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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-10-13 12:14 PM
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What democracy?
Edited on Sat Aug-10-13 12:34 PM by No Elephants
At the federal level, we have a republic, not a democracy. (Some would say not even a republic, but a plutocracy or even only a plutonomy.)

That we live in a democracy is one of the biggest and most persistent lies government and media have told us. I think by now, some of them believe it themselves (or, like me until relatively recently, maybe some simply don't know).

Definition of REPUBLIC
1
a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government
c : a usually specified republican government of a political unit <the French Fourth Republic>

2
: a body of persons freely engaged in a specified activity <the republic of letters>

snip

<when asked by a passerby what sort of government the constitutional convention had formulated for the new nation, Benjamin Franklin memorably replied, A republic, if you can keep it.


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/republic

I am not sure if Ben Franklin ever said that. However, our pledge of allegiance correctly labels our form of federal government as a republic.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


Nothing about a democracy.


(So, we pledge allegiance, first, to a piece of cloth and, second, to the form of government that the piece of cloth supposedly represents. I never understood why we don't simply pledge allegiance to our country, but that's a different story.)

I also don't know about the "supreme" power part of the definition of a "republic." At the federal level, voters in the US have the power periodically to elect officials who may or may not even keep their specific campaign promises to voters, let alone represent voters on every issue. And that is all the power we have. We can't even impeach a President for breaking his specific promises. Only the House can initiate that process--and only the Senate can render the verdict.


I don't know at which point people started calling America a democracy. Those constant references are reflected into some dictionary definitions of democracy because the function of a dictionary in the US is to reflect how words are used and spelled at a given time, not to prescribe how they must forever after be spelled and used. However, in 1787, the Framers were very well aware of the exact differences between a republic and a democracy.

The 18th century, when the Constitution was written, was one of neo-classicism, when people looked back to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece with a lot of respect, perhaps even some reverence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoclassicism

The education of the Framers had likely included study of Latin and Greek, so students could learn--often memorize--the classic writings in the original language.



Ancient Rome was a republic, meaning citizens had no right to vote on issues, only their representatives did. Ancient Athens was a democracy, meaning that every Athenian citizen had a right to vote on every single issue, war, taxes, whatever. (Discrimination in Ancient Athens came in at the point when they decided who was and was not an Athenian citizen. And that is not even getting to the issue of which Athenian citizens had the free time to show up for all or most debates and votes.)

Anyhoo....the Framers very deliberately chose a republic, like Rome, not a democracy, like Athens.

The closest we come to a democracy is when our states put a ballot question on the ballot. But, on the federal level, we're a pure republic.

At the federal level, American citizens, however defined, never had a right to vote on issues like war, taxes, even whether and when we should celebrate National Ice Cream Day.

At the federal level, our only right has always been that some of us can vote for representatives and senators. And, by the way, the Framers did not even give us the right to vote for Senators.

Originally, the Constitution provided that the people of the several states would choose Reps, but state legislatures would choose Senators and electors would choose the President. Voters did not get a right to choose U.S. Senators until 1913.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventeenth_Amendment_to_...

The people still don't have the right to elect the President; electors still do. (As a practical matter, only one elector has ever gone against the vote of his state. While no one killed him for it, I am not at all sure that he would have survived very long today. Still, the point is that the Framers kept the right out of the hands of the people.)

The Constitution never decides which people have the right to vote--the critical determination in the Athenian democracy. The Framers left that determination to state legislatures, which were populated by the well-connected (bearing in mind, that, until the Revolution, the Crown had the power to decide who was in charge, even who owned land).

Also, at the time of adoption of the Constitution, only free male property owners in the 13 colonies had the right to vote. I have seen this cited variously as anywhere from 6% of the population at the time to about 16% of the population. (I have no idea if the total population figure represented people living outside the borders of the 13 colonies, which would have included a relatively few adventurous colonists and many members of the First Nations.) No matter which figures are correct, however, all are well below 20%, not exactly majority rule.

Finally, while we bemoan our only choice for President being among (a) Democrat; (b) Republican and (c) someone destined to lose the election, the Framers were not even looking at any political parties at all. It was only the PTB--meaning them--and everyone else.

So, the system was set up from the start as a plutocracy in the form of a republic.



And, as I recently learned, the system was also set up from the start with secrecy. No sense letting voters know stuff that might affect their votes!

As I learned very recently, there were secret debates about the Constitution, the notes of which were not made public until 1840, sixty years after the vote on the Constitution, such as it was.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/yates.asp (This link is to the notes themselves at the Avalon Project of the Yale University School of Law. Otherwise, I would have assumed that some kook put out fake notes of fake secret debates.)

