Robert Bennett: Living in a representative democracy

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  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Feb. 12, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    The code of American politicians (Federal and State) is: me first, party second nation third.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Feb. 11, 2014 10:54 p.m.


    Because he was elected by the people of Utah and could only return to office with their consent, Senator Bennett was indeed answerable to them.

    Reference the definitions of a Republic. There are, of course, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China. Neither of which fit your definition in practice. The key is what is really done vs. just the words.

    The definition of Democracy provided is not on point. The Senator was talking about Representative not Direct or Pure Democracy.

    A few other points on the definitions: We, as citizens of a Republic certainly have duties and obligations to our government. And, in a Republic we can certainly not simply act on our own to solve a problem. If I disagree with what a foreign country (or even a state within the union) is doing I have no ability to act independently. The constitution outlines when and which of our representatives act. Individuals cannot usurp the power granted by the people to the government.

  • G-Day-M8 WVC, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 9:52 p.m.

    In a Democracy, the sovereignty is in the whole body of the free citizens. The sovereignty is not divided to smaller units such as individual citizens. To solve a problem, only the whole body politic is authorized to act. Also, being citizens, individuals have duties and obligations to the government. The government's only obligations to the citizens are those legislatively pre-defined for it by the whole body politic.

    In a Republic, the sovereignty resides in the people themselves, whether one or many. In a Republic, one may act on his own or through his representatives as he chooses to solve a problem. Further, the people have no obligation to the government; instead, the government being hired by the people, is obliged to its owner, the people.

  • G-Day-M8 WVC, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 9:51 p.m.

    Republican government. One in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated. In re Duncan, 139 U.S. 449, 11 S.Ct. 573, 35 L.Ed. 219; Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162, 22 L.Ed. 627. [Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, p. 626]

    Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy. Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, pp. 388-389.

  • G-Day-M8 WVC, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 9:48 p.m.

    Two statements Mr Bennett made glare at me and are two reasons why we have fallen so far from the intent of the founders and the constitution.

    1- Mr. Bennett said he was answerable to the people of the state of Utah. NO, he is NOT answerable to the citizens of the state of Utah. He is answerable to the State legislature and the Governor of the State of Utah. The 17th amendment changed the way senators were elected but the language did not change the fact that he represented the State and not the people. The people have always been represented by the House of Representatives.

    2- Mr. Bennett said that we are representative Democracy. NO, we are NOT a representative Democracy but rather a Constitutional Republic, a big difference.Government;

  • Chilidog Somewhere, IL
    Feb. 11, 2014 7:55 p.m.

    And here I was, thinking all along that I lived in a Constitutional Republic.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    “That shows that you live in a representative democracy, which we do not.”

    But I thought we lived in a republic. Just ask the conservatives.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 10:49 a.m.

    In all the discussion regarding parties and goals, it appears to me that the two major parties are not opposites but more closely allied in the quest for control of the people. Conservatives seem to feel the Republican party is conservative, which IMO is a error in judgement. Republicans are not by nature conservative, the party is a conglomerate of a significant conservative oriented base and power brokers on top with little or no small government leanings.

    Both Democrats and Republicans seek political, economic and social control of the electorate and thereby the citizenry. They just differ in their methods and motives.

    It appears to me that people like former senator Bennett are drawn to politics in a quest for power, to do "something" that they deem needs to be done. They see the power to tax other people as a way to finance and force their agenda.

    Once in the system, i.e. former senator Bennett, they become addicted to the perks and power and do not want to relinquish it to another. Specifically, I heard him promise two terms, and after his third I thought it was time for him to leave and do not regret his retirement.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 11, 2014 9:26 a.m.

    @Mike Richards – “Obama, our "Constitutional Scholar", may be knowledgeable about constitutions, but he knows nothing about OUR Constitution.”

    Yes, I’m sure the University of Chicago (hardly a bastion of liberals) has no idea how to make sure its professors actually understand what they are hired to teach.

