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Steve Winter
State Representative District 3

August 26, 2011
"A Republic and its partisanship"

Steven Winter represents the towns of Newbury and Sutton, Merrimack District 3, in the NH House of Representatives.

Representative Winter is a member of the House Executive Department & Administration  Committee, The Special Committee on Public Employee Pension Reform and the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR).


"A republic, madam, if you can keep it."
 Ė Benjamin Franklin

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the building where the constitution had been completed and signed, a lady asked him what kind of government had the convention created. His famously profound response was, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

We recite the pledge of allegiance to the United States on many different occasions. We begin that pledge with, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it standsÖ" Article IV, Section 4 of our constitution says, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government." We are guaranteed a republic, not a democracy.

Isnít a republic the same as a democracy? No. The word "democracy" does not appear in the constitution. But we are guaranteed a "republic", which is sometimes called a "representative democracy".

We often hear that a republic is "a nation of laws, not men." What does that mean? Democracy operates by majority vote of the people. Town Meeting is an excellent example of democracy. A democracy is rule by the majorityís opinions or feelings at that moment, what the Founding Fathers described as "mobocracy".

A republic is where the general population elects representatives who then pass laws to govern the nation or the state or the city. A republic is rule by law rather than the current popular feelings of men. Our republic is a form of government where power is separated, which makes it difficult to pass laws on the spur of the moment or at the whim of the popular will.

Although Washington was unanimously elected our first president by the Electoral College, the founders felt that future elections for all public offices would be between candidates who were famous for their reputations and leadership experience. The founders apparently did not expect political parties to become the large, powerful and divisive organizations that they are today. But they have and we now have two major parties and numerous smaller ones.

With political parties comes partisanship. The two parties have very different views on the role of government and the debates between the two are healthy for our republic. The pendulum of public opinion swings with time and thus power in this country switches from conservative to liberal and back, often with each generation. But without those opposing views, we would have no choices. Government without choices is dictatorship and that is not the kind of government I want. I support a debate on the issues but deplore the personal (ad hominem) attacks on individuals.

But why canít we compromise? We can. But only on issues that do not conflict with our basic principles. One commentator has defined compromise as, "Iíll give up my principles if you give up yours."

As a legislator, I am frequently called a "politician". My response is that a $100 yearly salary does not qualify me as a politician. I am a volunteer legislator in our republican form of government.


Steve Winter, Representative, Merrimack District 3
Newbury and Sutton, New Hampshire 

Telephone:  603-271- 3125 and 271-3319

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