Opinion | Paul Olson: Who would George Washington vote for?

Actual Final Jeopardy answer: From the Greek for “alone,” it was nixed by Parliament in 1649 after being deemed “unnecessary, burdensome, & dangerous.” 

Correct “Jeopardy!” question: What is monarchy?

In spite of being deemed a dangerous hinderance to good government, Parliament restored the monarchy in 1660 by putting Charles II on the throne.

The founders of our nation had nothing good to say about monarch King George III in the Declaration of Independence. When they drafted our Constitution in 1789 they wisely chose to have a president with limited duties and an elected House of Representatives as the sole originator of all laws regarding taxation. The president was to be chosen by electors from each state (the Electoral College) and not by popular vote in an effort to keep demagogues out of that office. Somehow this careful plan evolved into the current presidential races where candidates prey on the voters’ prejudices and fears.

It is troubling that many Americans seem to think that the president runs the country and the other two branches of government are minor factors. Congress has played along with this sentiment by allowing presidents wide latitude in engaging in wars and governing through executive actions. Our government has become embarrassingly inconsistent with President Biden undoing the executive orders of Trump who was undoing the executive orders of Obama who was undoing … et cetera. Perhaps the blame lies with the voters who fail to elect more reasonable candidates to Congress who will work together for the good of the nation.

Considering the intent of the our nation’s founders to have a fairly weak President, who was to be more statesman than politician, it is surprising how enamored Americans are with having an authoritarian president. A 2017 survey by the Democracy Fund of 5,000 adults found almost a quarter of Americans would prefer a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections. Surveys consistently indicate a deep distrust of elected officials, so why would so many citizens want to place all their faith in a single authoritarian leader instead of a democratically elected legislature where some honest debate might take place.

America was founded as a republic where we elect representatives to give voice to the people.

An important reason America has been such a successful nation is the contributions of people from diverse backgrounds who offer a variety of viewpoints. It is the same in Summit County where we all benefit from healthy debate among members of town councils, nonprofit boards and gatherings over coffee. Yes, having one person make all the decisions is much simpler and saves time, but it leads to poorer decision making and has great potential for corruption.

Conservatives rightly decry socialism and big government but then show an alarming affection for undemocratic authoritarian leaders. Donald Trump and many other politicians and pundits have heaped praise on authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Authoritarian governments are great for those who enjoy the favor of the leader but someone will always be out of favor. There is certainly nothing to admire about dictators like Putin who care nothing for the constitutional rights and free elections we enjoy as Americans. Has there ever been a good dictator?

Authoritarians do not let liberty get in their way. The precious right to vote is being undermined in America. The Trump-appointed officials in the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history.” The election officials in every state and U.S. Attorney General William Barr affirmed the correctness of the vote. Still, right from the playbook of authoritarians, there are continued un-American efforts by many to cast doubt on the 2020 election. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that 60% of Americans will have an election denier on the ballot this November. Candidates who put party loyalty above our Constitution do not deserve your vote.

It is easy to become frustrated with democracy, but as it has been said, democracy is better than all the alternatives. We have an election soon. Remember to vote. Favor open-minded candidates who do not have extreme views. We need representatives in Colorado and Congress who stand up for more individual liberty and not taking away our rights. Candidates who toss out irresponsible claims about election integrity and want to restrict voting rights should be avoided. Let your votes in each election be a defense of the Constitution and our republic. There is an apt legend about someone asking Benjamin Franklin about the outcome of the debate at the Constitutional Convention.

“Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” they inquired. To which Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.