Franklin responded: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s words still resonate almost 250 years later.
In the second century BC, Roman Senator Cato the Elder concluded every one of his Senate speeches with this phrase: Carthāgō dēlenda est ("Carthage must be destroyed"). Cato understood that a still functioning, viable Carthage, with which Rome in the preceding two centuries had fought two brutal wars, would always be an existential threat to Rome. In 149 BC, Rome launched its third war against Carthage. Three years later, Carthage was wiped from the pages of history.
Today, two thousand years later, Americans who still value democracy, the rule of law and the precious freedoms and rights that define our republic need to understand what Cato was telling his contemporaries—namely that national survival depends on not allowing a clear and imminent danger to persist and fester.
In a world where our enemies are trying to destroy us, countering their assaults with hesitant half-steps does not cut it. What is required of us today is to forge equivalent responses to the many challenges we face. For example:
Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is determined to wipe an independent Ukraine off the face of the earth, an essential step in “bringing the band back together,” i.e., re-establishing a powerful successor clone to both imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, with all that this implies for the free world. As the war increasingly appears to be a long one, NATO’s resolve to oppose Russian aggression is weakening. French President Emmanuel Macron recently said "We must not humiliate Russia.” In addition, a number of NATO nations are calling for a negotiated settlement that would involve ceding those parts of Ukraine Russia currently occupies.
Making a deal with the devil—in this case Putin—will only encourage him to continue his assaults on former Soviet territories and eventually former captive nations now part of NATO. Putin must be humiliated.
Guns. The Supreme Court’s tortured perversion of basic English usage has led to endorsing gun mania and resulting mass shootings. At this writing, a bipartisan group of senators are negotiating towards a bill to meekly expand what few “common-sense” federal gun regulations exist. Leaks from the negotiators indicate that a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are off the table. Whatever the group comes up with will do very little to reduce gun deaths. The epidemic of mass shootings will continue unabated. Meanwhile, Republicans have signaled that they are willing to accept mass shootings as the cost of preserving their so-called Second Amendment rights.
In the absence of a much-needed repeal of the Second Amendment, gun control advocates need to abandon such terms as “common-sense,” get tough with the gun lobby and throw its minions out of office so that serious gun legislation can be enacted.
Saudi Arabia. While human rights will always be “at the center of what we’re doing,” a White House official recently said, “we need our relationships to deliver for the American people.” Translated, that means we will no longer consider Saudi strongman Muhammed bin Salman a criminal pariah for murdering American citizen journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Instead we will suck up to him in return for more oil. This will only encourage MBS to continue to suppress human rights in his country, continue the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, and continue to hold the West hostage to OPEC. Whatever the cost, he and his country must be pressured to change their ways.
Inflation. Releasing some of the oil in the National Petroleum Reserve has had little impact. Moreover, the Fed moved much too late to raise interest rates in order to quell inflation. How it could have been so deeply asleep at the switch with all its resources and hundreds of staff economists is incomprehensible.
The federal government has yet to suspend the gas tax and terminate Trump’s China tariffs, both of which would go much further to reduce inflation than the baby steps it has thus far taken.
Climate Change. The entire Western world has thrown in the towel vis-à-vis what is sure to be the greatest crisis the planet will face in this century. It is already suffering from its head-in-the-sand inaction to date. The damage of unprecedented weather events—storms, floods, droughts, sea level rises, climate refugees, etc.—has already begun and will get much worse.
Having ignored the problem, the nations of the world will not be able to ignore solutions, which now take the form of mitigating the certain devastation just around the corner. Protective measures must be taken, despite their prohibitive expense.
The Threat to Democracy. Republicans (“the Party of Death”) have abandoned all pretense of being a responsible political organization replete with principles and policies in favor of a scorched earth pursuit of power for its own sake. Democrats, the mainstream media and the remaining concerned public nevertheless persist in pretending that politics hasn’t changed and believing that they can reason with this cult of autocrats, demagogues and reactionaries.
The only way our democracy can survive is the complete and total destruction of this Party of Death. Every Democratic strategy and media report must be geared toward this end. Otherwise, sieg heil!
Trump. His treasonous conspiracy almost succeeded in upending the key foundational element of our democratic system—the peaceful transfer of power. He continues to undermine our democracy with his lies and bombast. Accountability is far from certain.
Attorney General Garland must indict him for his criminal conspiracy and seditious acts and bring him to justice if the precept that “no man is above the law” is to have any meaning at all.
June 11, 2022