A republic or a democracy?

Historically at MPR, our talk shows shy away from periods where guests argue with each other. Perhaps it’s unseemly, or maybe it’s the whole Minnesota Nice thing. At times, I think it’s refreshing, but I’m from back East.

Today on Midmorning, we were in the middle of a conversation on flip-flopping (I live-blogged it here) when the question of when politicians should vote their principles, and when they should vote what their constituents want, even if it’s against their better judgment. This is a version of the “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic” argument.

That’s when guests Allan Lichtman (political historian at American University) and David Sirota (political reporter and syndicated columnist) got into a fascinating exchange.

I promised to provide audio of the bit earlier today and then forgot. But here it is (Listen). The first voice you hear is Lichtman’s.

  • brian

    To complicate things even further, it seems that many times politicians choose whether to stand on principle or go with public opinion based on public opinion.

    I think blocks of Single Issue voters make it difficult to elect people willing to go against public opinion. If you need to be perceived as po-life, and pro-gun, and anti-taxes, and anti-war, and… in order to be re-elected, how can you make a choice about whether legislation is really good for your constituents?

    Our party system also makes it difficult. If you make a principled stand against your party you risk losing everything (like the veto-overriders). I suppose the question is: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

    I agree with the final conclusion of the argument. Difficult legislation (like the Civil Rights Act) can’t get passed without some grass roots public support and some pricipled politicians. I tend to think we could use more principled politicians.