We Did It: Wisconsin's Revolt on Democracy - Recalling Republicanism

By Ed Willing


Almost 198 years ago to the month, April 1814, in a letter to John Taylor, the second President of the United States, John Adams made an astute observation amidst calls for more democratic reform:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Our nation was merely 25 yrs old at this point, and yet he was terrified of lessons history taught him about the so-called virtues of mass democracy. He worked his entire political life arguing for the true virtue of a Democratic Republic; a system in which the people created their government, but the minority and majority were both protected from the feverish winds of hysterical whim and epidemic-like, collective voices.”


Today, I sit in Wisconsin, a marvel of a state that has had possibly more contradiction in contributed methods in exercising liberty than any other state. We were the birthplace of the slavery-hating Republican Party, borne from the passions of former Whig Party members, anti-slavery activists and Free-Soilers, in Ripon, WI, March, 1854. Yet, we were also, in many ways the birthplace of modern Progressivism and the destruction of the Federalist system assembled by the Founders intended to disperse the concentration of power.

The year after the Republican Party was birthed with individual liberties in mind for all men, Robert La Follette was born in Primrose. Raised a Republican, he unfortunately began his career in Dane County as a DA (warning to all young aspiring Conservative politicians, stay away from Madison!), and by the time he entered politics in the U.S. House of Representatives he had more on his mind than women’s suffrage and minority-rights. While those were noble goals, his intention was to go much further and up-end the entire republican system of government established by the Founders in 1789.

Using local sentiment against corruption in both parties, he branded himself a populist visionary who became Governor in 1901. Within 3 years he had successfully deformed the primary nomination process, drummed up popular support by stumping 61 counties and preaching democracy to 200,000 residents about the unfairness and corruption bred by “stalwarts” of republicanism in D.C. and Madison. By 1906, he nominated HIMSELF as Senator and used his new coalition in Madison to be confirmed to the post, where he served till his death in 1925. For two years he served as BOTH U.S. Senator and Governor in a stunt he boasted was to ensure that his deforms we enacted and seen through. He even founded his own Party before he died, The Progressive Party.


The damage he accomplished in the name of good during those years till his death has been lasting and irreparable, and we are only now beginning to see large numbers educated voters realize it. Together with other fellow progressives, like William Jennings Bryan and publisher William Randolph Hurst, he pushed hard for Constitutional amendments and further increases of Federal government oversight, cast in Progressive purpose. Farm subsidies, inter-state commerce regulation, the Federal Reserve and direct election of nearly every elected office were his primary goals, and he accomplished nearly every single one of them.

The battle-cry of each “reform” was to “have your voice,” and “the people must be able to speak!” But the reality is that few considered, or even had the opportunity to debate the impact of such a change, or the dangers of this democracy that was being propagated as divine philosophy, and even the vision of the Founders themselves. Yet, we know from the mountains of evidence in a simple Google search that our Founders FEARED pure democracy, and knew it would lead to oligarchy and totalitarianism. John Adams was only one of many Founders to express his disdain for the madness, and James Madison, known for his fight against centralized power, still argued:

“Such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Note that every Founding Father who spoke of the Republic they were forming cited historical review as their reasoning. Today, call leaders of democracy point to history only so far as to describe transgressions that should motivate us to rebel against “the rich,” or “the elite” that somehow steal our vote, despite their power coming from us to begin with. Today’s leaders would be wise to refrain from rhetoric and instead become students of history when arguing for the future. The wisdom of the Founders was to find a device by which the historically furious passions of men could be tempered in a system of checks and balances. This system of checks and balances required power to be as divided, local and rotated as possible.


Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Republic’s poison as one of the first states to eliminate party nominations, one of the first to ratify the 17th amendment, and the only state to embrace self-declared socialists in government. By the 1950’s collective bargaining reforms were guaranteed for public workers, and soon thereafter, in the name of “empowering the individual,” centralize planning and compelled redistribution began to change the face of our state government, our cities and our local education.

The result of these “reforms” during the Progressive Era were mixed. Some were legitimate reforms, like suffrage and workers’ protections, but others did more to change traditional American government than any other time in our history. Most notably, the 17thAmendment, which was debated merely under the auspices of corruption and special interests; it’s passage destroyed the accountability the Senate was designed to have to our local State governments. As a result, power consolidated in Washington like never before and actually made the original concern worse – today the Senate is merely a six-year version of the House, and is more corrupt and unaccountable. And States have NO voice in Washington. State legislatures, once charged by the Constitution to elect our Senators, were merely replaced by corporate lobbyists and think-tanks 1,200 miles closer.

Wisconsin is one of the most democratic, yes even “progressive” communities of people in the world. We have a deep respect for our methods, our culture, our football and our autonomy. And yet, for being so “progressive” we didn’t seem to like change all that much when it was required in the face of record job loss and crippling deficits. That is, until a stiff-necked, fearless executive believed his own local experience in Wisconsin’s largest county could inform his grand strategy to reinstitute local determination, representative government, and true democratic-republicanism. Act 10, championed by Gov. Scott Walker, and dozens of brave legislators like Jeff Fitzgerald, Robin Vos and Van Wanggard was the most significant and sweeping piece of legislation in Wisconsin since public employee collective bargaining itself in 1959. We tried this “reform” for 52 years, and discovered it did not serve the people of Wisconsin. Why aren’t more residents willing to try something new?

It merely served the interests of over 300,000 government employees, their mandatory unions and further, their Democrat Party benefactors. A change was needed, as any household must occasionally purge one-time luxuries for the sake of it’s future. Benjamin Franklin warned,

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, it will herald the end of the republic.”

So, today we sit in Wisconsin. All of us, as a nation are neighbors today through network and cable news, Twitter, bloggers and Facebook and we await the election of a lifetime; really, the election of a century. I do not intend to animate a dramatic battle for you in some hubristic amusement. But it cannot be discounted that this battle today in my beloved state is truly about way more than “the backs of public employees,” monopolistic union insurance companies, or the unions themselves. This is about turning the tide in the Progressives’ war that has been raging for over 100 years. We are in a fight to re-educate the masses on the importance of representation; constitutional terms; republican governance. Alexander Hamilton wisely observed,

“We are a Republican Government; Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of democracy…it has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.”


Today, Wisconsin is being forced, for the 7th time in 14 months, to exercise democracy one last time in order to save us from it.

Today, Wisconsin goes to the polls to prove that our citizens actually believe the system we established for Wisconsin nearly 200 years ago was a wise one, and ought to be respected and observed as a fundamental philosophy for protecting liberty. Never mind the unions, or the protest organizations, the PAC’s the billionaires on both sides of the aisle, or the immature politician refugees and their out-of-state resorts. They are but mere pawns in a larger game between the true Oligarchy that results from collective ambition that, when threatened can too often motivate a slight majority to impugn the minority, versus the system of republicanism and decentralized power that assured our liberty from the ills of human nature.

The Founders’ intent was to protect our people from its government, and in order to do so they expected us to govern ourselves, not form mobs to demand our own brand of justice, as pawns of a larger, controlling, benevolent Government. No matter which Party you’re from.

BALANCE is a virtue democracies seldom understand, let alone conceive.

We are in a fight to save the Republic of Wisconsin from the hands of tyrannical democracy and eventual demise.

And that is why America is sitting in our front yard waiting to see what happens.


FoundersIntent exists to educate local communities on not only what we are as a Republic, but WHY we are. Furthermore, we make it a priority to bring people together so they may organize and change their local governments according to the Founders’ intent