Oh my god.
You know, everyone keeps repeating this story about Ben Franklin over and over again — you know the one — about how in 1787, as the Constitution was adopted, Americans gathered on the steps of Independence Hall. When they saw Franklin, they asked, ‘What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?’ and Franklin replied, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’
But what did Ben Franklin even mean by that? Was he trying to say that a Democracy is only as strong as its institutions and that if the people in power become nakedly corrupt and are not checked, that Democracy becomes a hollow pretense that’s no better than a despotic monarchy? Or did he mean that the newly founded nation was a banana republic?