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Exposed: The Most Toxic & Corrosive GOP Meme Ever

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Once citizens believe a nation is "a republic but not a democracy" it's easier for a strongman to limit majority-rule voting so "only the right people" get to vote or have their vote counted

It's one of the most toxic and corrosive memes the GOP is pushing today, that's now being used to minimize the importance of universal, free and fair elections.

Writing at the Heritage Foundation's website in a warning about "egalitarianism," for example, Bernard Dobski also uses the famous John Birch Society mantra as the title for his article: "America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy."

It's a memorable slogan, and the GOP has been pushing it ever since the 1950s when Senator Joe McCarthy echoed it while recommending that Republicans only refer to the Democratic Party as: "the Democrat Party, with emphasis on the rat."

After all, calling America a "republic" sounds so, well, Republican. Fox "News" follows McCarthy's rat party" dictum to this day.

But recently the stakes have changed for public acceptance of this canard, which has now gone beyond mere political party branding. Hungary, for example, is now fully "a republic but not a democracy": your vote doesn't much matter in that country any more, even though they still have elections. The same is true of the republics of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, among others.

Once citizens buy into the idea that a nation is a republic but not a democracy, it's so much easier for "strongman" leadership to justify limiting democratic processes like majority-rule voting so they can rig things so "only the right people" get to vote or have their vote counted.

Expanding on the idea, Senator Rand Paul recently told The Washington Post: "The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for."

While arguably true - from 1789 to 1965 Black people weren't allowed to vote in the United States, and women didn't vote until 1920 - Alexander Hamilton would nonetheless beg to differ at least with regard to "what our country stands for."

For centuries before our Constitutional Convention, the words "democracy" and "republic" were essentially interchangable. The Founders wanted to differentiate us from the Greek "pure democracy," though, because it failed so quickly. They wanted a "representative democracy" instead of a "pure democracy" like the failed Greek experiment.

In a 1777 letter to the man who would become one of the Constitution's principle authors (he wrote the Preamble in its entirety), New Jersey's Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton wrote:

"[A] representative democracy, where the right of election is well secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really and not nominally by the people, will in my opinion be most likely to be happy, regular and durable." (Emphasis Hamilton's)

But then comes Senator Mike Lee, tweeting to support laws that make it harder for college students, racial minorities and Social Security-age citizens to vote:

"Democracy isn't the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that."

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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