And To The Republic

by Sal on February 23, 2009

in Law,Politics

It is worthwhile to sometimes step back and reflect on our system of government, what it means, and how unique it is in the history of civilization.  Conventional wisdom states that we are a democracy.  First, there is the misconception that we are a Democracy (rather than a Representative Constitutional Republic).  This video redefines the political spectrum, extols the virtues of our Representative Republic, and compares it to other forms of governance.

This video should be shown (but never will be) to every student in America, if not every citizen.  We live in the greatest country in the world today, in that we have balanced the will of the people with the rule of law, creating a Constitution which enshrined our rights that the government cannot take away, even if the majority wished to.  Yet Republics are always in danger of ceding rights to the governing class, as we have done more and more over the past 100 years.  We must remain ever vigilant to ensure that our freedoms are preserved and that our Constitutional Republic continues to thrive.

H/T: The Next Right

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike February 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I’ve always hated that distinction without a difference. Yes, we are a Constitutional Republic. One whose representatives are democratically elected at regular intervals. Are we a direct democracy? No, but to suggest we are are not a democracy at all is semantic.


Sal February 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I have to disagree. Semantics are important; words matter. A Democracy is defined as “government by the people; rule of the majority” by Websters. However, in a Constitutional Republic such as ours, rule of the majority is not an absolute. We do indeed have Democratic elements to our system of government, but we are not in the strict sense of the word, a Democracy or even a Representative Democracy. There are many cases where the “rule of the majority” does not come into effect. This is the case in Presidential Elections, Constitutional Amendments, ballot initiatives in many states, and so forth.

That is not to say that there are not many Democratic elements in our form of government. We do elect our Representatives in a Democratic manner. The people vote for various issues, but I think the important distinction is that it is not majority rule. I also think keeping the distinction is helpful from an educational point of view. People are taught i schools of Democracy in the sense of majority rule, so making the distinction does establish the fact that certain aspects of our government are not, nor should they be, subject to majority rule.


Mike February 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

That definition of democracy is woefully limited. Democracy is actually defined and identified in far broader terms than those outlined in the dictionary. Just as one cannot discern the true depth of say, Roman Catholicism, from a dictionary entry, so too is democracy too broad a concept to be whittled down to whatever Webster’s calls it.

There has been extensive academic literature on the definition of democracy in the field of political science. Elements of the system include but are not limited to (I’m limiting the definition too) the free and open expression of ideas, leaders elected by regular and recurring election, protection of civil liberties, etc. Sure, there are degrees of democracy. But the fact that a country like ours is not a direct democracy (and there never has been a purely direct democracy in the history of the world, even the ancient Greeks had a procedural framework) does not support the conclusion that the country is not a democracy.

Most definitions of democracy in the political science literature account for what you characterize as a displacement of “majority rule.” They label it as a protection of civil liberties. That doesn’t mean that a democracy with a framework that protects civil liberties from majoritarian impulses is not a democracy. All governments require a framework within which to operate. the issue is how decisions are made within that framework.

In our country, we make decisions within a framework of free speech and regular elections. It’s democratic. Yes, we live in a constitutional republic. However, the concept of republic and democracy are not mutually exclusive. One can say “we don’t live in a democracy”, but only by significantly narrowing the definition of democracy from what it actually is.


Ryan February 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm

During the 1936 election, Franklin Roosevelt once boasted that the triumph of the New Deal was a triumph of democracy over the republic, putting the people in their proper place at the center of our system to his mind. Perhaps that why some like Mark Levin refer to the New Deal and an American Counter-Revolution away from our founding principles and towards competing constituencies; Hamilton and Madison would undoubtedly call them “factions”. This video clip would concur with Mark’s thesis.


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