Loss of the Nation vs. Loss of the Republic

If you have followed the “unitary executive” arguments of the Bush administration, you know the danger that this theory poses to both our system of checks and balances and ultimately to our nation. In a diary at dailyKos (here), Jay Elias ties our current situation to events in ancient Rome. And it’s not the fall of the Roman Empire that he see as the parallel; it is the fall of the Roman Republic, which occurred some 500 years before.

Everyone who cares about representative democracy in this nation should read this diary. The parallels are striking: granting unlimited powers to the chief executive in order to combat an outside terrorist threat (in Rome’s case, pirates). Rome went from a Republic to essentially a dictatorship, not through a coup but through a vote of the senate. In short, the Roman Republic committed suicide in order to save itself.

The American nation may live on for years, even centuries, even if the powers of the executive are allowed to stand and even increase. If Congress fails to exercise oversight, the shops will still be open, the trains will still run, and American Idol will still be watched every night by millions. But the great American experiment in representative democracy will be over. Our system of checks and balances will be destroyed, and the President and the Executive branch will have unlimited power to make war, spend money, torture with impunity, and spy on each of us — just as they do today.

The American nation is in no danger of falling. The American republic, though, is in grave danger. It is time for Congress and the courts to rein in both this administration, and the theory of government it rode in on. We, the citizens of the Republic, must demand it.

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