THE UNITED STATES
A REPUBLIC NOT A DEMOCRACY
June 8, 2008
On occasion, your columnists have been asked why in our writings we refer to the United States as a Republic. Our answer is always the same, "because that is what we are...a Republic."
The word "democracy" does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence or in our Constitution. In fact, the Constitution states "to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." And the pledge of allegiance to the flag does not state "the democracy for which it stands," but it does state "to the republic for which it stands." And all of us know so well the words to the "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but we have never seen the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Democracy." Why do we make this distinction in our writing? The reasons are significant and they speak to the greatness of our Republic.
The two forms of government: Democracy and Republic are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between "the Majority unlimited" as in a democracy and the "Majority limited," as in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of the individual. The chief characteristic of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, the Individual and any group of individuals composing any minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of the majority. It is a case of a Majority over the individual and thereby one's freedoms are at risk.
A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form or system of government. Its purpose is to control the Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect the individual's God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of the Minority. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution which is adopted by the people. It is only changeable, from it original meaning, by the people through an amendment process.
Clearly, there is a difference between republican and democratic forms of government. John Adams knew well the essence of the difference when he said, "you have rights antecedent to all earthly governments, rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; laws derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe." Nothing in our Constitution suggests that government is a grantor of rights. Instead, government is a protector of rights.
The framers of the Constitution saw that it is the Congress that poses the greatest threat to our liberties. Thus, the framers used negative phrases against Congress throughout the Constitution such as: shall not abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, and shall not be violated, nor be denied. In a republican form of government, there is rule of law. All citizens, including government officials, are accountable to the same laws. Government power is limited and decentralized through a system of checks and balances. Power is divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
The Constitution of the United States put into practice the principle of the Declaration of Independence: that the people form their governments and grant to them only "just powers," limited powers, in order primarily to secure their God-given unalienable rights. 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 government power capable of being misused so as to violate the Individual rights. Our early framers gave us a Constitution which contains coverage to protect the Republic. In their wisdom, the writers gave us the Electoral College so that in presidential elections, heavily populated states could not democratically run over the smaller, sparsely populated states. There was virtue in their wisdom.
Truly, we are indebted to our American forefathers for their brilliance in Constitutional content in protecting our freedoms. The founders intended and laid out the ground rules for our nation as a republic. Clearly, in spite of what Michelle Obama recently stated, we believe that all Americans have much for which to be proud going all the way back to the founding of this great nation. America is truly a Republic. It is indeed a tribute of heroic American Exceptionalism. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.