Democracy in Doubt?

The odyssey of the Florida presidential election, most agree, evolved into a protracted mess. "Just get it over with" was the sentiment expressed by many in polls. But could we validly "just get it over with," or would there be serious fallout from this latest case of government branch pitted against government branch and the rise of election by lawsuit? Has election-related litigation and judicial decree compounded an already serious imbalance of powers? Do we the people know what our government system is about in the first place?

To many constitutional law scholars, the recent situation portends weighty consequences. They see a ripple affect from such scenarios that could potentially do lasting damage to our democratic experiment--particularly due to judicial activism. Most astonishing is that those sounding warning bells represent a tiny number so far, judging from even conservative media sources. Could it be that the potential indications and ramifications of the political/legal imbroglio were largely lost on the American public, press and government leaders? Has Postmodern relativism and day-to-day truth-construction made its most public appearance yet? Are we in a true constitutional crisis?

Calvin Beisner, associate professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics at Knox Theological Seminary (whose letter to Vice President Gore serves as the centerpiece of this Special Focus), wonders at the widespread ignorance of even high officials regarding our basic form of government and its underlying principles. On the news, one U.S. Senator invoked "the rule of law"--a sacred doctrine at the center of the American system of government--and in the same breath reports that the courts have ruled on such and such decision, apparently tying the two together as one. "People equate judgements from the bench, bills from legislators and executive orders as 'the rule of law'," Beisner laments. This Special Focus is a small attempt to help lift some of the still-prevailing fog on issues deeper than "pregnant chads."

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

Letter to Presidential Candidate and Sitting Vice President Gore: Plea for Concession
E. Calvin Beisner
Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics at Knox Theological Seminary in Florida, Beisner appeals to Al Gore to cease his chase for the Presidency and concede the election. He asserts that the rule of law and the constitution government we enjoy is at risk. Another deep concern is the serious quandary he and millions of others will be in if, by some means, Gore wins: to obey the Constitution as the highest government authority in the land, not the President or any other officer.

Out-Clintoning Clinton
Gene Edward Veith
Al Gore takes postmodernism to its logical conclusion and leads liberal politics to an all-time low. ...However the election goes, Americans should be asking whether political institutions that originated in a worldview resting on transcendent absolutes can survive if the culture no longer believes in any of them.

The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics
A Compilation of Articles from First Things Journal
A compilation of the articles that ignited the controversy over the power of the Supreme Court.

Letters to the Editor
First Things Journal
In the November 1996 issue First Things published "The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics" (see link above). The symposium has produced a very lively debate with sharp disagreements and strong affirmations, reflected by the correspondence back to First Things found here.

To Reclaim Our Democratic Heritage
First Things, January 1997
The editors of First Things provide this rebuttal to those who believe "The End of Democracy?" went too far.

The Future of the End of Democracy
J. Budziszewski
Budziszewski enters the fray over First Thing's 1996 symposium "The End of Democracy?" He summarizes critics' positions and submits his own thoughts on whether our American polity is broken.

The Constitution in the Cave
Steven D. Smith
With the phrase, "The will of the people" being invoked to the point of rendering it sacrosanct, this article seems fitting for our discussion of potential fallout from the 2000 election. Smith debates the question of whether present-day constitutional interpretation reflects the beliefs of the American people or of a dogmatic elite.

The Constitution of Babel
Steven D. Smith
Deeply discusses the schizophrenia of the modern discourse of constitutionalism and the place of reason in our system--a place seemingly vacated given some recent events in the 2000 Presidential election.

Related Articles:

Civil Disobedience
Kerby Anderson
Discusses biblical arguments for civil disobedience and presents the position of Operation Rescue and its opponents.

Thoughts on Obedience and Disobedience
First Things, November 1996
Excerpts from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Lloyd Garrison.

Faith & Freedom: The Philadelphia Miracle (Chapter 21)
Benjamin Hart
What would transpire in Philadelphia between the spring and fall of 1787 was the construction of the most successful frame of government ever devised in the history of man in terms of ensuring the liberty of the people and perpetuating their prosperity. Contains a brief note on the electoral college.

The Number of Electors Necessary for the Election of a President
Legal Memorandum of The Heritage Foundation
The ongoing debate concerning the presidential election has raised many important legal and constitutional questions, including several relating to Congress's constitutional duties under the original language of Article II and the Twelfth Amendment. In response to numerous requests, we [The Heritage Foundation] have provided our initial legal view on how many electoral votes it takes to become President of the United States.

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