Is the USA a democracy or a republic?

30 posts / 0 new

As Thom said on the 29 March show...



If you want the most technical term, our country is a constitutionally limited representative democratic republic. Our form of government, the constitution limits the power of government. We elect representatives, so it's not a pure democracy. But we do elect them by majority rule so it is democratic. And the form of, the infrastructure, the total form of government, is republican, it is a republic.

In the early days of this country, James Madison basically created a distinction that didn't exist before this, and this was in 1787. The, it used to be, if you look at dictionaries pre 1787, the words democracy and republic were interchangeable. The Roman republic was referred to as a democracy, the Greek democracy was refereed to as a republic. The words were interchanged. And in one of the Federalist papers, and I forget which one it was, I think 14 maybe, but it's been a long time since I read them, in one of the Federalist papers in an effort to, which were put into the newspapers by Hamilton and Madison, and John Jay wrote a couple of them, to sell the constitution to people, because we were operating under the articles of Confederacy in 1787.

To sell the constitution, Madison created this artificial distinction. And what he said, basically, was that democracy, that we weren't creating a democracy in the United States, and in a technical sense it is not a pure democracy, because like Greece, you had to have at least 6,001 people show up for a decision to be made. It had to be real majority rule. And so Hamilton, excuse me, Madison made the point that democracy could arguably be considered a form of mob rule, whereas a republic imposed, you know, an infrastructure of laws and prevented mob rule.

Now, what he omitted, intentionally, because he was trying to sell the constitution, he was trying to basically reinvent language, what he omitted was that we democratically elect our representatives. And later in his life, in the 1830s, after his presidency was over, keep in mind this was in the 1770s or 1780s, in the 1830s when he was an old man, when he was writing his memoirs, he came out and said, and there's a whole, if you go to buzzflash.com and look at my book reviews, the very first book review that I ever did for BuzzFlash, which was like five years ago, it's the oldest one on the list, is all about this topic, or it has several chapters on this topic. And I forget the title of it now, but it's a great book and it's written by a guy who's a constitutional scholar ["How Democratic Is the American Constitution?" by Robert A. Dahl.] And Madison in 1834 said, you know, after all these years, we can, you can use the words interchangeably. And that was about the time that the Democratic Republican party that Jefferson created dropped the word "republican" from its name. And that was about the time that Madison, who was one of the early founders of the Democratic Republican party started again using the word democracy.

So from the 1830s, so from the founding or in the mid 1780s until the mid 1830s we referred to America as a Republic. From the 1830s until the modern era we referred to it as a democracy, but then when Joe McArthur came along he started, he and some of his advisors, and Karl Rove really got on this big time, said, "wait a minute, calling this a democracy sounds too much like the Democratic Party. We should call it a Republic because that sounds more like the Republican Party." And so the talking point on right wing radio has been, and Limbaugh's been pushing this for 20 years now, has been that we don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic, and that you shouldn;t call it a democracy, it's a republic. And the reason why is because they like the word republic because it sounds like republican and they hate the word democracy because it sounds like democratic. And ... that's the bottom line, we live in a democratic republic.

SueN's picture
SueN
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Comments

Thom is right about the definition. Technically the word Democracy modifies the word "vote'. Our style of government is a republic meaning that it is an assembly of state governments under a Federal umbrella.

Sawdust's picture
Sawdust
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Can we finally call this piece of rhetorical flim-flam settled. Thom has it right, but the important thing for us is that we have neither because we live in an empire, and empires are authoritarian by nature.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Why so aggressive? This a new house. How do you like it? It's going to take some getting used to I think. I like your picture by the way DRC. I didn't know you were a black guy.

Sawdust's picture
Sawdust
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I'm fine with Democratic Republic

stwo's picture
stwo
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

A note on the history is in order. Thom seems to base his erroneous argument on this sentence: "if you look at dictionaries pre 1787, the words democracy and republic were interchangeable." He is most likely referring to Samuel Johnson's 1755 entry - "A government of more than one person". But to take this and then to claim that there was never, prior to Madison, a differentiation made between Democracy and Republicanism is an egregious falsity. From Aristotle to Sir Thomas Smythe, Republicanism is defined as a form of mixed government which borrows features of democracy and oligarchy and some form of constraint be it constitutional or factional.

Cicero wrote passionately of the distinction in his De re publica: "[The] multitude ... is not deprived of a right of suffrage by a haughty exclusion, nor yet on the other hand, permitted to exert a dangerous preponderance in the government."

And in another passage he elaborated upon the idea of an "equal mixture of the three best forms of government, united, and modified by one another. I wish to establish in a Commonwealth, a royal and pre–eminent chief. Another portion of power should be deposited in the hands of the aristocracy, and certain things should be reserved to the judgment and wish of the multitude. This constitution, in the first place, possesses that great equality, without which men cannot long maintain their freedom, then it offers a great stability, while the particular separate and isolated forms, easily fall into their contraries; so that a king is succeeded by a despot, an aristocracy by a faction, a democracy by a mob and a hubbub; and all these forms are frequently sacrificed to new revolutions. In this united and mixed constitution, however, which I take the liberty of recommending, similar disasters cannot happen without the greatest vices in public men."

