OP-ED: The Republic Is Not Lost

The recent politics of the United States have changed the political system permanently. Specifically, anti-establishment protests have challenged the republic of the United States, but the republic is not lost; politicking has rescued the famed republic of the Founding Fathers.

The most recent example of this can be found in the LGBTQ-rights movement that recently tasted victory in securing for homosexual couples their long-sought right to institution of marriage. The Supreme Court’s decision has a double effect: firstly, many more couples will now have access to the legal benefits of marriage. Secondly, the institutionalizing, politicking, and taming of the LGBTQ-rights movement can now begin.

    A quick glance at the news shows the politicking of the LGBTQ-rights movement. Hillary Clinton, the presumed winner of the Democratic nomination, has recently come into the media spotlight on this issue. Humans of New York did a portrait of a young homosexual boy and his uncertainty about his future. Clinton commented on the photo, “Find the people who love and believe in you - there will be lots of them,” and received much praise for her consoling comment(1). Her gesture of empathy itself is not in question, but the notion that Clinton supports the LGBTQ-rights movement; she has flipped from being against gay-marriage to supporting it. Certainly better than the leading Republican nominees, M. Rubio gave the most passively supporting statement on the court’s decision by saying, “we live in a republic and must abide by the law.”(2) There is no outright support of gay-marriage in his statement, but Rubio implies that because the legality of the issue has been settled, now the negotiations can begin.

    By taking a political stance on the LGBTQ-rights movement, both the Democratic and Republican parties have politicked the issue. The LGBTQ-rights movement can now be settled inside the institutions of the state and can only work from within the confines of the state. Long gone are the days of the Stonewall riots, when spontaneous uprisings challenged the underlying apparatuses of control. The LGBTQ-rights movement has joined the annals of history alongside numerous others like it (Labor-rights, Universal Suffrage, Anti-war protests) because it has become politicked. Here there was the loss of a potential to change the republic.

    The issue with the politicization of movements lies in the notion of hierarchy and power. Movements, whether from rights protests to guerilla resistance, challenge the existing power-relations in their respective societies. The American Revolution fought for the ideals of Freedom and Democracy but achieved neither. The Civil War, Feminist movement, and Civil Rights easily prove that the American Revolution failed to achieve democracy. I do not belittle the revolution itself; I do believe the Kantian notion that the aspirations during revolutions map human progress(3). However, the revolution- like all- was compromised the moment the victors (our “Founding Fathers”) established the new power relations. It appears that individuals such as Cincinnatus and Garibaldi are verily mythical; the need to maintain power for the victors of revolutions surpasses the need to foment democracy.

    It might appear as if I accuse the LGBTQ-rights movement of compromising and failing- like the American Revolution. However, I do not downplay the achievement of the movement nor do I claim that the movement has failed. The movement still has many struggles ahead and more action must transpire to reach universal LGBTQ rights. Instead, I accuse the political institutions of the United States of a vicious assimilation of the movement.

    The politicking of the movement by the parties not only impedes the progress of the LGBTQ community’s quest for equal rights but also impedes the democratization of the United States. The aforementioned American Revolution structured the power relations in the United States in such a form that representatives of “the represented” are the sovereigns of the country- i.e. a republican state. Many people hold the foregone assumption that this is democracy- it is not. A democracy is rule by everyone for everyone. There can be no representative structure of power, or even power itself (except that of the majority), in a democracy. Since the end of the revolution the republican government has undergone several changes, usually in the form of constitutional amendments, but these have simply reduced the distance between the representatives and the represented (climbing up M. Weber’s scale of representation)(4). The reason that these movements of change have failed to create a democracy is due to what happened the LGBTQ-rights movement. The representatives, rather than the represented, integrate these movements into the republican structure of the state wherein the issue becomes resolved.

    The movement used to represent a threat to the state’s ability to dictate power relations and division. The state has the power to grant marriage to a couple and then recognizes the benefits it provides to said couple. However, when couples decide to live together and raise children together without getting a marriage license, the state loses a tool of division. Suddenly, marriage is not necessary or even beneficial for raising a family and simply living life- the nightmare of the state. Just as the state legalized strikes in order regulate them, gay-marriage was legalized to prevent the possibility of gay couples having families and living together without the blessing of the state. This seems trivial but the state has a very long term, paranoid, self-preserving outlook, and undertakings such the LGBTQ-rights movement are eventually integrated into the political realm rather than left unregulated, where they might spread the notion the state is not as omnipotent as it seems.