The notes reveal that Madison, often referred to as "the Father of the Constitution (unfairly, IMO) feared democracy greatly. He says, among other things, that it is impossible to making the Senate too strong (bearing in mind that the people had a right to vote only for Reps).

Here's a taste of some of Madison's statements during these secret debates. This one is deciding how long the term of Senators should be. (Some present wanted elections every year, some wanted them every nine years, and probably everything in between):

In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be jsut, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.


And, there was this:

Mr. MADISON. The people's opinions cannot be known, as to the particular modifications which may be necessary in the new government-In general, they believe there is something wrong in the present system that requires amendment; and he could wish to make the republican system the basis of the change-because if our amendments should fail of securing their happiness, they will despair it can be done in this way, and incline to monarchy.

Mr. Gerry could not be governed by the prejudices of the people-Their good sense will ever have its weight. Perhaps a limited monarchy would be the best government, if we could organize it by creating a house of peers; but that cannot be done.

The question was put on the three years' amendment, and carried-7 ayes-4 noes. New York in the affirmative.

snip


Mr. Pierce moved to have it for three years-instanced the danger of too long a continuance, from the evils arising in the British parliaments from their septenual duration, and the clamors against it in that country by its real friends.

Mr. Sherman was against the 7 years, because if they are bad men it is too long, and if good they may be again elected.

Mr. Madison was for 7 years-Considers this branch as a check on the democracy- it cannot therefore be made too strong.

snip

Agreed that the second branch of the national legislature be paid in the same way as the first branch.




The Framers being 18th century gentlemen, paid lip service, even in debates that were secret, to the desires of the people being carried out. (*snort* I wish.)

However, they give that lip service, even as they argue for a things like making sure the state legislature selected Senate checks the people selected House of Representatives, rule by a peerage, and a non-hereditary monarchy ("president for life")--almost the model of England in the time of King George III.



And, of course, the Bill of Rights was not in the original version of the Constitution at all. The colonies, however, refused to ratify the Constitution unless they had a promise that the Bill of Rights would be added as soon as possible after ratification. They kept that promise. The Bill of Rights was ratified only six months after the Constitution as the Framers originally drafted it. Was it that they were men of their word, or was it that fighting a revolution against a government that was unresponsive to the will of the people was still fresh in their minds--and everyone else's minds, too? Or some combination of both? We'll never know, but I am never again betting my vote on the promises of any politician.)

The version of omitting from the Constitution any expression mention of state and individual rights that I learned in school was--oh, wait. I never learned that in school at all.

Much later, though, I did learn the official version, that the Framers intended to create a very limited federal government, one that had only the powers very expressly given it by the Constitution. Therefore, they assumed that the rights to everything else would remain with the states and that individual rights would be solely a matter between individuals and the states. Therefore it had never even occurred to them that express statements about states rights and individual rights would be necessary or appropriate in the Constitution. Uh-huh.



In any event, the Constitution as originally written was about protecting commerce, discrimination against many, slavery, waging war and very broadly-stated federal powers and power in the hands of a few, like state legislators. But I never got that until long after having been graduated from public school.

I did learn in public school that the US had become such a champion of universal education and free speech so that everyone who had a right to vote could make informed decisions about voting. So, why the hell were we not taught in public school the truth, as revealed by the notes of the secret debates and other documents of the Constitutional era?

Anyway, over time, more people got the vote, thanks to the states. So, access to the vote became more univeral. However, the form of our federal goverment never changed. It was founded as an anti-democratic, plutocratic republic and has always remained so. Except, some would say it is now much more of a plutonomy than a plutocracy.

I hope that I have shown beyond doubt that U.S. democracy is, and always has been, a Big Lie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie

So, among many other things, the claim that we fought a war in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East so that we would cut into the inclination of Middle Eastern people to "hate us for our freedoms" was a multiple Big Lie. One, we had no democracy to bring to the Middle East, our form of government being a plutocratic republic, or simply a plutonomy. Two, we sought to bring a puppet government to Iraq, not a democracy or a republic. Three, other nations in the Middle East already had a form of government much like our form, notably, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel. And we certainly had puppets in the Middle East before. Therefore, whatever we were purporting to introduce into the Middle East was far from new. Four, no one hated us for our freedoms. Five, the invasion and occupation could only create more reasons for terrorism and more terrorists, not fewer. And son on.

It's helping us see through claims like that that and so, so many others that makes the distinction among a "democracy," a "republic" and a "plutocracy" so very important.

A Big Lie can be told in only a few words, and will take, if the megaphone is big enough and the Lie is told persistently enough.

Trying to cut back against a Big Lie told by so many for so long, however, has to be a painstaking, step by step effort. So, please pardon the length of this attempt to prove beyond any doubt the U.S. is not now, and was never intended to be, a democracy.
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