With this clip, I decided to respond to the battle going on between the generations which is so evident in the comments on my channel. So many blame the baby boomers for our current state of affairs (which they don’t like) while others blame the millennials. Yet we all know that parents are to a great extent responsible for the actions and attitudes of the children. This clip presents portions of my 6 part TV series titled Making Sense Of The Sixties where, in 1989, I asked parents of those who grew up in the 1960s about how they raise their children.
The idea that proponents of greater electoral equity have to quiet down because we live in a ‘republic’ is absurd.
It’s worth asking where this quip — “we’re a republic, not a democracy” — even came from. Nicole Hemmer, a historian of American politics and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” traces it to the 1930s and 40s. “When Franklin Roosevelt made defending democracy a core component of his argument for preparing for, and then intervening in, the war in Europe, opponents of U.S. intervention began to push back by arguing that the U.S. was not, in fact, a democracy,” she wrote in an email.
One Roosevelt opponent, for example — Boake Carter, a newspaper columnist who supported the America First Committee (which opposed American entry into World War II) — wrote a column in October 1940 called “A Republic Not a Democracy,” in which he strongly rebuked the president for using the word “democracy” to describe the country. “The United States was never a democracy, isn’t a democracy, and I hope it will never be a democracy,” Carter wrote.
The term went from conservative complaint to right-wing slogan in the 1960s, when Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, used it in a September 1961 speech, “Republics and Democracies.” In a democracy, Welch protested, “there is a centralization of governmental power in a simple majority. And that, visibly, is the system of government which the enemies of our republic are seeking to impose on us today.”
“This is a Republic, not a Democracy,” Welch said in conclusion, “Let’s keep it that way!”
These origins are important. If there’s substance behind “We’re a republic, not a democracy,” it’s not as a description of American government. There’s really no difference, in the present, between a “republic” and a “democracy”: Both connote systems of representation in which sovereignty and authority derive from the public at large.
The point of the slogan isn’t to describe who we are, but to claim and co-opt the founding for right-wing politics — to naturalize political inequality and make it the proper order of things. What lies behind that quip, in other words, is an impulse against democratic representation. It is part and parcel of the drive to make American government a closed domain for a select, privileged few.
Looked at over time, we’re gradually picking up slightly better manners – but what are we doing now that might, in future eras, be considered bad manners?
A few hundred years ago, a ship carrying enslaved Africans arrived in the British colony of Virginia. A new Times podcast examines the long shadow of the fateful moment.
Four hundred years ago, in August 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the British colony of Virginia. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed.
“1619,” a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, examines the long shadow of that fateful moment. Today, instead of our usual show, we present Episode 1: “The Fight for a True Democracy.”
This episode includes scenes of graphic violence.