McClaughry: ‘Saving our democracy’ means saving the rule of law

By John McClaughry

Ever since the deplorable January 6, 2021, attempt by supporters of outgoing President Trump to seize the U.S. Capitol, the political left has raised and amplified the cry of “our democracy under assault.”

Last Thursday in Philadelphia, President Biden devoted a speech to delivering, in the words of the supportive Washington Post, “a dark message about threats to the very fabric of American democracy,” posed by what he has called the “semi-fascist MAGA Republicans” loyal to the former president.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The speech came a week after an NBC News national survey asked voters “What do you think is the most important issue facing the country?”

“Threats to democracy” ranked first with 21%. (“Climate change” came in fifth with 8%.)

Let’s step back from the partisan speech making, shelve our personal views for a moment, and take a long look at just what “democracy” means, historically and now.

“Democracy” has long been associated with the Greek city states of the Fourth Century BCE. The philosopher Aristotle, in his major work Politics, considered what sort of political constitution was best to produce government where all share in the benefits of justice and goodness. He analyzed rule by the One (tyranny), the Few (the rich aristocracy, four varieties) and the Many (the common people, four varieties of democracy.)

America’s Founding Fathers, educated in the classical and British traditions, were republicans. They were opposed to rule by a Monarch, but also basically distrustful of democracy, rule by a majority, even though that majority did not include minors, women, slaves, indentured servants, criminals, aliens, and for many, those who owned no property. Those exclusions left democracy to less than ten percent of the population.

Our Declaration of Independence does not include a defense of “democracy,” a concept then viewed as alarmingly close to anarchy (no rule at all) and mob rule (“ochlocracy”). What the Founding Fathers wanted was liberalism: governments that protected the unalienable rights and liberties of the people. Those rights were declared in many state constitutions like Vermont’s of 1777 — a splendid example — and in the Bill of Rights in the national Constitution.

The Founding Fathers loathed tyrannical rule, especially from abroad. They agreed that democracy was essential to balanced government, along with the influence and wisdom of Aristocracy and an independent judiciary to impartially rule on controversies. The people were given the right to democratically choose their Representatives, mindful of the admonition (in the Vermont Constitution) to “hold them at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.”

Now fast forward 246 years. All Americans still have their local, state and national democracy. People in all fifty states can freely establish their eligibility, go to the polls (or request a mail ballot), and vote their preferences, protected by state and (with the 15th Amendment) federal law. Yes, ballots are in some places miscounted or tampered with, but that’s not proof of a faulty system, just malfeasance and illegality never absent from human behavior.

So where is the threat to democracy? The real threat is to the rule of law.

The rule of law is cast down when a mob attacks the Capitol to prevent the Members of Congress from declaring the results of the presidential election.

The rule of law is threatened when even well-intentioned government officials seek to infringe or limit rights guaranteed in our constitutions. The Supreme Court protected the rule of law this June by striking down a New York law that gave arbitrary control to the police to decide who could or could not exercise the right protected by the Second Amendment.

But there’s another never-ending and more ominous threat to the rule of law: It’s the threat of government employees deciding what the law shall require, even when our democratically elected Congress and legislatures have not enacted those requirements.

In this year’s West Virginia v. EPA decision, the Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to the assumption of unlegislated authority by government bureaucrats, saying “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d).[of the Clean Air Act]. A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

Finally, there is the really terrifying threat of a president — an Obama, Trump, or Biden — simply declaring an “emergency” and decreeing results that are far beyond his lawful authority. A current example is President Biden’s cancelation of as much as a trillion dollars of student loan debt.

Our democracy is not seriously threatened by communists, organized crime, street riots or even “semi-fascist MAGA Republicans.” What is constantly threatened is the rule of law, essential to preserving our democracy.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of The White House and John McClaughry

27 thoughts on “McClaughry: ‘Saving our democracy’ means saving the rule of law

  1. Democracy is the New-speak word for Communism.

    Orwell got it right, he just got the year wrong.

  2. Every person who utters the term democracy to describe the United States form of government instead of Republican Constitutional Republic,should be boiled in pudding and a steak of holly stuck in his heart,in the words of Dickens.

