Article V, section 4 of the Constitution says the United States shall guarantee to each state in this Union a Republican Form of government.
It does not define what a republican form of government means.
However, a republican form of government by dictionary definition is a government in which people are indirectly represented. A democracy is a government in which people directly represent themselves.
In modern governments, there are combinations of both forms. For example, school board meetings may have a board elected by the people but decisions are made after open hearings in which people are allowed to express their views.
Frequent elections keep the House of Representatives more responsive to the people than the Senate. Being checked by the House justifies the Senate’s longer terms.
Recently, the Republican Party has attacked members of state legislatures in the name of republicanism. Arguing that they know better than their fellow lawmakers, Republican lawmakers have sought to silence representatives on the issues of abortion, guns and transgender treatment.
They have cut off their microphones, ousted them from committee assignments and literally shut the door in their faces. Some of those lawmakers have been Republicans.
The ouster of the two Tennessee Democratic Representatives is the most extreme example of this. Banning the floor to the Missouri representative and forbidding her to speak even the word “transgender” follows the same path.
Censoring Republican women legislators for voting against restrictive abortion bills reflects the same philosophy.
A republican government according to most Republicans is a group of representatives elected to act according to their own judgment on behalf of their constituents.
Relying on John Stuart Mills, Republicans assert the public does not always act from enlightened self-interest but their representatives should.
From this proposition, modern-day Republicans have concluded that elected representatives know better than their constituents and thus can ignore what they want.
Add to this a touch of moral superiority and you have the Tennessee legislature nullifying the votes of Democratic districts and the Mississippi legislature restructuring judicial districts in Jackson.
This isn’t what Mills had in mind.
Enlightened self-interest means a person puts the public good above personal gains, long-term goals over short-term gains.
It means the exercise of judgment in nuanced situations and the weighing of a variety of elements when making that judgment.
A rational representative does not silence those who disagree with him. In the grand British tradition, not to mention the great American tradition, it just isn’t done.
The fact that the Republican Party is doing it means they are not Republicans. We should remember that at election time.
Jane Elza, Ph.D., is a resident of Valdosta.
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