Over the weekend, the state’s Republicans organized in Pasco and elected 41 delegates to the national Republican Party convention, 40 of which were awarded to Sen. Ted Cruz. 

One thing that always confused me growing up is why we have a Republican Party and a Democratic Party when we live in a representative democratic republic (not a Democratic Republic, since those tend to be rather authoritarian), and neither Republicans nor Democrats are fundamentally opposed to democracy or republicanism, as such.

Despite its modern Southern and Western voter base, the Republican Party was founded in the Northeast by anti-slavery activists and modernizers in 1854. They took “Republican” as their name in homage to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s early-19th century Democratic–Republican Party.

Jefferson and Madison would have chosen “Republican” to represent their values of the fledgling republic, which, at the time, would have carried connotations of not being a monarchy on top of the organizational principles of republicanism.

“Republican” predates the American Revolution by roughly a century, first appearing in 1690, after being drawn from the French term républicain, meaning the same thing, and related to république, “republic.”

The French certainly are the experts in republics, after all, they’ve founded five of them since the French Revolution, interspersed with two empires and a constitutional monarchy (just for fun). 

Unsurprisingly, répubilque comes from Latin rēspūblica formed from rēs ‎(“thing”) and pūblica ‎(“of the public”). What is now known as the Roman Republic was known at the time as Res publica Romana, and was founded in 509 B.C., following the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom.

Even then, republicanism was identified as an ideology where the people held sovereignty, rather than a king or queen. This idea would last nearly 500 years, until it went by the wayside with the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.

While Julius Caesar was appointed dictator-for-life in 44 BCE (and a short life that was; he was assassinated one month later), the founding of the Roman Empire is usually dated to 27 BCE, when the Senate granted extraordinary powers to Chancellor Palpatine Octavian (later known as Augustus).

Classical republicanism was revived during the Renaissance by Niccolò Machiavelli, himself an official of the Florentine Republic which was a state centered on the modern city of Florence.

Over the next centuries, “republicanism” mutated until John Adams’ 1787 definition of it as “a government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.” 

Now, capital-R Republicanism is associated with the free market, deregulation, strong defense systems, conservative social policies, and “traditional” or “family values,” in general meaning Judeo-Christian ethics.

But “republicanism” as anti-monarchical sentiment isn’t entirely dead. In Australia, a country more than 9,000 miles from London, some have been pushing for their country to become a republic following the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Why not now? Well, in 2010, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard thought Australians simply like Queen Elizabeth too much to leave just yet. 


Reach columnist Trevor McAllister-Day at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @TrevorMcDay

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