, some must lose their predominate positions, or adapt their social attitudes, and they, quite expectedly, resist.
But resistance is not counter-revolutionary. It is the natural reaction to change. Counter-revolution is the attempt to turn back the clock, to undo all that has brought us to this point in a belief that return will make us happier and better. History has shown us it does not and will not. History has shown us it will only destroy that which we seek to retain along with the things we resist, even if all what we seek to retain is power, just for power’s sake.
Our Constitution, like our revolution, is a fragile thing. It can collapse in an instant. It depends on the faith we have in both, and our willingness to abide by the rule of law that underpins it all. Do not believe that it cannot happen, because it can, and there are forces out there who want just that, and Trumpism is one of those forces. That should be the focus of our resistance.
As Benjamin Franklin has, quite appropriately, been quoted numerous times over the past few months as saying: “You have a republic, for as long as you can keep it.” The question is: Do you want to keep it? It is time to pick your side. Our constitutional republic or authoritarianism. You cannot have both.
Jeffrey Swartz is a professor at WMU-Cooley Law School, Tampa Bay campus, and a former Miami-Dade County judge.