  3. Paradox: The Democrats who have dedicated themselves to a six year ongoing costly and wasteful effort to delegitimize Trump and prevent him from running for office again, then cite him as being a danger to democracy. Having motivated an invasion by millions of illegal aliens, non-citizens, they raise objections to proof of citizenship, even requirement of identification for individuals to cast a vote. They have insisted that ballots not signed and dated be counted, ballots submitted after deadline. And they accuse Republicans of being a threat to democracy.

  4. And who that believes in our Republic would repeat the rhetoric from the left who is hell-bent on the destruction of the United States of America?

    It’s unbelievable that people that should clearly understand what an insurrection is would continue the lies of the left to try to destroy the Republic that we live in.

    Do any of you bother to take the time to look up with an insurrection is?

    Well here is the definition and it clearly exposes the lies that all of you continue to tell to help the left takedown our country because of your hatred for Donald Trump and the truth and justice he stands for.

    In insurrection there is an organized and ARMED uprising against authority or operations of government whereas riots and offenses connected with mob violence are simply unlawful acts in disturbance of the peace which do not threaten the stability of the government
    or the existence of political society.

    With that being said it’s time for every one of you that spreads the false propaganda of an insurrection taking place on January 6th be put to bed.

    One of the biggest leaders of destruction in the state of Vermont is Senator Joe Benning who is currently running for Lieutenant governor in our state.

    He continually lies about what took place at the Capitol on January 6th because he’s so deeply hates President Trump.

    He has gone so far left that he sides with the socialist in the state of Vermont to attempt to destroy the Republican party in our state by denouncing President Trump and Republicans who believe in our Constitution and the rule of law.

    I laugh at the comments up here because none of you take the time to do research to find out if you’re even telling the truth in spite of the fact you say that you are.

    I watch Congressional hearings where the FBI is questioned about their involvement in January 6th and their answer is they refuse to answer.

    The truth is out now that Trump wanted to send national guard to protect the capital because he suspected there would be problems and not from the Patriots who want to protect our country from the very people like Joe Benning who want to tear it down.

    And yes there was voter fraud but under a corrupt government with corrupt judges it’s hard to prove it isn’t it?

    However we have Patriots who wanted to defend the rule of law in the United States of America who keep digging and digging for the truth and keep putting it on the front burner only to have judges turn it down.

    Voter fraud is being exposed on a daily basis and many states are refusing to use Dominion machines because everyone knows now they were part of the problem in the last presidential election.

    Maybe if some of you commenting here took some time to do some research you would find the truth because it’s out there to be found.

    And the speech that Biden gave the other night is absolutely disgusting and as an American everyone should be offended by it..

    If your hatred for America runs so deep you can condone a speech by A fraudulent president hell-bent on the destruction of America You are a big part of the problem.

    If any of you truly believe a word you say you should be leading the charge to call for an audit of the election in every state in the last presidential election.

    If that happened we would all know the truth wouldn’t we?

    Instead each time a state wanted to audit an election The Democrat party sent droves of lawyers to each state to prevent that from happening? WHY?

    They had to do that because the truth would destroy their attempt to overthrow our beautiful America… The same America manga Republicans love so dearly and want to protect from the Marxism and the one world order that The Biden administration is prepping America for.

    We need to begin in the state of Vermont to get rid of corrupt politicians.

    We can start by avoiding Senator Joe Benning who is running for Lieutenant Governor.

    Joe tells his lies and expects us to believe them.. hate to tell you this Mr Benning but there was no insurrection and as a lawyer you should know that..

    And I know this is absolutely no surprise to you but you also realize voter fraud took place in the last presidential election and yet you continue to deny it in spite of the fact you have been supplied with much of the information.

    You constantly President Trump and people who believe in America. You know the same people you want to call white supremacists, insurrectionists and racists to try to diminish the complete truth that they tell about you and about a corrupt administration under Joe Biden.

    If you were really concerned about Vermont and the United States of America why aren’t you calling out the corruption of Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden and the Biden crime family?

    That is where the real destruction of the United States of America is taking place and it continues today with your cheerleading…

    I am encouraging every person in the state of Vermont regardless of political affiliation to denounce Joe Benning for his continued lies against the Patriots in the United States of America.

    It’s time to send a message in the state of Vermont that we no longer accept political candidates whose only goal is to further themselves monetarily and with power.

    Joe Benning is like a termite destroying our beautiful state from within until it reaches the point it will fall.

    Please write in Gregory M Thayer for lieutenant governor in the state of Vermont.

