Republicanism on Trial

January 2, 2012

By various accounts, the upcoming U.S. presidential election is expected to be historic. It comes at a time when most Americans reportedly think that the country is headed in the wrong direction. This observation may go well beyond Americans. If for nothing else, these observations, whether perceived or real, are bound to make this election one of the most important historic elections in the U.S.

Within the U.S., signs that the country is headed in the wrong direction may be the current state and prospect of the liberty laid out by the country’s founding fathers and enjoyed by its citizens as it prospered over many years. Beyond the U.S., citizens of the world have looked up to the liberty enjoyed in it. Many around the world have paid the ultimate price to bring to their citizens the level of liberty and sense of justice enjoyed in the U.S.

This yearning for liberty by the citizens of the world and its maintenance within the U.S. has a long historical context to it. Plato’s republic discourse had precedence to it. It didn’t start from a scratch. It was a culmination of social events that came before it. Once established, it was taken as a robust model that benefits a society’s collective progress. A commentary written and posted in 2010 on this website in the eve of the U.S. congressional elections, which is about republicanism taking back America, tried to make a detailed analysis of this premise.

Perhaps, it is this tested model and arguable fruition of it in the U.S. in recent times that gives many in the U.S. and around the world the sense of American exceptionalism. That may well be what led Mr. Mitt Romney to instinctively encapsulate it, in one of the republican presidential debates, as follows: America should lead the free world and the free world should lead the entire world.

It is fair to say that all the republican presidential candidates understand the fundamental value in freedom and intend to work towards steering the country to the desirable direction in the interest of the maintenance and projection of liberty.

At this historic juncture, this can be done at two levels. The first level is in the upcoming debates between President Obama and the 2012 Republican Candidate. The second level will be done by the 45th president of the U.S. and then after. Whether President Obama or the Republican Candidate wins, the debate will have shaped the course for the 45th presidency. For this reason alone, perhaps, the debate is more important than its outcome in terms of the next presidency.

Granted that there is a grain of truth in this premise, one of the most, if not the single most, important questions in selecting the next republican presidential candidate is about the best placed candidate to galvanize this historical debate. We can fairly argue that the outcome will be dependent on the debate. In this light, selecting the Republican Candidate will become significantly easier.

Mr. Gingrich has shown a track record of laying out specific factors that may have been steering the country to the wrong direction and providing the intellectual prowess and skill in delivery to face the challenge. In an interview about two years ago with a reporter for the Economist Magazine, he expressed that what he had been observing in the U.S. is “alien to America’s history and tradition.” Long before many, he expressed about his observation of intellectual dishonesty that seems to have crept in the mainstream of American politics and practice.

His knowledge and skill have shaped the discourse of the various presidential debates. He was quick to point out that the citizenry should take note of the media’s roles in negatively influencing the mainstream politics in America. He was also quick to advise his republican colleagues not to fall for any divisive tendencies. And he pledged not to get involved in using negative political advertisements against his republican rivals.

While these are arguably strong leadership qualities, we have also learned about his political baggage from his long-time public service and that his rivals are heavily using it to win the Iowa caucuses. While we should recognize and respect the electorate and candidates’ rights to choose and compete, we shouldn’t remain unfocused about the desired solution for the problem that is already observed. This is a historic trial of republicanism and we may be compelled to say that magnanimity is a call of the day.

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