Benjamin Franklin reportedly said the new American government was "A republic, if you can keep it." What does it take to keep it?

Benjamin Franklin reportedly said the new American government was "A republic, if you can keep it." What does it take to keep it?

We all have that one relative that won’t budge on their views, no matter how many facts or articles you send them. It seems as though this is a relatively new phenomenon, or at least much more prevalent than it used to be. Is that the case? Is our sociopolitical system really broken?

In short … how did we get here?

This is the central question of Michael Tomasky’s new book If We Can Keep It, a book The New York Times Book Review calls a “sweeping, rollicking, sometimes breezy political and cultural back story to our current moment.”

He contends that the founders, with the Connecticut Compromise, designed a fatally flawed system for our federal legislature. By mandating that the Senate be made up of two representatives from each state, they gave outsize influence to sparsely populated states. As for the House of Representatives, a blasé attitude about maintaining districts of equal size led to inequality, with rural areas of 10,000 constituents having the same representation as urban ones with 50,000 constituents. This situation only changed with a 1964 Supreme Court decision mandating “one person, one vote.” “The founders were visionaries,” Tomasky writes. “But they were human. They made some mistakes.”

Tomasky takes his book’s title from Benjamin Franklin’s comment that the Founding Fathers had created “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Eric Metaxas also riffed on Franklin’s quote for his book, If You Can Keep It. The book, according to Kirkus “makes a faith-based argument for American exceptionalism.”

He believes that the Founding Fathers incorporated into the Constitution the Golden Triangle of Freedom: “freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom,” an idea articulated by British social critic Os Guiness. Metaxas exhorts Americans today to revitalize freedom by behaving virtuously, insisting on virtuous leaders, and recognizing the significance of Judeo-Christian religion in the nation’s identity and destiny.

Metaxas and Tomasky join us to talk about what led us to our current moment, and how the work of Franklin and the other Founding Fathers reflects the issues of today.

Produced by Kathryn Fink.

Guests

  • Eric Metaxas Author, "If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty"; host, “The Eric Metaxas Show”; @ericmetaxas
  • Michael Tomasky Author, "If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saved"; editor-in-chief, Democracy Journal; special correspondent, Newsweek, The Daily Beast; @mtomasky

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