    Encourage your friends to visit Greg’s website and ask them to ask all of their friends to get out and vote for Gregory. We are on the verge of losing the state of Vermont to corrupt politicians and it is time to put a stop to it.

    Gregory has the skills to run Vermont efficiently and take a long hard look at taxation and the cost to taxpayers at the hands of the bloated government that is currently run inefficiently.

    It’s time to get some representation for all Vermonters under the golden dome in Montpelier.

    Please take a moment to visit:

  5. Echoing the verbiage Hillary Clinton used to attack Trump voters, John McClaughry writes of a “‘deplorable’ January 6, 2021 attempt by supporters of outgoing President Trump to seize the U.S. Capitol” and said “the rule of law is cast down when a mob attacks the Capitol to prevent the Members of Congress from declaring the results of the presidential election.”

    Blah blah blah. Everyone knows by now that’s not what happened and we are beyond weary of RINOs like John McClaughry parroting debunked Democrat lies about Trump voters and January 6th.

    Can the founder of a conservative “think tank” really be this ignorant?

    McClaughry needs to watch Bloody Hill, Capitol Punishment and related interviews and documentaries to get his facts straight.

    Archive of election fraud and January 6th info on the Documentaries and Reading pages here:

    • So John McClaughry who served in the Reagan Administration and has been the most consistent conservative voice in Vermont for going on 40 years is now to be considered a RINO because he has the termity to condemn the attack on the Capitol as a vilolation of the rule of law.

      This is the damage that one man, Donald Trump, is doing to the Republican Party. The death knoll of any movement is when people start turning on their own.

      • I thought, at first, Mr. McClaughry’s opening sentence contained a grain of sarcasm. But that he later doubled down without considering the possibility that the ‘attack’ on the Capitol may have included some other than Trump supporters, demonstrates a naiveté I too find hard to accept. Perhaps, it is reasonable to suspect Mr. McClaughry of being a RINO, whatever that means. Hopefully, he’ll clarify his opinion in this regard.

        Furthermore, Freitag needs to use his spell checker more often. ‘Termity’ isn’t a word. I suspect he meant to write ‘temerity’, i.e., ‘excessive boldness or rashness; foolhardiness or recklessness’… a characterization he all too often mimics.

      • “40 years as a conservative voice.”

        John McClaughry endorsed RINO liar Joe Benning – gaslighting voters that Benning is “a man of integrity” – and thereby supports Article 22.

        That’s not being “a conservative voice.”

        And by legitimizing Biden election theft, and attacking conservative voters by parroting debunked Democrat lies about January 6th, John McClaughry is a worse kind of betrayer even than a RINO.

        Donald J. Trump won the election. #SaveAmerica

  6. More proof of FBI & DOJ cheating…the Judge said:

    “But she also cited documents uncovered by a Privilege Review Team that seized materials included ‘medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information.’
    ….”She said the government acknowledged seizing some personal effects ‘without evidentiary value,’ with ‘upwards of 500 pages of material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.’

    Welcome to pre war Berlin…1938…it’s “Lawfare-Warfare” USA 2022….and Trump is marked the “Juden”- to the FBI and DOJ Brown Shirts.

  7. It just got wprse for FBI andf DOJ….look what they admitted…..I hope the judge fries the DOJ & FBI….

    “The FBI also acknowledged it overcollected evidence, including passports, attorney-client privilege records and even clothing.”

    The KGB would not have been so sloppy…Putin likely cannot believe the “Lawfare-Warfare Democrat-Politicized-Incompetance” by our “Shadow Gov’t”. And what about the video tape of Trump getting “pee’d” on, by hookers in a Moscow hotel room? Media ran with that! They bought it hook, line and sinker 🙂

  8. THWAP. News just out Monday.. IMO, the Federal Judge in FLA smells a rat….a scam DOJ fishing operation. Did the warrant REALLY allow/cover extensive DOJ to search & raid Trumps 16 year old son’s room? Or Melania’s underwear drawer? NO RECORDS WERE THERE. The warrant was for teh locker. They were all in a locked storage area:

    “…..A federal judge ordered Monday that an independent special master be appointed to review the records seized by the FBI during its raid of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and ordered the Justice Department stop its own review of the material for investigative purposes.
    U.S. District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen M. Cannon ordered that the special master be appointed to “review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property.”

    “,,,,,,the Court also temporarily enjoins the Government from reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes pending completion of the special mster review.”