    Mike, I disagree with almost everything you post, but I often think you make well-reasoned (albeit myopic) points that deserve respect. But these sorts of comments do nothing other than damage your credibility.

    And as someone who values the marketplace of ideas and believes we should be engaging the strongest arguments our opponents can muster, I think you can (and hope you will) do better than this.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Feb. 11, 2014 3:54 a.m.


    Agreed that representative democracy is not a perfect description, but it is useful shorthand in this case for how our system operates.

    There are many federal and constitutional republics. Some theoretically similar to our own but hardly so in practice.

    Terminology will simply always be somewhat imprecise.

  • trekker Salt Lake, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:11 p.m.

    We live in a Federal Constitutional Republic not a representative democracy.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 4:21 p.m.

    What part of representing the people of Utah applies when a politicians adds a little clause to the Farm Bill indemnifying a religious order and their illegal alien missionary program?
    When one works closely with a lobbyist to craft the wording of legislation, is the Senator representing the people?
    There are far too many examples of our elected leaders acting in behalf of special interests for me to take Mr. Bennett's words seriously.
    And that is why congressional approval ratings are in the single digits.
    But his essay sounds good in the abstract.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    Feb. 10, 2014 4:08 p.m.

    Bob Bennett says "campaigns have become perpetual. There are no “off years” anymore, those times between elections when legislators used to speak to each other in order to solve problems rather than to exchange insults."

    I couldn't agree more.

    There's one solution to this: Term limits. I think you should be limited to a single term, period. No more campaigning while you're in office because there's no need to. Once your term is done, you're done.

    This is also more in alignment with the intentions of our founding fathers. They never intended lawmaking to become a career. The idea at the time was to work on your farm, get elected to an office by others in your community, serve your term, and then go back to working on your farm. This whole idea of legislator being a lifelong career path does not work in a Representative Democracy, and we can see that very clearly today.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Feb. 10, 2014 1:04 p.m.

    Mr. Bennett, there's a difference between "subvert" and "subordinate." JD Williams would've spotted that.

  • JoeCapitalist2 Orem, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 12:37 p.m.


    I never said that Dems were the ONLY supporters of big government solutions. The GOP has failed a number of times to keep the size and scope of government from expanding. The Medicare part D and No Child Left Behind examples you cited are prime examples of this. Power definitely corrupts both sides of the aisle.

    But all those "highly educated" Democratic party supporters seem to be the ones most anxious (next to welfare recipients of course) to have government solve all our problems.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 10, 2014 11:02 a.m.

    "Harry Reid submitted a bill in Congress immediately after being elected that would have allowed on-line gambling. It's easy to see who paid for his election. John Boehner is little better. "

    Is it any big surprise that Reid pushed for gambling? He is from Nevada and is financed in part by gambling. And Boehner is "little better"?

    Remember when he was passing out Tobacco checks to members on Congress on the house floor. And it wasn't even illegal?

    I post virtually daily that the big money is corrupting our system. However, you, Mr Richards seem to support it. Do you think that only money given to the Democrats corrupts?

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 10, 2014 10:58 a.m.

    "But they will vote for a party that insists that big government is the answer to every major problem even though government has proven itself incapable in so many instances (e.g. Obamacare being just the latest instance)."

    JoeCap. You either have a very sort memory, or a very selective one.

    Did you forget the "big government" programs put forth just a few short years ago when the GOP controlled the house, senate AND the presidency?

    I am not defending the Dems, but surely you can look up Medicare Part D. And No Child left behind. The GOP sponsored these bills. The current GOP leadership all voted for these bills.

    The only time in recent memory or history that the GOP has been fiscally conservative is when they did not control the legislature.

    Do you think the GOP was conservative under Reagan? Or G HW Bush?

    You talk about the need for an educated electorate and they you push the concept that only the Dems "insists that big government is the answer to every major problem"

    It is completely unsupported by the facts.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 10, 2014 10:41 a.m.

