In the course of human history, men and women, moments of valor, and human experiences have existed that defy the past with the bold aspiration of moving man towards something more.
Around 509 BC, in the hills surrounding the Tiber River, a man named Lucius Junius Brutus led a revolt against the local monarchy. The result of his actions was unprecedented, leading to the creation of the Roman Republic. His actions indirectly gave life to elected officials, a voting constituency, term limits, and peaceful transitions of power. A representative democracy—the first of its kind.
Over two millennia later, the giants of our past, driven by patriotic zeal, gathered in a stuffy room in Philadelphia, proposing the fruits of Brutus’ labor. The Constitution they assembled during the summer of 1787 capitalized on the core tenant of the Roman Republic: a voting constituency responsible for electing a body of officials, limited by term, to decide upon the policies that would most benefit the state. This was no monarchy in which a singular autocratic power rested in the hands of one individual, nor was it a democracy in which the state was constantly under threat of being smothered by a reactionary populism. Rather, the promise of a Republic is a measured choice by part of the citizenry and a checked authority for its elected officials. It is the synthesis of two notions of governance in order to ensure the stability of the state in the face of overwhelming change.
Almost 230 years later, after a campaign spectacle, the 45th President of the United States was elected. He is a populist—the second to grace the Oval Office—backed by Middle America, and champion of isolationist and nationalist policy. The podium of his victory speech brandished the words “Make America Great Again.” His was the light of hope to his voting base; for Trump voters, the new president-elect was a politician who truly cared about the frustrations of those struggling in America.
Yet, nearly a hundred days into his Presidency, many of President Trump’s supporters are experiencing a new frustration, one caused primarily by the man they thought was the champion of their ideals and success. Where the President once spoke of a tougher stance on China’s supposed currency manipulation, he now has dinner with China’s President Xi Jinping at his Mar-A-Lago resort. Where the President once campaigned for the strengthening of our relationship with Russia, recent incursions into the Syrian conflict have both Trump and Putin claiming that relations are worse than ever. Where the President once ran on an “America First” policy of splendid isolation, the use of arms in Syria and Afghanistan, coupled with the attempted strong-arming of North Korea over a missile test, contradict his promises. Where the President once argued to repeal and replace his predecessor's Affordable Care Act, the debacle that was his own American Health Care Act has seemingly scared his administration away from healthcare policy. The list of the President’s policy flips goes on.
It is easy to understand why those who voted for Donald Trump might be frustrated. To have a candidate embody your beliefs until Inauguration Day can be both frustrating and disenchanting. Yet, while many of them might cry out in anger that it is Donald Trump’s duty to represent the views of his constituency, I simply cannot agree. The Republic is grounded in the citizenry’s ability to elect those that have shown both character and the ability to govern. While policy ought to be the deciding factor in the choice between qualified candidates, there is a clear reason career politicians are often elected to the highest office in the land: they have shown true dedication to matters of policy, dedication that often consolidates itself as a personal belief.
Obviously, there are career politicians who do not serve selflessly as they ought to in a perfect Republic. Therefore, it is the duty of the voting public to elect those officials who govern with an ideological fervor that matches the beliefs of the people. I am not bashing those who are not career politicians; everyone has to start at some point. Rather, I am taking the opportunity presented by the pragmatism of Donald Trump to reintroduce the promise made by a Republic to its people. Simply, while it is the responsibility of the electorate to appoint officials of the highest caliber, it is the responsibility of such officials to govern as fits their character and beliefs. If such governance does not meet the high standards of the public, then it is a constitutional right to replace that official at the end of their term. And if four years seems like a long time to some people, local elections happen frequently, Congressional midterms are approaching, and the voice of public can sway the direction of government.
Often, politics in the modern era dissuades many from the notion of government, as the image of the greedy, pragmatic politician lingers in the recesses of our minds. Yet in times of struggle, recalling the promise of a Republic reminds us of who we ought to be, and why we ought to hope.