THE END OF OUR FIRST REPUBLIC (1776-2012)!

By Jack Jodell, Apr. 2, 2012

Many here in America have a tendency to ridicule the French, whom we seem to  view as weak, indecisive, conceited, and unreliable. While it is true that we had to assist them in both World Wars, and picked up the reins of battle from them to fight the Vietnam War, we conveniently forget that, were it not for timely French assistance in our own Revolutionary War, we might well have failed in our bid to become an independent nation.  So I won’t join the French-bashing crowd, especially now that our prolonged period of political polarization and infighting is beginning to resemble periods of French political instability. I think we Americans, especially today, can learn something from French political history…

We tend to look at the French Revolution, which began in 1792, and was inspired by our own, with a mixture of curiosity and horror. On one hand, we are glad that the French people fought to establish a republic and cast off its monarchy, as we did with Britain. But on the other, we are aghast at what this revolution led to: the public execution by guillotine of not only French nobles, but thousands of innocent citizens as well in a fearsome reign of terror. This period was known in French history as the First Republic, and lasted from 1792-1804, when, after years of instability and upheaval, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control and proclaimed himself Emperor. He embarked France on a period of militarism, which led to spectacular military victories at first but eventual defeat and personal exile, as well as the restoration of the French mobarchy.

France took another shot at republicanism with the establishment of the Second Republic in 1848. Beset by continual intrigue and political turmoil, with monarchists, socialists, and even the church at each other’s throats, this experiment in democracy failed by December of 1852, when the Second French Empire was proclaimed by Napoleon III, to be run later by Emile Olivier and Charles Cousin-Montauban, respectively. Eventually, mounting changes throughout Europe, including both the rise of Prussia as the dominant continental power and the increasing attraction of the French working class to the revolutionary political and economic theories of Karl Marx caused this regime to fall as well, in 1870.

The Third Republic which resulted, managed to survive not only the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, but also World War I and the Great Depression. Its hallmark was a rather weak executive branch, and it began in turmoil, as monarchists first dominated it and then anarchists and other leftists opposed it. The Catholic church also jockeyed for political influence, with a large number of clergy and bishops supporting and arising from the consevative monachist class. French liberal republicans, buoyed by Protestant and Jewish support, passed numerous laws which weakened the church’s political influence. This created anti-Semitism as well as much suspicion of the church, and other deep rifts in French society, some of which persist to this day. At one point, all Catholic parochial schools within the country were closed down, and all church property was confiscated!  In World War I, ever-fearful of German militarism and anxious to avenge its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War a generation earlier, Georges Clemenceau led his nation into war against Germany. His insistence on harsh, punitive measures against Germany following that conflict eventually led to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany, the crushing French defeat by the Nazis in World War II, and the death of the Third Republic, with the occupation of France by Germany, in 1940.

What followed was a dark period known as Vichy France. Marshal Phillippe Petain, a World War I hero, managed to secure some autonomy for southern France after Germany had overrun the north and began an occupation there. His collaborate effort enabled him to set up a dummy government run by him (but heavily dominated by the Nazis) in the southern city of Vichy, which lasted until all of France was liberated at the end of World War II. After that disaster, Petain was tried and sentenced to death for treason, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Following the war, the French people voted  overwhelmingly  in favor of a new cpnstitution, and so the Fourth Republic came into being. The concept of this new republic was widely supported, but its actual constitution was supported by only a slight plurality of voters. Nearly one third of French voters stayed home, not even bothering to vote for it. This lack pf support, characterized by numerous short-lived successive governments,  along with French defeat in Vietnam and restless revolt in its African colonies  evebtually led to its failure in 1958. The army was threatening a revolt, and, faced with possible civil war, French Resistance hero General Charles DeGaulle stepped in to save the day.

