Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Election day: the choice between two different ideas of republicanism

When the founding fathers met in a hot, Philadelphia statehouse during the summer of 1787, they created a document that has outlasted its writers, its first interpreters and its original population. And the Constitution’s relevance to each individual American only continues.

The cornerstone of our country and our Constitution is the idea of “republicanism” – the belief that each citizen is not only responsible for themselves, but has a choice of responsibility when it comes to society as a whole.

Today, we are choosing between two different interpretations of republicanism. One is that of our president’s, a belief that as an American, we serve not only ourselves, but also our fellow countryman. The other is that of a governor from Massachusetts, whose words speak to the duties of the government, rather than that of an individual.

This is not an argument of right verses wrong, though many seem to think so. This is an argument of interpretations, and which one is better for our country. Both the Constitution and the role of the president have existed for over 200 years; both have been subject to strikingly different interpretations throughout their existence.

This election has been claimed as one of the most important elections ever. I believe it is.

Today is reminiscent of the election of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. It was bitterly contested, known for impressive mudslinging and extensive media coverage.

The 1800 candidates attempted to define the lofty thought of republicanism. The incumbent, John Adams, believed in a strong federal government and popular sovereignty. Thomas Jefferson ascribed to the agrarian way of life, and held that minimal government reliance was true republicanism, dolling our responsibility instead, to the states.

It is Nov. 6, 2012, and we have two candidates, again with their own interpretation of republicanism. Our incumbent Barack Obama believes in a strong federal government as the source of protection to American citizens, social freedoms through protective legislation and the reliance on fellow citizens to maintain equality in society. Mitt Romney supports strong states rights, the rights of corporations and the power of the individual.

Both elections provide distinctly different visions of the government’s role in the United States. Sure, in 1800, the United States was much smaller, federal responsibilities were far fewer, social media didn’t infiltrate society and only white, land-owning males could vote – but the differences between the 1800 candidates were as stark as the differences between the 2012 candidates.

And, just as history gives us a chance to analyze the flaws of the past, our extensive media coverage, both professional and in the form of social media, allows us to distinguish current flaws of both the two candidates and our political society.

As the epitome of an undecided voter, I am disappointed in the crushed potential of a viable third party. I am embarrassed by political advertisements, and I am disgusted by the behavior of both friends and strangers when expressing political beliefs.

But the strongest aspect of our Constitution is the guidelines it provides us in the day after Election Day.

The election of 1800 was the first time a shift of political party was made, from the Federalists to the Democratic Republicans. It provided an example to the world of how a true republic functions. Change in power was made without a coup, an assassination, a civil war.

Tomorrow, the ads will go away, the emails will stop and the news will return to current events. And ultimately, someone will win, and someone will lose – but true citizens of the United States will respect the outcome.

The ultimate act of republicanism is to express your opinion, choose your leader and the role of government. As a citizen of the United States of America you can interpret for yourself the type of republic you believe this country is, the type of leader America needs, and the society she is to become.

Go vote.

SoRelle Wyckoff is the Opinion Editor of The Crimson White.


More to Discover