Remember when the United States thought it was a good idea to promote democracy?
We didn’t all agree on what were the best forms or methods, but overall democracy wasn’t very controversial.
So what’s with this nonsense I’ve been seeing all over social media about a republic not being a democracy?
Seems to me it’s a relatively recent (and incorrect) distinction used mainly by the right to distract from a larger point when a Democrat (or someone else on what passes for the left) makes democracy part of their argument.
First of all, the claim that a republic is not a democracy is a failure of civics education. Democracy comes in a lot of flavors. Most of them are representative democracies as opposed to direct democracies. A republic is a form of representative democracy.
Then there’s this idea that a “democracy” can take your stuff while a “republic” is limited in its ability to do so. No. Just … no.
The nonsense is correct that the United States is a constitutional republic, but it’s the constitutional part that protects your rights, not the republic part. A republic can have a constitution that favors individual rights, corporate rights, state rights, or practically no rights. Depending upon the content of a constitution, so can most other forms of democracy. We’re lucky that in the United States, individual rights (are supposed to) come out on top. That’s not guaranteed by every constitutional republic.
Not sure that’s true?
Well, let’s look at history. Before Rome was an empire, it was a republic with a senate. The Roman senate could take whatever the heck it wanted from most people, because that particular republic was very picky about who got to be a citizen and hold the accompanying rights. It avoided direct democracy specifically to repress individual rights.
Something more recent perhaps? The United States has always been a republic, and for the first hundred years or so it was just fine with slavery. In the nonsense example the democracy took just your bicycle; as long as the represenative body agrees on it, a republic can take a lot more than that …
Still worried that in a “democracy” the majority can take your bicycle? Well under our constitution, they can’t even win an election. That’s by design. Our bicameral Congress (not to mention its pale reflection the Electoral College) was designed to protect the interest of states, not individuals. That means it doesn’t take nearly the majority of citizens to take your bicycle; it only takes 357 people (two thirds of Congress) who – because they are disproportionately representative – may actually be enacting the will of the minority who have religious objections to your brand of bicycle.
One might think they constitution holds them back, but they can pass an amendment about your bike if they need to. They did it once and took everyone’s alcohol. We rely on their good sense (and need to drink) to hold them back.
Except it doesn’t always hold them back, because they pass laws like “eminent domain” that let them seize your land because it serves the “public interest” … and such interest may just be the one rich guy who wants to put in another unnecessary strip mall. One guy is a pretty serious minority. Sure they reimburse you, but that’s not by your choice, is it? And now where you gonna park that bike, bro?
So if the message of this nonsense is 80% misleading (10% partial credit for constitutional republic), what’s the point?
Easy. It’s meant to associate “taking your stuff” with Democrats and “keeping your stuff” with Republicans. Because yes, we are that gullible to make those associations based on nothing more than them sounding alike; advertisers have known this for decades.
Be smarter. And get another 20% partial credit by recognizing one of the most important ways to protect our particular constitutional republic is by understanding what it is.