    Did "educated voters" elect Barrack Obama? Did "educated voters" read the monstrosity that is ObamaCare? Do they understand it? Obama doesn't understand it. Pelosi doesn't understand it. Did "educated voters" accept Obama's lame excuse about Benghazi or Clinton's famous, "What does it matter?" statement? Did "educated voters" lose the ability to read when they compared the requirement to have a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause before private emails and phone calls could be spied on by the NSA?

    Obama, our "Constitutional Scholar", may be knowledgeable about constitutions, but he knows nothing about OUR Constitution.

    "Educated voters" may claim to have received an education, but they don't exhibit any ability to use ordinary objective comparison when presented with what Obama said compared to what Obama did.

    The national leaders of both parties are a joke. Harry Reid submitted a bill in Congress immediately after being elected that would have allowed on-line gambling. It's easy to see who paid for his election. John Boehner is little better.

    Until the people demand proper representation, the "educated" will continue to tell us that people like Obama will save us from ourselves.

  • JoeCapitalist2 Orem, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    Roland: "Educated people will not vote for a party that of anti-science, anti-gay, creationist, global-warming deniers."

    But they will vote for a party that insists that big government is the answer to every major problem even though government has proven itself incapable in so many instances (e.g. Obamacare being just the latest instance).

    I'll refrain from escalating the propaganda war by listing several derogatory terms for the Democratic party as you just did for the GOP.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    "(often propoganda) will often get a person elected even if they have no experience (e.g. Obama)."

    Never understood why Lawyer, "Constitutional Law Professor" or Author does not count as a job or "experience" but, ok.

    So, you will be adamantly opposed to Paul Ryan if he runs for president, based on your "criteria"
    He has about as little actual "experience" as you can get.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:46 a.m.

    @JoeCapitalist2 – “The reason that money is the driving force behind elections is because we have a largely uneducated (politically) electorate that is easily swayed by propoganda.”

    An accurate observation Joe…

    And the best evidence for your view is the type of politicians who have been elevated to the national scene lately – Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and whole host of other “cognitively challenged” wannabe leaders.

    At least in Obama’s case, inexperienced as he was, we got a politician who taught constitutional law at one of the finest law schools in the country, so when asked what newspapers he reads probably isn’t fumbling for an answer.

    I’m also reminded of your truism every time I tune into AM talk radio or much of what passes for news on Fox. It is mind boggling how often the tactics of emotional manipulation (esp. fear) are used in place of logic, reason, and even handed rational discussion.

    But I agree with you that education is key to solving this problem…

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:42 a.m.


    The fact is that we no longer live in a world where a confederation of states could exist.

    The states only exist because we were able to create a strong national government capable of governing all of the people of the United States of America. Don't let the name fool you, we are one nation, indivisible, with equal justice for all. Or at least we strive to be, and have make much progress toward that which we aspire to, as shown by our success.

    Ordinary people and their needs in Texas, California, and even New Mexico are really no different than the people in all the other states. The only things that are different are Weather, Natural resources, and business kingdoms. But for those business kingdoms we would not need separate states.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:34 a.m.

    To JoeCapitalist 2: The votes of people with graduate degrees skew Democratic by a fairly large margin negating your thesis that more education would bring about more Republicans. It was not always so, people with graduate degrees used to be solidly Republican. But since 1988 there has been a radical change. Educated people will not vote for a party that of anti-science, anti-gay, creationist, global-warming deniers.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:04 a.m.

    The problem we have in listening to politicians is in the definition of words.

    As a politician, when Mr. Bennett refers to citizens or people he is probably talking about business people. It's a natural thing, brought about by the fact that business people are more concerned about government than non-business people. It is very likely that 99% of a politician's contact with people is with business people.

    However it is great to hear the politicians talk about people. Perhaps someday their actions will match their words.