    The Judge just shut doiwn the DOJ from proceeding.

    • The problem is that while many of Trump’s ardent followers believe he can do no wrong, a majority of voters disagree. Making this election about Trump and his grievances, while something he feels important, is neither good for either the Republican Party or our nation.

      • Your silence concerning TNR articles on the questionable actions of Resident Biden, various government agencies, as well as individual Democrats and Rinos (both state and federal) is and has been deafening. Do you really expect your lectures on what is good for the Republican party or the United States to be taken seriously?

        Thanks for yet another expected chuckle John!

  9. Well Jay, apparently you missed this:

    Article I Legislative Branch
    Section 4 Congress
    Clause 1 Elections Clause
    The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

    The “Founding Fathers” also recognized that the greatest threat to our freedom would not be from foreign governments but from within our government.

  10. Mr. McClaughry,

    Thank you for another interesting commentary.
    Our founders who studied the Athenian Democracy and the Roman Republic were also well aware of the dangers to their intsitutions of self government by a perusavie demagogue like Alcibiaties or military chieftan like Caesar.

    We are now at a point where the 2024 election is being focused, not on issues of policy, but on Doanld Trump’s misdeeds and his own personal grievances. If the last Senate election in Georgia which gave control of the Senate to the Democrats is any indication, the 2022 election is not boding well. Incompetent candidates lke Herschel Walker, (has the Republican Party ever put forth a less qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate?) are now GOP standard bearers soley due primarily to their willingness to pledge loyalty to Trump.

    Trump’s illegal taking of government documents to his private home after leaving office gets continually worse and his recent statements about pardons for those on January 6th who attempted to disrupt Congress and attacked police officers at the Capitol will not win votes. We can and must do better than this.

    • Wow, REALLY? You say “Trump’s illegal taking of government documents to his private home after leaving office.” What documents? NO one knows exactly what documents he had. So how can you state that? So much of the paperwork to raid him was redacted.. Second, Trump states he declassified what he had. Legal Federal Court precident supports that he is able to do that.. You probably believe he had nuclear codes? The ONLY WAY TO KNOW if Trump did something wrong, is TRANPARENCY. Why is the DOJ refusing to TELL what docs they wanted/got? Why do that redact so much? What are they hiding? If the DOJ is SO convinced they have Trump nailed…then release what they found and indict Trump now. NAILING Trump just BEFORE mid terms would be a bonus for ALL Dems! So why not do it? Mr. Frietag, you likely were a total believer in the Trump Collusion Russiagate fraud…which ground him to a halt DURING the election and AFTER he was elected. WHO DID it ? Clinton, DOJ, and FBI..and I bet you got suckered into that one too?

    • Mr.Freitag

      Do I need to sit here and write a book for you about what the Clintons stole from this country? They were grifters that began their careers in grifting in Arkansas before they even met each other !! Hillary Clinton even stole Webb Hubbell’s s- for crying out loud. What on earth do you think was used to “Pay To Play?” things the taxpayers agreed they should profit from? when did we vote on all that would get sold off to go on to finance the Clinton Foundation? She sold our uranium to the Russians. And now you parrot these tired old talking points about Donald Trump here with us and expect to be taken seriously??? The Clinton’s stole the artwork off the walls and the dishes out of the cabinets. Then we have what Barry “I’ll have more flexibility after the election” Obama did and stole from Americans. Your selective memory loss is astounding.

      Good Grief.

      • The sad thing is that the 2022 election is becoming all about Trump all the time, not about smaller government, fiscal prudence and providing opportunities that promotes individual responsibility. On top of that we have name calling of other Repbulicans who are not willing to totally tow the Trump line. Sorry but this is not a winning strategy.

  11. When the “rule of law” or more rightly those who rule the law, DOJ FIB, Federal
    courts become political hacks for the left the danger to “democracy” is already here.
    Since they have destroyed/hid evidence that would have convicted Hellery and bidungs pervert son Hunter to not accepting evidence of illegal voting while accepting
    made up evidence of a fake Russian collusion the Justice system has already destroyed that so called “democracy”… and you can thank the left for that…

  12. I’m really pretty sick of January 6th being framed as something that it wasn’t.. and supposedly intelligent people falling for the propaganda about this.
    And we are not a Democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic.
    Why parrot the language of the Left to further divide us?
    When I see all that going on.. I can read no further.

