University of Michigan professor speaks to students on aspects of a republic


Richard Primus speaks to CMU students on March 18 in Pearce Hall.

Richard Primus, University of Michigan Theodore J. St. Antoine Collegiate Professor of Law, compared government to playground basketball while he spoke to Central Michigan University students March 18.

“If you care more about winning each round than you care about respecting your opponent and the spirit of the game, pretty soon the game will break down," he said.

Primus analyzed the currently divided political climate in his presentation “A Republic — If We Can Keep It." It was based off his paper, “The Republic in Long-term Perspective.”

The presentation was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences' "The End of the World: Crisis, Turning Points, Renewals" Critical Engagement initiative. CLASS dean Richard Rothaus introduced Primus, starting the tone of the discussion.

“If you were watching Twitter on Sunday, you may have seen a whole series of tweets coming from executives in our government here in the United States,” Rothaus said. “Then the inevitable Monday media storm of people who wanted clicks, so they talked about what the president was putting on Twitter.”

According to Primus, the republic has six aspects: Electoral democracy, legitimate opposition, rule of law, separation of powers/checks and balances, government in the public interest and other values.

“I cannot save the republic, but I have no doubt that me and a hundred thousand other people like me can,” Primus said. “The question is, will there be that hundred thousand? I think there can be and if there are, I think we can do it, but I’m not going to stand here and tell you not to worry.” 

The presentation ended with a Q&A with the audience members.

“My favorite part of the event would probably be just the discussion of the present political climate we’ve found ourselves in, especially as he compared it to previous instances of political crises,” said Grayling senior Boomer Wingard. “It felt really justified, just trying to understand, wrap our minds around, about comparing this current political climate to past ones.”

Primus said that although the title of the lecture series presented a pessimistic outcome for the republic, he believes society's chance of getting through challenges in good shape" is better than ever."

"I believe we may even find our way on the other side of the challenge to a republic that is better and stronger than what we had before," he said.