The Republic Must Come First: America’s Biggest Political Issue

“Give me liberty or give me death!” 

Every American should have heard these famous words espoused by Patrick Henry during the American Revolution. Words that have echoed across generations in order for citizens to internalize their spirit as essential to the American experiment. The lesson being that the American republic is a bastion of all liberty, both potential and actualized, and that nothing, not even death, is worth compromising its integrity for. In short: the republic must always come first. Yet, with the American republic currently in great peril, the midterm elections have become mostly about the economy- with abortion rights, climate change, and guns trailing behind. I am here to tell you that none of these issues should be your top priority, and that it is a very bad sign that they have come to dominate this election cycle. 

Aristotle famously noted that political science is the master science. Why? Because politics are what allow all the other sciences to happen. This doesn’t just mean science like we talk about it now, say climate science, though it obviously includes this as well. It means any inquiry into or progress towards anything is only as good as the state in which it is done allows or facilitates. So, what does this mean for the inquiry into or progress of abortion rights, gun control, climate change, and racial justice? It means that without a functioning republic, no justice issue that Democrats care about will ever happen. And, it is this broad, yet simple, narrow minded misunderstanding of politics among politically active Americans that stands to be our republic’s undoing. I say this because it has become crystal clear that an alarming number of Americans, including Democrats, do not care or do not care enough about the state of the republic. 

Indeed, as I am about to show you, most Americans seem to fall into one of three camps vis-a-vis the republic’s profound existential threat: those who care about other things more, those who proactively do not care, and those who are passively indifferent.

 Let’s start with the group of Americans who proactively care about an issue more than they do the republic. According to a Morning Consult poll, 4 out of 5 Americans say that the economy is their top issue. And, though founded in no objective or historical basis whatsoever, the plurality of voters, according to an NPR/Marist poll, believe Republicans do a better job on the economy, inflation, and gas prices. Aside from calling into question the nonsensical reasoning for why Americans continue to believe Republicans are better at this despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, stats like these make conspicuously clear that the divine principle of America is the dollar rather than the republic. Indeed, “Give me liberty or give me lower gas prices” is a far cry from “give me liberty or give me death.” And lest you assume that these data show that poor Americans are grasping for whatever economic relief they can find, know that, according to that same poll, wealthier Americans are more likely to list the economy as their top issue compared to those making under 50,000 dollars a year. 

But, for the sake of argument, let us set aside for a moment the fact that there’s no rational basis for the belief that electing Republicans in the midterms will help the economy. Doing so allows us to see more clearly that many Americans care more about the economy than the republic. And, before you say that this is a false choice (the economy or the republic), let me assure you that it is demonstrably not. As FiveThirtyEight points out, 60% of Americans will have an election denier on their ballot for this election. This comes as no surprise when taken in the context that the majority of Republican candidates this cycle are election deniers. If you can’t see how and why voting for election denying Republicans, who have already begun conspiring to rig the 2024 election, is a threat to the republic, you never will. 

Now, some may propose that I am missing the point because those who are voting for Republicans for the economy do not think the republic is at risk, and thus, are not making this choice. I will concede that this is true for many voters. However, a vast majority of Americans believe democracy is at risk. Indeed, as the New York Times points out, 71% of Americans say just that. But, and this is the significant part, only 7% say it is the most important problem. Now, even accounting for the fact that a ~30% of that 71% believes the lie that democracy is under threat due to the 2020 election being stolen, coupling this information from the New York Times with the polls mentioned above, makes conspicuously clear that there are a significant amount of people choosing an issue, most likely the economy, over the republic.

Now, The New York Times stat that 71% of Americans believe democracy is at risk, but only 7% say it is the main issue also pertains to Democrats. If you’ve been forced to sit through campaign commercials, you can see clearly that Democrats’ ads are mostly about abortion rights, gun control, and climate change. This makes sense, as according to a Morning Consult poll, those are three of Democratic voters’ most important issues. I would contest, though, despite Democrats’ priorities being rooted in more sensical reasoning than Republicans, they are similarly narrow minded. This is not to say that abortion rights, climate change, guns regulation, etc don’t matter. They are incredibly important. But, to say that they are what’s most at risk on the ballot is shortsighted.

Now, let’s move on to groups two and three: those who proactively don’t care and those that are passively indifferent about the state of the republic. I lump these two groups together because though it is hard to ascribe their personal feelings toward the issue, one behavior unites them: not voting. 

Now, it appears that this midterm election is set to have an historic turn out, with 67% of Americans saying they will “definitely vote” according to a Morning Consult poll. As exciting as this may seem, that still leaves a significant 1 out of 3 eligible voters who don’t care enough to be sure they will even vote. It is hard to come to any other conclusion than America is severely lacking in a sense of civic republicanism if 1 in 3 voters, despite the turmoil of the last 6 years, remain so apathetic. These likely non-voters are not the entirety of the issue, though, as most of them are life-long non-voters. On the other hand, even registered Democrats seem lacking a sense of the urgency of the moment, as, according to an NBC poll, they are on the wrong side of a 9 point enthusiasm gap with Republicans. This means that there are plenty of registered Democrats who voted in the past election that do not deem this election worth voting in. Why is this? Given the polling cited above, it is safe to assume that the Democratic handling of the economy, abortion rights, gun control, and/or climate change is not good enough for these people to be motivated to vote. Accordingly, reason dictates that the group of non-voters either deem the economy (or some other issue) more important than the republic, or, apathetic to the state of the republic as a whole.

So, with so little time before the election, what is to be done? I believe it to be imperative for Democrats and lovers of liberty all across the country to rouse the slumbering spirit of republicanism from themselves and their neighbors. Place no faith in the hands of Democratic politicians and strategists to play savior. Instead, take the initiative yourself. If you believe, like I do, that there are still enough Americans who value the virtues of a republic and wish to be free, then let no one remain ignorant of the fact that this may be the last free election in American history. Spread loudly the message that the republic must come first. 

Published by Noah McMillan

Lover of philosophy, antiquity, and political theory.

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