Many people have not thought of the importance of maintaining the strength and integrity of our institutions, particularly those that serve our nation. Weak institutions can lead a country to becoming a so-called “Banana Republic” with little freedom and democracy.
Antonio Esquibel, well-known educator in the community and a most important mentor, once described the plans of the then Chancellor of the University of Colorado Medical Center, his boss at the time, to make changes at the university. The Chancellor stated that if he could only create a minute change in the institution he would be very satisfied.
The Chancellor knew what those that think about these things know, that an institution is not designed to change. It is more an entity that encapsulates fundamental values in our society and assures that they endure.
The institution draws strength from the laws that created it, from its policies and mission and from its relevance to the people and country that it serves. Its purpose is furthered by a bureaucracy that sees to it that the institution carries out its work effectively.
Besides the Constitution and the laws that gave it life and a reason to be, the institution also relies on its bureaucracy to defend it in times of stress and peril. This is happening before our eyes as the FBI and associated security institutions fight to defend their mission and constitutional role.
This is occurring despite the fact that the Republican Party is in charge of the government and that it is the Republican president, the Republican congress and the Republican political apparatus that are attacking the integrity of these institutions. The fact is that the institution is delegated to obey its original mandate and carry out its mission regardless of the political party in power.
Also, as the University of Colorado Medical Center Chancellor intimated, an institution is not designed to change but to remain true to the values it is preserving and protecting. That is why the Director of the FBI appointed by the President nevertheless opposes the political attacks, the attempted manipulation of the role of the agency and the divulging of secrets it is chartered to protect.
The American Civil War led to the weakening of our institutions and opened the door to wholesale corruption in government. The second half of the 19th Century was dominated by a private sector that overwhelm our political institutions with payoffs and outright bribery.
In this sense, we were a “Banana Republic” controlled by strongmen that operated railroads and monopolies in fundamental industries including oil, steel and banking.
Our political institutions did not gain enough strength to overcome these corrupt influences until well into the 20th Century. A hundred years later, we again find our national institutions under attack by a would-be strongman under investigation for colluding with our Russian adversaries to corrupt our political process and win the presidency.
This self-serving attempt to manipulate our governmental entities has not taken into consideration the fact that these institutions are going to resist change and furthermore will defend themselves and the values they were created to preserve. However, the attacks and attempts to control our national institutions for personal political gain can have the effect of creating a crisis of confidence that contributes to more division among the people and instability in the country.
Our institutions are strong and possess effective mechanisms to further the preservation of our values in their mandates. Nevertheless it is sobering to even think of our America as a Banana Republic.