Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st-Century America

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Overview

Rarely does scholarship anticipate the most dramatic events of the moment. In this timely work Gary Hart does just that, arguing for the restoration of republican virtues and for homeland security as an important first step. The American democratic republic has from its founding been a paradoxical success. Simultaneously attached to state and national power, citizens' rights and citizens' duties, American democracy has uniquely turned its reliance on consent from the governed into a powerful governing of the consenting. In a remarkable political feat, America's founders combined mixed government, the language of popular sovereignty and a self-conscious emphasis on checks and balances to forge a republic that has weathered the test of time. The complex realities of the twenty-first century, however, have fundamentally challenged the underpinnings of this enduring American experiment, repeatedly exposing the tensions at the heart of America's mixed system of government. What then is the nature of an American republic in an age of democracy? How can the democratic values of social justice and equality be balanced with republican values of civic duty and popular sovereignty? Bringing to light a long-neglected aspect of Thomas Jefferson's political philosophy—the "ward republic"—Gary Hart here offers a wholly original blueprint for republican restoration in which every citizen can participate democratically in the governing of his or her own life. Of crucial relevance for contemporary society, including its startlingly prescient plan for homeland security, Restoration of the Republic provides original insights into issues of national urgency as well as the timeless questions that bedevil the American democratic experiment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Arguments between right and left over individual freedom, states' rights and big government have been a staple of American politics. In this innovative reassessment of Thomas Jefferson's political theories, former senator and presidential candidate Hart attempts to secure a middle road that would promote the political participation of individual citizens while fostering a more effective federal structure. By explicating Jefferson's idea of the "elementary, or ward, republic" essentially a town meeting model as "the appropriate forum for direct citizen engagement in public [life]," Hart explores ways to adapt this paradigm. Urban and suburban neighborhoods could consolidate such functions as schools, police and health services; by becoming "local republics," they would "rationalize fragmented municipal governments." But while his concern with the individual's role in governance is pressing he cites "a recent survey" showing that 68% of Americans ages 18 to 34 felt "disconnected" from government many of his solutions are theoretical rather than immediately practical (betraying this book's origins as Hart's doctoral dissertation at Oxford) his vision of local control of schools, for example, disregards the important role the federal government plays in funding and regulation. While this is a valiant attempt to mine the past in order to plan the future, it may strike many as existing too much in an ivory tower rather than in the vibrant "local republic" Hart so admires. (Aug.) Forecast: Oxford is linking this book to the issue of homeland security by emphasizing Hart's recent stint as cochair of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, but some reviewers and readers may not see the connection. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Scholarly dissertation meets populist manifesto in politico Hart’s case for increased citizen involvement in government. Disgraced when caught dallying with Donna Rice on the good ship Monkey Business, former US senator and presidential candidate Hart has spent the last decade or so restoring his image as a student and practitioner of statecraft. This phase of that attempt began its life as a doctoral thesis in politics at Oxford University. Hart’s thoughtful critique of the centralized state under which Americans live today is, in the main, free of the me-first libertarianism of so many antifederal treatises. "America in the twenty-first century," he writes, "is a procedural republic deficient in the qualities of civic virtue, duty, citizen participation, popular sovereignty, and resistance to corruption." What is more, he adds, the state actively hinders citizens from exercising the "republican virtues" that informed the Founding Fathers’ ideas of citizenship, with the result that the citizenry and the state have become remote from each other. Hart revisits arguments first offered in The Patriot (1996) and The Minuteman (1998) for increasing the involvement of the National Guard (the militia of the Constitution) in matters of national security, an argument given new timeliness in the aftermath of September 11. He also offers a consideration of Thomas Jefferson’s idea that the growing union should develop "ward republics" by which power could be devolved and local decision-making encouraged. Arguing that the nation-state is increasingly ineffectual in the age of transnational economies and roving bands of terrorists, a time "characterized by the erosion of national authority and theweakening of national sovereignty," Hart makes a strong case for the republican virtue of allowing local people to make some if not all of the day-by-day decisions that affect their lives—and for the ability of the populace to undertake that hard work. Despite some pie-in-the-sky elements, the argument merits discussion, and the prescriptions are delivered coherently and effectively.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195155860
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.31 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Hart, a former U.S. Senator for Colorado and Presidential candidate in 1984, received his D.Phil from Oxford University in 2001. Dr. Hart recently co-chaired, with Warren Rudman, the U.S. Commission on National Security / 21st Century. He will be a lecturer at Yale University in 2002. He is the author of 11 previous books, including The Patriot and The Minuteman.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: "The Republic for Which It Stands" 3
1 New Realities in Twenty-first-Century America: Economics, Politics, and Society 25
Economic Globalization, the Evolving Nation-State, and the Decline of Ideology 26
The Scope of Twenty-first-Century Change in Historic Perspective 40
Original Objections to Small Republics 46
Responses to Original Objections 49
Original Objections to Small Republics in the Light of Twenty-first-Century Realities 58
Restatement of the Elements of Authentic Republicanism 61
2 Is America Still a Republic? Sovereignty, Corruption, Civic Virtue, and Liberty 63
3 Jeffersonian Republicanism and the Restoration of the Republic 81
Jeffersonian Republicanism 81
Jefferson's Republican Ideal in the Context of the Constitutional Debate 117
Slavery and the Jeffersonian Republic 124
The Mature Jefferson and the Radical Republic 128
The Role of the Ward Republic in the Life of the Citizen 132
4 The Jeffersonian Republic in the Current Age 163
The Republican Polis in Twenty-first-Century America 172
Public Education in the Authentic Republic 175
Social Welfare and Economic Justice in the Authentic Republic 194
Homeland Security and the Militia in the Authentic Republic 204
Education, Welfare, Homeland Defense, and the Republican Spirit 218
Conclusion 227
Notes 239
Selected Bibliography 269
Index 275
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    A Call for the Jeffersonian Republic

    Gary Hart's 'Restoration of the Republic' is a clarion call to arms for the Jeffersonian Republic. Hart calls for a return to the liberal and civic republicanism of the early republic. Hart begins by outlining the challenges facing modern America in the global economy. He shows how a return to Jefferson's 'ward republic' and local self government can usher in more freedom, civic pride, and a commitment to the duties of a citizen. Education, poor relief, militia duty, police forces, are to incorporated into the ward. The ward would be the lowest level of the political system yet be the most effective in serving the public. A 'synthetical' process, as Jefferson called it, would deliniate powers up to the County, State and Federal governments. Hart calls for a return to Jeffersonianism as a way to invigorate the American nation and perpetuate self government among Americans. He uses the ward system as a plan to bring Americans together to cooperate on the their common interests, for the common good. He also shows that Jefferson, the great liberal, did not see citizens as an atom or island in society, but as a free person not only with rights , but duties to his neighbors and fellow citizens. You cannot go wrong with this book. Overall a great buy.

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