DeGaulle came out of semi-retirtrement to help draw up a new constitution creating a strengthened presidency. It was approved by voters and so began the current Fidth Republic. He himself was then elected President late in 1958 with strong center-right support, and ruled by decree, and with popular consent, umtil he had straightened out his country. He then guided France until he resigned following widespread student protests in 1969. His successors have consisted of both center-right and center-left, including socialist, political persuasions, but the important thing is that France’s national government has remained strong and fully functioning.
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Here in the United States, we have managed to hold onto one republican form of government since 1776. Our forefathers were wise enough to see the need for future generations to be able to amend our constitution as needed from time to time to fit changing circumstances, so they provided for a means to do so, Not that we have always been fully cohesive in our political history, because we have not. We struggled early on with whether or not to have a a National Bank; through numerous panics and depressions; through debates, compromises, and finally a Civil War over the issue of slavery; through two world wars and a threat first from militant communism and later through radicalized Islam. We have survived even the assassination of four Presidents. Yet through it all, our American republic has managed to save itself by adapting itself and its constitution to the situations at hand. Unlike France, we have managed to remain one republic – the First American Republic, if you will. We have always been a nation built on a solid system of laws, and we have more often than not abided by these laws and changed them if necessary, as in the case of the Volstead Act, which brought on Prohibition in the 1920s until it was finally repealed in 1933. And we have always acknowledged the right of the opposite political party to elect candidates and pass laws, knowing that once our side returned to power we could modify those laws.  Until recently, that is…

I read in the paper this past week that our corporatist, very activist Supreme Court may very well declare the recently-passed Affordable Health Care Act unconstitutional. That would be a tragedy, but not a complete disaster. Other laws have been declared unconstitutional and we have survived with our republic intact. The article went on to say, however, that the Court may very well eradicate Medicaid, a program for the poor which has been in existence for 50 years, and drastically redefine the relationship our federal government has with our individual statr governments, weakening it in the process.

Then it dawned on me. A pattern began emerging. I remembered how first, the Republican Party became swallowed up whole by the far-right. These reactionaries, who hate the federal government to begin with, want total and absolute control of all branches of government and will rely on sinister, self-centered and very monied resources to attain their goal. They have set up shadowy groups like ALEC to dominate the passage of legislation. They will lie (primarily through their corporately-owned media like the devious Fox “News”), cheat, steal, disenfranchise – whatever it takes – to realize their aims. One sees unmistakable signs of what they’re up to everywhere. They managed to elect a body of like-minded reactionaries under the name of the Tea Party to obstruct legislation in 2010. They have managed to give the richest 1% huge tax breaks and have prevented any tax increases on them ever since, in spite of record deficits. They have already bought-off large numbers of Congressional members and have thwarted very necessary attempts to re-regulate big business. Worse than that, they have now attained a working majority on the Supreme Court. That’s where this current nonsense of corporations being people and money being free speech has found a welcome home. They will use this court to eventually do away with virtually every single piece of pro-people and regulatory legislation passed over the past 77 years. In so doing, they will radically alter our entire country in all aspects. They will, in effect, destroy our democracy and supplant it with an autocratic, neo-Fascist  corpocracy which will severely limit individual social and economic rights, to ensure the highest degree of profitability for a tiny elite few. 

We cannot allow the ultra-rich far-right to destroy our democracy in such a fashion. To this end, we must throw every conservative Republican we can out of office to prevent this dirty, sneaky coup d’etat from happening. They have proven they have little regard for voters or for the will of the people through continued attempts to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else. The time has come for we Americans to emulate France and do a major overhaul on this republic. So say goodbye to our First Republic, people. The far-right has killed it, and now it is up to us progressives, through some sort of modern-day American DeGaulle, to construct a second, much better, and more egalitarian one.

About jackjodell53

I am an American Dissident trapped in a country where poor and middle class people are constantly being exploited and lied to by a very rigid and conservative plutocratic elite. I believe in government OF, FOR, and BY the people, not one controlled as it now is by corporations and special interests.
This entry was posted in commentary, conservative Republicans, extremists, Fox "News", History, Politics, Progressives, reactionary Republicans, taxes, Tea Party, the 1%, very activist Supreme Court and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to THE END OF OUR FIRST REPUBLIC (1776-2012)!