    Another analysis of the situation reveals the state’s perceived role as arbitrator of power relations. The LGBTQ-rights movement resembles other civil rights movements in the recent past of the United States: workers’ rights, abortion rights, civil rights, and so on. These movements all advocate for the right of legal acknowledgement from the state, or in other words, the movements seek legitimacy from the state within the state’s own system. However, these rights exist because there is a sovereignty distance, as per Weber(4). In a democracy, there would never be a movement to seek rights from the state because the state would by everyone for everyone; it would be impossible for divisions of power and arbitrators to exist as such. In the republican case, those representing the wider population have the ability to decide whom they represent; the representatives give rights to those that support them and vice versa. Thus, an immediate consequence of the republican state is the rights issue; whom does the state choose to represent.

    Finally, we arrive at my choice of title for this essay. I paraphrase Cicero- “the Republic is lost.”(5) The seizure of power by Caesar Augustus dramatically changed the state from a republic to a monarchy. As we reanalyze that period of time in the Roman Republic, we can note from our perspective that the dramatic tone in Cicero’s writings seems to be the anguish of the representatives of the represented, just as it is now; the representatives of the represented in the United States have the most to fear. They dread that the present day might be the same as the period of time that Cicero lived through, the difference being that their state would go from a republic to a democracy instead. Although it might appear as the end of days for the United States and its republican form of governance, the representatives should not be so dramatic. Indeed, they should find solace in the politicking of the movement, as it means that the republican form of governance has been preserved.

    The republic is not lost, it has been saved yet again by the brave politicking of the United States’ political parties. Thus, it will not be the LGBTQ movement that topples the republic, just as it was not workers’ rights, abortion rights, or civil rights. The parties have rescued the republic of the Founding Fathers, choosing to prolong the republic that keeps them in power, and ultimately, forgoing the advent of true democracy.

    It would be easy for the republic to claim victory, for the representatives to feel as triumphant as Julius Caesar and paraphrase him- all the republic is pacified(6). Yet, there will be new movements, and the old movements will reignite because the United States as a country can never be pacified unless it becomes a democracy, unless there is rule by everyone for everyone. The republic may not be lost yet but the republic is far from pacified. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps, the representatives have plenty about which to be dramatic; Caesar might cross the Rubicon soon.

 

Citations

  1. "Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you're capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you - there will be lots of them. --H."Sieczkowsk, Cavan. "Hillary Clinton Offers Absolutely Beautiful Response To Gay Kid Scared About His Future." Huffpost Gay Voices. The Huffington Post, 6 July 2015. Web. 8 July 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-gay-kid-humans-of-new-york_559a8141e4b05bbba184b61c>.

  2. Waldman, Paul. "How the Reaction to the Gay Marriage Ruling Could Hurt the GOP’s 2016 Nominee." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 30 June 2015. Web. 8 July 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/06/30/how-the-reaction-to-the-gay-marriage-ruling-could-hurt-the-gops-2016-nominee/>.

  3. Kantian thought as defined by M. Foucault in terms of revolutions and their importance. “... but of the Revolution as an event, as a sort of event whose content is unimportant, but whose existence in the past constitutes a permanent virtuality, the guarantee for future history of the non-forgetfulness and continuity of a movement towards progress.” Michel, Foucault. The Government Of Self and Others. Ed. Arnold I. Davidson. Trans. Graham Burchell. New York: Picador, 2008. 19. Print

  4. See Weber, Max. Economy and Society. Ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Bedminster, 1968. 292-7. Print.

  5. Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. "War: Simplicissimus." Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin, 2004. 3. Print.

  6. “These things being achieved, [and] all Gaul being subdued" says Caesar after his victory.   McDevitte, W. A. and W. S. Bohn. "The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar" The Internet Classics Archive. The MIT PRESS, 2009. Web. 8 July 2015. <http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/gallic.2.2.html>.