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Contrary to so much of the verbiage, America is a constitutional republic.

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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-02-13 07:24 PM
Original message
Contrary to so much of the verbiage, America is a constitutional republic.
Edited on Wed Oct-02-13 07:34 PM by No Elephants
America is not a constitutional democracy. America is a constitutional republic, the first constitutional republic.

As far as we know, the Ancient Greeks had the only democracy, ever. It consisted of some officials, like an archon, who were chosen by lot and carried out the will the of the citizens. However, each citizen had a vote on all matters.

Go to war? Citizens voted, with the archon performing a function similar to that of a moderator.

Be taxed? Citizens voted.

Amount of the tax? Citizens voted.

The length of mandatory military service? Citizens voted.

That is a democracy--a direct vote by a citizen on all matters of government.

Greek democracy was not necessarily egalitarian: Discrimination came in at the point of deciding who was a citizen and who was not.

Moreover, some speculate that such a system was possible only because most citizens had slaves, which freed them up to attend the various meetings and vote. (Though, now, with the internet, I supposed we could vote directly, if anyone were of a mind to let us. Doubt they'll let us.)

In a republic, on the other hand, citizens (however chosen) vote for representatives and that is the only thing on which citizens have a right to vote.

Definition of a republic

noun \ri-ˈpə-blik\

: a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen

Webster's also says that the "supreme" power resides with the citizens, but that means only that they can elect representatives.

Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution:

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.

One poor slob, who thought Rhode Island was not giving the vote to enough people, sued to get the "guaranty" mentioned in the Constitution. For the occasion, the Supreme Court invented the doctrine of a "political question." A political question is one which the Court says should be resolved at the polls, not in courts. Catch 22: You sue because people can't vote and the Court tells you to resolve the problem by voting.

Also from Webster's at the link above, we get this:

<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>

That may be memorable to Webster's, but other sources say the story may be apochryphal.

The Pledge of Allegiance:

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.

Anyway, we are a republic, not a democracy. I have no idea why everyone insists on calling the USA (or any other modern nation) a democracy, but we are all republics (or something even less democratic than a republic).

As an aside: I recently posted that the Knights of Columbus got Grover Cleveland to choose a date in September for celebration of Labor Day, as opposed to May 1, which the rest of the world celebrates in honor of the Haymarket affair. The Knights of Columbus are also responsible for insertion of "Under God" in the pledge. Interesting, because all of this happened before our first President who was not Protestant; and his Catholic religion was such a controversial issue at the time. Yet, behind the scenes, it seems Catholics were getting what they wanted.

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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-03-13 04:34 AM
Response to Original message
1. Okay.
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-03-13 06:40 AM
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2. Maybe "democracy" does not smack as much of plutocracy and the Roman Empire?
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-04-13 05:28 AM
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3. Isn't a constitutional republic a
representative democracy? Seems to me that it is.
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-04-13 06:56 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. A constitutional republic is only a republic established by a constitution, as opposed to
Edited on Fri Oct-04-13 07:10 AM by No Elephants
by a monarch or dictator or some such. How we came to a republic does not affect whether we are a republic or not.

Beyond that, I don't really know how to respond to your question because I have no idea what the difference is between a "representative democracy" and a "republic."

Since electing representatives and a president is the very essence of a republic; and the very essence of a democracy = direct voting by citizens, without any representatives in between, I believe "representative democracy" is not a valid term. Or, if it is, I don't know what it means.

Are you saying that the theoretical ability to adopt and amend the Constitution makes the US more of a democracy?

If so, that is indeed a difference from Ancient Rome's republic. However, it goes to how our form of government is brought into existence. Once brought into existence, though, our form of government is a republic, based on everything in my OP.

Even as to the Constitution, though, the only way to amend the Constitution is to have Congress initiate an amendment and state legislatures to vote on adopting it. It is up to each state whether to even allow citizens to vote on constitutional amendments and adoption goes by number of states ratifying, not number of citizens voting for ratification. That is more of a federal system (state govts vs. central govt) than it is a democracy.

So, still, no provision for a direct vote by a citizen, except as to electing representatives to the House. We don't even vote for President directly, although, as a practical matter, I pity the poor fool elector who tries to vote against the citizens of his or her state.

BTW, I will also say this: You cannot go on dictionary definitions alone because dictionaries are based on common usage and there has been so much talk--loose talk, IMO--not only in the US, but around the world, about various countries being democracies that dictionary definitions have changed. However, when the Framers set up our system of government, they considered only two models, Ancient Greek's democracy and Ancient Rome's Republic and they opted for the latter. +

Not only did they opt for Ancient Rome as a model, but most of the Framers were very opposed to democracy, considering it mob rule, especially Madison. That is why the Senate has so many more powers than the House. (Recalling that, originally, only state legislatures elected Senators. Also recall, that, at the time of adoption of the Constitution, only 6% of the population was eligible to vote--the whitest, richest, male-est 6%, maybe the same people we now call the 1%, only our 1% does finally include some people of color and some women, Oprah being an example of both.)

I also take the sources I cited in the OP "at their word," especially the Constitution itself.

If I guess wrong as to what you mean by the term "constitutional democracy", you will have to give me some kind of clue as to how you think a "representative democracy" differs from the definition of a plain ole "republic" that I posted in the OP. Also why you think the Constitution itself says our form of government is "republican" (small R) as opposed to saying it is a "representative democracy."

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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-04-13 07:36 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. I could just bring it all down to plutocracy.
Edited on Fri Oct-04-13 07:42 AM by No Elephants
It's no accident that we are a plutocracy. That is pretty much what we were set up to be.

And, of late, we are not even a plutocracy; we are a plutonomy because government (the suffix "cracy") is nowhere near as important as the economy of the plutocrats

And that is even before TPP comes down on our heads, when the plutocrats will get to override pesky state laws. (Even the Koch's can't buy every state election.)
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