  1. Grung_e_Gene says:

    I fear before the creation of a More Perfect Union we are going to have to live through another Era of Robber Barons (which conservatives at Conservapedia view as the greatest era of Americna History) and Domination by 1% Plutocracy. The duped and battered conservative voters who support the Republicans Guard Dogs of the Rich are not content with merely binding themselves with the chains of Bondage and Wage Slavery but, seek through all means to Control and Oppress Individuals.

    • jackjodell53 says:

      Grung e Gene,
      Thank you for stopping by and for providing that link. Unbelievable how selectively ignorant those :free market” types can be to put out such garbage. They completely ignore the FACT that this pseudo-prosperity was NOT widely shared and that it resulted completely from the exploitation of women and laborers, the practice of utilizing child labor, the complete absence of jobsite safety standards, the brutal literal starvation of the elderly and the infirm, and so on. That is why this backward-looking reactionary phase of the current GOP is so dangerous and must be eradicated.

  2. Darlene says:

    OMG, Jack. I have been frightened for my country but now you have terrified me. I think I will go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

    Your history lesson was excellent and well researched. Thanks for that, but not for scaring me. 😉

    • jackjodell53 says:

      I’m sorry, Darleme, if I scared you. As I’m sure you realize, we will not be successful in our fight for truth in our politics and media and economic justice for all if we crawl back umder the covers. Our only real choice is to dig in our heels and fight these sneaky reactionary Republicans tooth and nail! That’s why we must throw as many of them out of office as possible!

  3. Hello Jack,
    I ran across this news article piece and thought I would do a posting on the subject. By the time I finished the story, I was too depressed to even generate the energy to write the posting. I suggest all click on the link and read for yourself. It is very eye opening and explains my disillusionment of my own Republican Party. It has been truly gone off the cliff with extremism.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rights-stealthy-coup/2012/04/01/gIQAZlBjpS_story.html

    • jackjodell53 says:

      Engineer,
      You’re correct – that IS a most revealing and depressing account of how far off the sensible political table the Teapublicans have fallen. And it’s encouraging to note that Dione also portrays this as a stealthy move. If these bastard sin this fall’s election, kiss freedom and liberty as we have understood it goodbye forever. It is time for you, my friend, to find a new political party, painful to accept as they may be. And it is time for ALL of us 99%ers to unite politically to stave off this oncoming far-right coup d’etat!

  4. JollyRoger says:

    The Republic died in 2000, when a SCOTUS of political hacks appointed an unelected President. There was no precedent, and no Constitutional place, for their actions. It was a coup, pure and simple.
    This country will not survive as a contiguous entity. I do not know what form the breakaway countries will take, but I’d guess that the old Confederacy will re-form as it was in 1860. Besides that, all bets are off.
    Fascism requires a racial and religious homogeneity that the United states does not have, so this country, as a whole, is not going to turn into a Fascist state. Some of it will, however, which is why breakaway Republics are a certainty.

    • jackjodell53 says:

      Jolly Roger,
      That is true, and you raise an even more horrifying spectre of the future than I have. To prevent all of this, at least short term, we MUST unite to defeat the Teapublicans this November, and in a big way!

  5. YES Jack,
    I now truly believe that all hope to restore my 150 year family legacy belonging to the Republican Party is over. I am just too tired now and the mantle needs to be passed on the younger generation to represent the 99%. I have come to the realization that I may change my political registration.

    In reflecting on all of the political automated robo calls because Maryland has its primary voting today. Well it seems like every wing nut extreme Republican candidate was calling leaving a message polluting my answering machine. By the end of the day I was ready to take a hostage…..and it has started already this morning.

    I, like Jolly Roger, feel that we as a country tipped into hopelessness when the Supreme Court appointed an unelected President. It was at this point and time that the start of the working middleclass destruction and destroyed the nation’s economy.

