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Self-government versus Authoritarian Rule

June 13, 2022

The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, was designed like a well-designed machine divided into three moving parts with checks and balances that no autocrat could control.

The Framers of that Constitution did fear that “factions” would develop that were fertile ground for power hungry politicians to advance their private advantage, but they expected that our written Constitution would constrain the American chief executive.

The real danger, they thought, lurked in our State Assemblies or the Congress of elected Representatives and Senators whose private interests and tendencies stretched the limits of the Constitution.

In other words, the Framers did not anticipate an elected leader like Donald Trump who would engage in an insurrection such as was attempted on January 6.

That possible danger was a consequence of the Framers’ mechanistic concept of “checks and balances” that ignored that government is not a machine.

Government is a culture of self-government and its attempted cessation on January 6–to assure personal survival of the chief executive by incitement of an insurrection–was the first time that a Chief Executive attempted to replace the rule of self-government with authoritarian rule.

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