If you can keep it

Feb 13 2015

America is often described as an “experiment,” in the sense that the fate of the nation is never a foregone conclusion. This is what Benjamin Franklin meant when he famously declared that our constitutional convention had produced “a republic... if you can keep it.”

In America, we have a republic, not a monarchy. Here, the people are in charge. We have no king, and the only power held by elected representatives is delegated to them by the people.

This simple arrangement of power is the basis of the most just and the most equitable system of government the world has ever known. But it is also, by definition, slightly precarious. For when a free people delegate a portion of their sovereign authority to a group of representatives, they must be able to maintain careful watch over how that power is used.

Thus Dr. Franklin’s crucial stipulation: “if you can keep it.”

The behavior of Senate Democrats over the past two weeks suggests that they don’t want to keep it – at least not when doing so is politically inconvenient.

For the past two weeks, Senate Republicans have repeatedly tried to begin debate on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. But there has been no such debate: only diversions, equivocations, and interruptions by Senate Democrats, who refuse to allow the world’s most deliberative body to discuss the merits of a bill that would fully fund DHS while prohibiting President Obama from using any funds to implement his lawless executive amnesty plan.

This obstruction is as reckless as it is revealing.

It reveals the character and disposition of a party that distrusts the judgment of the American people, fears the consequences of open debate, and stops at nothing to advance a narrow partisan agenda.

The past two weeks do not bode well for the great American experiment in self-government. But Benjamin Franklin’s challenge still stands. It’s not too late for the Senate to get back to work and for Senate Democrats to put the power back in the hands of the American people where it belongs.