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-Land of the Free
Of Course We're Not A Democracy
2020-10-23
[FirstThings] During the recent vice presidential debate, I pointed out on Twitter that our form of government in the United States is not a democracy, but a republic. The confused and vehement media criticism that ensued persuaded me that this point might be better served in an essay rather than a 140-character Tweet.

Insofar as "democracy" means "a political system in which government derives its powers from the consent of the governed," then of course that accurately describes our system. But the word conjures far more than that. It is often used to describe rule by majority, the view that it is the prerogative of government to reflexively carry out the will of the majority of its citizens.

Our system of government is best described as a constitutional republic. Power is not found in mere majorities, but in carefully balanced power. Under our Constitution, passing a bill in the House of Representatives—the body most reflective of current majority views—isn’t enough for it to become law. Legislation must also be passed by the Senate—where each state is represented equally (regardless of population), where members have longer terms, and where (under current rules) a super-majority vote is typically required to bring debate to a close. Thomas Jefferson described the Senate as the "saucer" that cools hot passions more prevalent in the House. It’s where consensus is forged, as senators reach compromise across regional, cultural, and partisan lines.
Posted by:746

#6  To point out the US is a republic, not a democracy just gets you called out as a small-minded pedant who hates democracy, by people who don't actually know the what the words republic, democracy or pedant actually mean.
Posted by: M. Murcek   2020-10-23 14:02  

#5  Re #3: Early America at least in the middle and northern colonies was not oligarchic. A majority of free males owned property in colonial America and could therefore vote.

"Oligarchs" refers not to property owners generally but to a tiny number of extraordinarily wealthy citizens exercising control over the government. Not an accurate description of America before the days of the Robber Barons.
Posted by: Glolugum Pheaper6151   2020-10-23 12:32  

#4  ...if you venn diagram it, those incorporated into the militia and those who could vote was pretty tight in 1792.
Posted by: Procopius2k   2020-10-23 11:39  

#3   but its an oligarchy in execution.

It was then, too — originally the vote was limited by most states to those who owned property or paid taxes. It’s just that we had better oligarchs.
Posted by: trailing wife   2020-10-23 11:34  

#2  ...on the road to Banana Republic status.
Posted by: Clem   2020-10-23 07:27  

#1  During the recent vice presidential debate, I pointed out on Twitter that our form of government in the United States is not a democracy, but a republic.

Technically its designed as a republic, but its an oligarchy in execution.
Posted by: Procopius2k   2020-10-23 06:59  

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