Inspection- Is America a Republic or a Democracy?
This was inspired by a Facebook posting that pops up every once in a while. The assumption is that everyone on the Left thinks it’s just a Democracy, while those on the Right know the real truth: America is just a Republic. The argument certainly qualifies as bit of a strawman: ironically of all my time yappin it up with my Leftie peeps I’ve never had one claim America’s “only a Democracy.” Yet all too often someone I know who leans heavily to the right stuffs his boogieman scarecrow with, “Those stupid, evil, Liberals think we’re just a democracy” straw and then posts it somewhere as proof of how smart they think they are. For a while it qualified as more “spam” than all those sometimes funny Monty Python blatherings about the more traditional kind of spam.
Honestly, guys? Really? This whole Snoresville Republic vs. Democracy commentary is more than a bit of a canard.
But, if we must, let’s forge forth and examine actual definitions, shall we?
a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
any body of persons viewed as a commonwealth. (Commonwealth: 1.the people of a state or nation viewed politically; body politic. 2. a state or nation in which the people possess sovereignty; republic. 3. the body politic organized for the general good. 4. a group of persons united by some common interest. 5. obsolete: the general good; public welfare.)
a state in which the head of government is not a monarch or other hereditary head of state.
any of the five periods of republican government in France. Compare First Republic, Second Republic, Third Republic, Fourth Republic, Fifth Republic.
a philosophical dialogue (4th century b.c.) by Plato dealing with the composition and structure of the ideal state.
government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and only exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
a state having such a form of government: The United States and Canada are democracies.
a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
political or social equality; democratic spirit.
the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.
Republic-A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter” (Latin: res publica), not the private concern or property of the rulers, and where offices of state are subsequently directly or indirectly elected or appointed rather than inherited.
Democracy-Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally—only either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.
Note: whether you capitalize it or not both words have representation and/or voting as possibilities, though not as a necessity for everything. In a republic (no capital) the head of state can be appointed. In a democracy (small “d”) decisions can be made by “elected agents.” Yet the very phrasing of claim that we’re not a Democracy but a Republic assumes a Democracy is completely different: no way the same, and that a Democracy is always completely ruled by the majority vote: nothing else. Not true. If we are to combine the Wiki definitions with the dictionary.com ones one might assume we could have a Republic where representatives are all appointed by other representative with far less direct input from the public, to almost none, whereas the most extreme Democracy would mean we vote on any decision.
I can’t imagine either in their most pure form being the best form of governance. Representatives who appoint each other can hardly really “represent.” The public ruling by voting on every an any little issue would certainly be cumbersome at best. If we must go “extreme,” then a mix of the two extreme versions of both words seems a far better option. In a Republic one could just assume those appointed, by the appointed who were appointed by the appointed who were… are representing those who appoint them more than any large portion of the populace.
The following from Wiki’s Republic page is far more interesting…
Constitutional republic– a republic form of government where powers are limited by law or a formal constitution, and chosen by a vote amongst at least some sections of the populace. (!!!) Republics that exclude sections of the populace from participation will typically claim to represent all citizens (by defining people without the vote as “non-citizens”).
Wiki’s Democratic republic page…
Democratic republic — a republic form of government where the country is considered a “public matter” (Latin: res publica), not a private concern or property of rulers/3rd world, and where offices of states are subsequently, directly or indirectly, elected or appointed – rather than inherited – where all eligible citizens have an equal say in the local and national decisions that affect their lives.
So, essentially we are both, with a strong dose of Constitutional: just how strong vs. not varies according to the needs of partisans on all sides and the institutions that make these decisions especially, in the U.S., the final arbiter: the Supreme Court. Even that’s debatable, according to some, because this is a power the Supreme Court declared for itself: not something given them under the strictest interpretation of the Constitution. It’s always a chuckle to see any one side scream overreach by the Supremes when it what they rule offends them, and then defend decisions when it suits their needs.
So what’s all this Republic vs. Democracy gunk about? Well, it’s a talking point that makes one side feel they are on the same side as our forefathers, and an attempt to make the other side feel they’re acting like ignorant twits.
A rather weak argument being made by those who either are being dishonest brokers, or actually are acting like the real ignorant twits.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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