    In many of the laws passed by the Republican Congress and Senate in the early 2000’s had statement clauses stating that the Courts could not review or question the legality of the laws passed, which bypassed and removed the third branch of government from performing its duties if a question of legality should arise.

    This way they avoided what we are seeing today with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Health Care Bill. When you hear Supreme Court Justices repeat the lines of the Tea Party more often heard on Blowhard Radio; we are seeing the magnitude of corruption at the highest levels in this country.

    I am ashamed that the Party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower, and one that my family has been a part of for 150 years, has degraded and leading the corruption and devastation of our country’s democracy and the working middle class.

  6. Based on our history, what happens in America is that enough people finally get a belly full of being exploited and manipulated. They start listening to agitators and reformers, and electing some of them. Then, we go through a period of reform. Over time, though, people get fat, dumb and happy. A new generation comes along that has benefited from all the reforms without having to suffer for lack of them and without having to fight to get them. This fat, dumb and happy generation assumes the safety and fairness reformers got them will always be there. So, they don’t pay attention or, worse, fall for the siren songs of selfish authoritarians. Some reforms erode, others are discarded.

    Then, one fine day, people look around and realize they’ve been lied to, manipulated and exploited. They see the country screwed up. They start listening to agitators and reformers, just as their ancestors did. They start electing reformers as their ancestors did. The cycle repeats.

    More than mimicking France’s series of coups and revolutions leading to “new” republics and empires, the reform/backsliding/more-reforms cycles seem to be Americans’ style.

    That’s my take on it, anyway. Plenty of food for thought in your comparison with France’s past, though. C’est la guerre! 😉

    • jackjodell53 says:

      S.W.,
      I think you’ve described a fairly accurate American situation. As we all know, these periods of reform come far too infrequently to be of nuch lasting good, and now reactionaries are rabidly forcing the political clock backward to an unprecedented extent.

  7. Tom Harper says:

    Interesting historical comparisons between France and the U.S.

    I was starting to feel a bit optimistic about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. But now after reading the last 3 paragraphs of your post, my optimism has been cured 🙂

    • jackjodell53 says:

      Tom,
      I guess we’ll have to wait to see how those corporatist robots decide.

      • Hello Jack,
        The more one analyzes the US Supreme Court in recent years, it is more clear than ever that we should call it the Anthony Kennedy Court, rather than the John Roberts Court!

        Kennedy, appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1988 as a compromise choice who could pass Senate muster, after the well publicized rejection of Robert Bork in 1987, has now been on the Court for 24 years, and is seen more than ever as the “swing vote” on the Court, first sharing that with former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, until her retirement in 2005, but now all by himself as the most significant vote on the Court.

        Kennedy, basically a conservative but with an open mind, has leaned to the Right two thirds of the time, and to the Left one third of the time on the average.

        It is seen by just about all Court watchers that Kennedy’s vote on the Obama Health Care legislation is crucial, as to whether it survives or goes down.

        Kennedy disappointed many on the left in being in the majority on the Bush V. Gore case of 2000, the Citizens United case of 2010, and the Strip Search case of this past Monday. But at the same time, he upheld the rights of gays to privacy in the Lawrence V. Texas case of 2003, enraging fellow Justice Antonin Scalia.

        His questioning about the Obama Health Care law last week showed the quandary he is in, and he is getting pressure from many sources to uphold the law, but the belief is that he will not give in to pressure, and might even be tempted to go with the other conservative Justices in overturning the law.

        The theory is that IF Kennedy goes with upholding the law, that Chief Justice John Roberts will join him, making it a 6-3 vote, but that if he decides to negate the law, then the vote will be a partisan 5-4 vote against the legislation.

        So to call the present Court the Kennedy Court seems very appropriate!

  8. jackjodell53 says:

    Engineer of Knowledge,
    You raise a very interesting and valid point. Thank you.

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