As I speak with people regarding civics, society and government, one thing that is apparent is the widespread confusion and misconception about what kind of government the Untied States of America represents. Many people, including citizens of this great nation of ours, commonly believe that the United States of America is a Democracy. In fact, even at my County Voter Registration Office, they have a poster of an elephant and a donkey behind voting booth curtains with the slogan, “Democracy Works!”
Is that true? Is the United States a Democracy? Let’s begin by asking the obvious:
What is a Democracy?
A Democracy is a form of governance, in which the citizenry participates either through consensus (Consensus Democracy), direct referendum (Direct Democracy) or elected representatives (Representative Democracy), to steer public matters of interest. On a fundamental level, Democracy is rule by the Omnipotent Majority. The Individual or any group of Individuals comprising any Minority, do not have protections against the unlimited power of The Majority. In both the Direct type and the Representative type of Democracy, The Majority’s power is absolute and unlimited. Its decisions are final and unappealable under the legal system established therein, which naturally opens the door to unlimited Tyranny-by-Majority. This is precisely the type of danger the Constitutional Framers were protecting us from when they wrote about and condemned the “excesses of Democracy”.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson in his “Notes On The State of Virginia, written in 1781:
“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for . . .”
James Madison’s observations in The Federalist (No. 10), also underscores the grave error of a Democracy as a form of government as he states:
“Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”
A careful and second reading of both Jefferson’s and Madison’s quotes bear a frightful resemblance to our current leadership and their transformative vision for America, from freedom to despotism, as the government attempts to equalize not opportunities, but outcomes.
While some aspects of Democracy sound an awful lot like our society, a Democracy is actually the antithesis of the government our Founding Fathers did establish, which is a Constitutional Republic.
What is a Republic?
A Republic is defined as a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution, adopted by the people and changeable only by amendments. A Constitutional Republic is a form of government that is not subject to any given whim of the majority, but one whose laws and responsibility regarding governance and liberty are recorded and appealed to in the written form of a Constitution. The purpose of that Constitution is to provide protections to the liberties of the Individual, the Minority and the General Public as a whole from the Omnipotent or Tyrannical Majority; protections which are absent in a Democracy; protections that gave birth to the autonomy of rugged individualism, the main ingredient of American Exceptionalism. The history of the world has been state sanctioned murder, torture and dungeons. But not here. The United States, with all its flaws, still remains the world’s lone super power and the most benevolent global force in the history of mankind.
According to The American Ideal of 1776: The Twelve Basic American Principals:
“The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob-rule” of a governing Elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority. This is designed, above all else, to preclude the existence in America of any governmental power capable of being misused so as to violate The Individual’s rights–to endanger the people’s liberties.”
In The Federalist (No. 55), Madison also makes the following noteworthy observation regarding the republican form of government:
“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”
As the freest people in the history of mankind, we have a duty to familiarize ourselves with, to study and to defend the underpinnings of our Republic which have outperformed all other governmental forms in the preservation of human liberties.