    • Laura: What’s your point?

      The Jan 6 protest became an insurrection – not by the majority of those who went to peacefully protest what was, at the very least, a flawed and unaccountable election, but by a small minority of those who attended and then trespassed in the Capitol building. And it remains to be seen who that small minority of insurrectionists were. Some were, apparently, foolish, and naive. Others, not so much. And what remains to be seen is who those ‘others’ were, and what their political standing was. How many were so-called right-wing militia? How many were FBI or Antifa instigators?

      The problem you’re reacting to is the double standard used in the ongoing investigations. You can’t prove the election was stolen. You can only point out that it was a flawed process. On the other hand, you should ask who Ray Epps is, and why wasn’t he arrested? And you should ask, if George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, was Ashley Babbit not murdered by a police officer too?

      It’s not that the Jan 6 circumstance was or wasn’t what you, personally, believe it was. And Mr. McClaughry is equally intitled to his view. There are, after all, those on the far left, and the far right, who seek to divide us. And yes, the U.S. is a Constitutional Republic. And no, the U.S. isn’t a ‘Direct’ Democracy (i.e., a tyranny of the majority). But the Republic is, nonetheless, based on the principals of a democracy. But this differentiation has little, if anything, to do with Jan 6.

      If you can see “all that is going on”, identify what it is, specifically, that offends you. And then demand that whoever promotes that offense explains the legitimacy of their position… as I am asking you to consider now.

  13. If, and when, a danger to our Republic is made evident by a so-called threat to its ‘rule of law’, is that not a generalization lacking the specificity required to alleviate the threat? What creates this threat?

    It’s not the President. It’s not the Authoritarian State. It’s our ignorance. We, the people, don’t know any better. Because, apparently, we have chosen not to accept the personal responsibility, the Judgment of Solomon, that comes with understanding. If we did want to know, the first thing we’d teach our children, after they learn the three R’s, would be civics, the study of the rights and obligations of citizens in our Constitutional Republic.

    But ignorance is bliss, until it rises up and bites us in the derriere.

    The real threat to our ‘rule of law’ is manifest in our education system, or more accurately put, its lack thereof. One size doesn’t fit all. Never has. Never will.

    • Jay,

      The perfect response because it hits the nail on the head.

      And when we have a government in place that supports the indoctrination of our children into a Marxist agenda and we don’t change that government we are a participant in our own destruction.

      Everything that we believe in has been rigged against us.

      From the school system that now is morally destroying our children to the Dominion voting machines that steal our votes.

      We currently have a government in place that could care less about our children and is so willing to slaughter them pushing agenda 22 to be voted into our Constitution to destroy the families in the state of Vermont.

      We have gone so far wrong in this state under the failed leadership of those that would endorse such atrocities leading to the slaughter of the unborn and the mutilation of our children.

      We can no longer support those in our party like Phil Scott who claims to be a Republican yet votes for Joe Biden for president.

      We cannot support Joe Benning who is running for Lieutenant Governor who supports the same agenda claiming to be a Phil Scott Republican.

      We can never change the state around unless we change the political atmosphere by truing the vote.

      Joe Benning completely denies voter fraud took place in the presidential election in spite of the fact that it is being exposed on a daily basis.

      Arizona now wants to stop the use of the Dominion voting machines because they can be tuned to affect the outcome.

      And in the state of Vermont James condos as his parting gift purchases Dominion voting machines for the state of Vermont.

      As a lifelong Vermonter witnessing the destruction of our state at the hands of people who have no respect for any of us who only want to achieve their personal goals to fame and power I’m encouraging everyone to begin the change so needed in this state by writing in Gregory Thayer as Lieutenant Governor.

      We need a change in our government by sending a qualified individual to represent us in the state of Vermont.

      Greg has years and years in the banking and accounting business and would be an excellent candidate to begin the change we need to address the tax situation and the spending situation that we can no longer endure.

      I am encouraging people from both sides of the aisle to start to protect themselves from the total disaster that the state of Vermont has become under leadership like Joe Benning and Phil Scott and the other liberals that are totally destroying our state.

      People don’t believe their vote counts well let’s see if it does.

      Please join us in this movement to begin to straighten out the state of Vermont by electing people that care about Vermonters..

      Please share this with everyone and encourage everyone you know to get out and vote.

      It is time to make a difference and you can do it by getting to the polls and voting.

      Please go to

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