The Silent Dismantling of Our Republic by interfering with regular, periodic elections
who come into power either by force or by election, nearly always seek more and more power until
they approach kingly status. Over a period of several decades, and with historical experience as well as
their own good thinking, the Founders eventually employed several techniques to minimize the
possibility of that happening in their new government. Separation of powers, checks and balances,
frequent elections–all these devices were implemented to curb the human tendency to concentrate
power in the few.
Return to the Original Source of Power
James Madison expressed that, since the people are the original source of authority to govern, they
ought to be consulted on a periodic basis as to whom they should delegate some of this authority. Said
“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional
charter under which the [power of the] several branches of government … is derived, it seems strictly
consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority … whenever any one of the
departments may commit encroachments on the chartered authorities of the others.”
But how often should the people be consulted?
“Where annual elections end, tyranny begins”
In order to check runaway politicians, early Americans, particularly in New England, wanted them to
come back and report to the people very often and at the same time give the people a chance to decide
whether they wanted their representative to continue to represent them or not. Many felt that if they left
them unchecked for more than a year, strange notions might enter into their thinking and they would
cease to be public servants.
Originally, several of the states, especially Massachusetts, had a penchant for annual elections. Their
slogan was, “Where annual elections end, tyranny begins.” However, experience soon demonstrated
that delegates to a national Congress need training and experience to function effectively.
Nevertheless, the Founders did not want to follow the pattern of the early parliaments in England,
where the members of the House of Commons remained in office until a political crisis occurred and
the majority party could not get a vote of confidence, thereby requiring a new election. The Americans
wanted their representatives to return home and face the voters at regular intervals.
In the Constitutional Convention, the Founders decided that two years would be adequate for
representatives to learn their job and perform it long enough before returning to the people to see if the
people would want to keep them or send someone else. This two year period also provided the people
with a regular interval in which to go about their business and a long enough period of time before they
had to think about another election. The Founders know that in a democracy, where the people make
all the decisions, they grow tired of constantly being involved and cease to have an active interest in
the affairs of government. Two-year intervals seemed to be about right. Madison knew that going to the
people too often in elections of any kind, whether changing constitutions, making new laws, or
changing leaders would bring reactions of the people based more on emotion rather than methodic
reasoning. Said he:
“The danger of disturbing the public tranquility by interesting too strongly the public passions is a still
more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the
whole society. Notwithstanding the success which has attended the revisions of our established forms
of government [the ratification conventions] and which does so much honor to the virtue and
intelligence of the people of America, it must be confessed that the experiments are of too ticklish a
nature to be unnecessarily multiplied.”
The Founders rejected a provision to recall Senators
can recall their senators from the nation’s capital. Even though a senator’s term is much greater–six
years–they decided that the recall provision would throw too much contention into the system and
would provide an avenue for unscrupulous factions to take control. Robert Livingston explains:
“… It would open so wide a door for faction and intrigue, and afford such scope for the arts of an evil
ambition. A man might go to the Senate with an incorruptible integrity, and the strongest attachment to
the interest of his state. But if he deviated, in the least degree, from the line which a prevailing party in
a popular assembly had marked for him, he would be immediately recalled. Under these circumstances,
how easy would it be for an ambitious, factious demagogue to misrepresent him, to distort the features
of his character, and give a false color to his conduct! How easy for such a man to impose upon the
public, and influence them to recall and disgrace their faithful delegate!
Then how do you get rid of a public official you don’t like?
Once again the Founders provided for the protection of the people against an errant public official. If
the man commits a crime while in office and is convicted, most governmental jurisdictions require him
to step down from his office. If he has not been convicted of a crime but still becomes objectionable to
the people he is supposed to be representing, then the people need to insist that the checks and balances
are working properly to prevent his doing too much damage while still in office. Then in just a short
while, at the next regular election, he can be replaced.
The best answer is to restore Constitutional limitations!
Usually, when someone is thought to be unfit for office, that person is most likely doing the bidding of
some special interest group and giving them special favors from his high post in the government. The
amazing thing is that if public officials were kept within the bounds of the Constitution, there would
not be any one public office holder with enough power to make it worth a special interest group trying
to buy his vote! The answer to corruption, then, is what our answer is always: Restore the Constitution!
It solves all issues!
The increasing use of the corrupting influence of recall elections
The increasing use of recall elections to try to correct problems in government, flies directly in the face
of the Founders methodical program of peaceful, self-repair in good constitutional government. It
introduces factions and gives them a voice. It disturbs the tranquility of the people by thrusting them
into another election other than at the regular, established intervals. It introduces the weaknesses and
dangers of a pure democracy the Founders warned us about 200 years ago.
The “Progressive Era” provides cover for the Recall tactic
The years between 1890 and 1920 were years of great change in America’s political structure:
* Ironically, these were the years when the Founders’ formula for freedom ceased to be taught in
many American schools.
* It was a time when American history books were being rewritten and revised.
* It was a time when the word “democracy” had finally shed its negative feeling and President
Woodrow Wilson declared the United States needed to “make the world safe for democracy” by
doing what Americans had elected him not to do – get us into war.
* It was a time when very powerful forces took control of the public opinion-molding media.
* It was a time when anti-Founding Father forces began to take control of teacher colleges.
* It was a time when the federal government tentacles began reaching directly down into the
pocketbooks of Americans.
* It was a time when the sovereign states lost their power in the machinery of the federal
government and lost their ability to protect the people from an ever-growing federal government.
* It was a time when control of our money system was turned over to private interests.
* It was a time when churches began to embrace the soul-destroying doctrine of the social gospel.
* It was a time when parental responsibilities became confused and children were raised in other
than traditional family settings as their father went off to war and the mothers went to work.
* All this, and much more is what some historians ironically call the Progressive Era!
It was during this so-called Progressive Era that powerful people wanted to use the power of
uninformed people to their own advantage. They saw that such people could be persuaded by
emotional appeal to make decisions that would begin to change the way the Founders set up our system
to work. Techniques such as recall, initiative, and referendum began to be adopted state by state. These
tactics leave the door wide open for factions and intriguing power brokers arguing that it would be
more “democratic” if the people began to make more and more decisions. Few people realized these
methods were already discussed and systematically rejected by the Founders.
Many good people are duped into participating in recall elections
If Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and others would advise not to participate in such anti-
republican, masses-manipulating events such as a recall election, why are even good people persuaded
to do so today? It is difficult to know the motivation of some people but when a whole raft of historical
evidence points to trouble, one must wonder about the depth of their understanding of basic principles
of freedom and liberty. They perhaps have never realized that–
* Recalls are elements of democracy, not republican government
* Recalls interfere with the regular, methodical pattern of elections.
* Recall disturbs the tranquility of the people
* Through the use of recalls the organizers are short-circuiting the normal established channels of
checks and balances in an unnatural attempt to control political activity.
* The use of recalls has been a cover for unscrupulous people who wish to confuse and liberalize
Recently, there have even been calls for postponing elections altogether so that government officials
can supposedly have more time to solve problems without having to worry about taking time out to
campaign for re-election.
Whether the proposal is to cut short a public officials term through recalls or lengthen it through
postponing elections, these tactics should be viewed for what they are–an attempt to ignore and violate
the beautiful Constitutional system and to instigate a parliamentary system of government based more
on the rule by the whims of men rather than the rule of law. Our Founders wisely rejected such
schemes 200 years ago.
Earl Taylor, Jr.