  • JoeCapitalist2 Orem, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    The reason that money is the driving force behind elections is because we have a largely uneducated (politically) electorate that is easily swayed by propoganda. "Name recognition" instead of honest assessment of political views is often what gets too many elected. Flooding the airwaves with tons of expensive advertising (often propoganda) will often get a person elected even if they have no experience (e.g. Obama).

    In today's era of easy internet access, there is no excuse for a voter to not know who and what they are voting for, yet too many will just vote for the guy who looks good, promises them free lunches, or tries to scare them from voting for the other guy.

    Both parties do this, but if everyone who voted had to take a test on the issues and the candidate's stances (and pass it) before their vote counted, we would have a lot less Democrats in office. Since Democrats oppose any attempt to get rid of voter fraud by having to show eligibility to vote, there is absolutely no chance they would support any measure to insure that a voter was educated about what they were voting for.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:41 a.m.

    Yes, in politics money talks. It is sad that we have political parties. Otherwise, each candidate would have to be bought individually. Political parties allow "group rates."

  • DonO Draper, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:06 a.m.

    I continue to mourn Utah giving up Bob Bennett for Mike Lee. What a colossal blunder!

  • T. Party Pleasant Grove, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:05 a.m.

    @Bailout Bob: "As a Senator from Utah, I was answerable to the citizens of Utah, not the party."

    And not to the big banks, whom you were happy to bail out with taxpayer money.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:59 a.m.

    I agree with Bob Bennett on Representative Democracy. Read Article 1, Section 2 to see how Representatives are chosen. Infer from that who those Representatives "represent". Read Amendment 17 to see how Senators are elected. They represent the State even though they are directly elected by the people of a State. Now read Article 2 to see how the President is elected. He represents the States, not the people of the States. The highest executive that directly represents the people is the governor of the State in which we live.

    National politics are a figment of government, Nothing is said about belonging to a party in the Constitution. Being a member of a party is not a requirement.

    The "fly in the ointment" is that Bob Bennett wants the State Republican Party to select all candidates that will appear on the primary ballot. From one side of his mouth, he tells us that the people should choose their leaders. From the other side of his mouth, he tells us that the people are incapable of choosing the right people and that the Party should choose for the people.

  • Jamescmeyer Midwest City, USA, OK
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:34 a.m.

    “That shows that you live in a representative democracy, which we do not.”

    Yes! That's the point! Frequently when I speak with people, particularly younger people (Not that I'm at all old by political standards), they talk about large, sweeping, nation-oriented goals, ideas, and opinions. They assume, even if just subconciously, that the president of the United States is almost a kind of disctator or lone supreme executive, and that everything people vote or consider is nation-oriented, like most other nations.

    But the United States doesn't work like that; hence the country's name. We have a central governing body for international representation and defense of our national assets and sovereignty, but we're a collection of individual states that are almost seperate countries in their own right. That's why we don't (or can't, without gross twisting of law) answer issues with "the federal government should/shouldn't do ", like most countries do. It's what has helped the US preserve individual freedom: California can't tell Utah what to do, and Texas doesn't suffer terribly if New Mexico enacts a flawed policy.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 10, 2014 6:32 a.m.

    "As a Senator from Utah, I was answerable to the citizens of Utah, not the party. "

    And that may be why you are not currently a congressman.

    While you may have the freedom to vote any way you want, our system allows money from virtually any source to come in against you.

    Our campaign finance, PAC and lobby laws are some of the least stringent in the world.

    And the results are obvious. Big Business and Union money can sway elections. And they DO.

    No Bob, you are not required to vote with the party, or with business, but those with the money will band together to finance your opposition.

    It may not always happen, but the majority of the time, MONEY is what wins elections.

    And that money is not free. Those who give it, want something in return. And they usually get it.

    Until we get the big money out, our elections and our politicians will be bought and paid for.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Feb. 10, 2014 4:37 a.m.

    Too seldom do congressmen and senators defy their party. Ideological purity has become the watchword. All or nothing the motto. Of late, our country has been getting more of the "nothing" than the "all".