Wed, Nov 10, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Democracy takes time

By Lyle Morton

I was very impressed when I read your editorial about the democratic partnership between Taiwan and the US ("US, Taiwan are democratic partners," Nov. 4, page 8). I feel the opinions you offer are insightful. I also thank you for what I see as your kind remarks regarding our ability to move beyond our differences and continue with our representative democracy.

It should be noted that ours is an evolving republic. When our union of states was formed in 1789, there were 13 "states," countries if you will. These states gave up their sovereignty in order to form a union that had uniform rules of commerce and a federal postal system as well as a federal defense force. The states reserved the right to name the president, and the members of the Senate.

While our senators are now chosen by popular ballot within the various states, in our early years they were directly chosen by the legislatures and governors of the original states. Our Electoral College chooses our president and that is a vestige of the state's right to choose the president of the union.

In our history, there have been a few presidential elections in which our Electoral College has been unable to name a winner. In such cases, the House of Representatives chooses the president. These cases caused us to amend our Constitution (in 1804, I believe) and pass new voting laws to protect and enhance the right and privilege of voting.

Every representative democracy must have the ability and flexibility to change its voting mechanisms, and the right and capability to continuously enhance the democratic process.

From an outsider's perspective, I see Taiwan struggling with moving from a one-party (dominated) state to a multi-party republic. I believe these struggles will ultimately create a better democracy and provide for uniform and inviolable election laws.

I am personally very much saddened by the ongoing travail in Taiwan regarding your March election. I have many fine friends who are on each side of this political divide. Your democratic process is relatively young and it, like ours, will evolve and refine itself over time and many elections.

I implore you to unite in your love of democracy. I realize the anger and bitterness is difficult to overcome. Disappointment, particularly for the office of the president, is immense and it can become self consuming. In 200 years, your progeny will read about the historical battle in 2004 and try to understand the frustration and the anger, but they will be much more secure in their democracy.

Today Americans read about the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 that was decided by the House of Representatives when Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in the Electoral College. The hatred festered like an ugly wound until in 1804 Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel brought on by the role Hamilton played in deciding the election for Jefferson.

Hamilton was a promising young politician, and one of our greatest early democratic thinkers. Burr had aspirations to become president and those died at his own hand.

Hamilton's death was a tragic loss to our early democracy. I am sure you understand the possible parallels between Taiwan today and The US in 1804.

Lyle Morton


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