And more: "There is no political constitution to which I more absolutely deny the name of a Commonwealth, than that in which all things lie in the power of the multitude (nullam quidem citius negaverim esse Rempublicam, quam quæ tota sit in multitudinis protestate). If a Commonwealth, which implies the welfare of the entire community, could not exist in Agrigentum, Syracuse, or Athens, when tyrants reigned over them,—if it could not exist in Rome, when under the oligarchy of the decemvirs,—neither do I see how this sacred name of Commonwealth can be applied to a democracy, and the sway of the mob." ... "there can be no community, properly so called, unless it be regulated by a combination of rights. And by this definition it appears that a multitude of men may be just as tyrannical as a single despot; and indeed this is the most odious of all tyrannies, since no monster can be more barbarous than the mob, which assumes the name and mask of the people. Nor is it at all reasonable, since the laws place the property of madmen in the hands of their sane relations, that we should do the very reverse in politics, and throw the property of the sane into the hands of the mad multitude."

Come now, Thom, why do you go galloping into these wild claims without doing what I would consider a prudent bit of homework first? Such obviously false claims cast an unfavorable light on all those which begin as merely suspect.

Dave M's picture
Dave M
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Can we finally call this piece of rhetorical flim-flam settled. Thom has it right, but the important thing for us is that we have neither because we live in an empire, and empires are authoritarian by nature.

Now I hope all of this talk republic, democracy, direct democracy or representative democracy is over with.

shalwechat's picture
shalwechat
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

US is a Federal Republic with a ranking of about 18 within Full Democracies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index  most of the flawed democracies or hybrids are republics, like Republic of Congo, Yemen, note the flaw is ony in respect to their democracies, their republics are doing just fine, like the Islamic Republic of Iran,

No. Location Index Category Type of government 1 Sweden 9.88 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy 2 Norway 9.68 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy 3 Iceland 9.65 Full democracy Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy 4 Netherlands 9.53 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy, Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 5 Denmark 9.52 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy 6 Finland 9.25 Full democracy Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy 7 New Zealand 9.19 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy 8 Switzerland 9.15 Full democracy Parliamentary republic, Confederation, Semi-direct democracy, Bicameralism 9 Luxembourg 9.10 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy 10 Australia 9.09 Full democracy Federalism, Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 11 Canada 9.07 Full democracy Federalism, Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 12 Ireland 9.01 Full democracy Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 13 Germany 8.82 Full democracy Federalism, Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 14 Austria 8.49 Full democracy Federalism, Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 15 Spain 8.45 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, Bicameralism 16 Malta 8.39 Full democracy Parliamentary republic and Parliamentary Democracy 17 Japan 8.25 Full democracy Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy

18

United States 8.22 Full democracy Federalism, Presidential system, Bicameralism

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

When the US achieves full fascism, it will lose it's status whithin democracies, either dropping to flawed or hybrid but still maintain it's status as a republic.

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote douglaslee:

When the US achieves full fascism, it will lose it's status whithin democracies, either dropping to flawed or hybrid but still maintain it's status as a republic.

When, you say?

When corporate lawyer, James Baker, intervenes in the Florida recount and finagles a Federal overide of State law in order for the fascist right wing Supreme court members to select the president that will in turn benefiit Baker's clients oil interests in the Middle East, then that's fascism.

When voting machines are owned and operated by private corporate interests and are used to throw the election to the fascist candidate, then that's fascism

When the fascist controlled media decides which candidates can debate and which ones can't, as in Dennis Kucinich's appeal to be allowed to debate at the Dem primaries in the 2008 primary in Las Vegas, then that is fascism

When the illegal appointed VP Dick Cheny can hold a secret and private energy task force meeting in our Whitehouse and not be required to divulge the names of the participants, even supported by the same supreme court that place him in power in the first place, then that is fascism.

To have no interest by the corporate media in Enron's power plant in Dahbol, India and the TransAfgahnistan pipeline even though two wars were started over oil and gas, is fascist controlled media.

When these same oil and gas people at Cheney's secret meeting suddenly become the benefeciaries of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, then that's fascism.

To have a political party that trumpets free market capitalism while standing there with their corporate hands outstretched to receive direct awarded war and war support contracts (i.e., govt taxpayer money) in order to prosecute the wars they lied us into is blatant fasciism

I don't think we are close to fascism, I think we are deep into fascism, it's just being presented to us by PR firms as unrestricted free market capitalism, which of course, it is not. If competition was good for the consumer, then why do all corporations try to increase their market share while reducing or preferrably eliminating competition? All corporations try to grow and overtake other similar businesses, sometimes not so similar. They do not welcome competition, they welcome cartels.

Choco's picture
Choco
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

You got it Choco. This is why the Constitution does not really work and has been discarded in favor of the emperor and the legions run by the banksters and vulture capitalists.

I think it is good to use all the remnants of democracy to expose the empire and its expensive sorrows. We just have to remember what it is and is not so we don't get our strategy and tactics messed up by false hopes and naivete. It is worse than we think. That is a good operating principle.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

America is a Republic, a republic is a form of Democracy.

Volitzer's picture
Volitzer
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Well, if you go by Prof. Sheldon Wolin, the U.S. is a "managed democracy". An illusion of democracy. The oligarchy's selection of candidates is presented every election cycle to be "rubber stamped" by the electorate. Two wings of a Corporate Party to select from.

The old Soviet Union was a "republic". If they'd had two wings of the Communist Party, they too could have shared in the illusion of having a nice little democracy going

"Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliché. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms "inverted totalitarianism"?

"Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive--and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a "managed democracy" where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls."

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9175.html

Retired Monk

"Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

It is also important to note when Progressives like Thom Hartmann tell this lie about our Republic over and over again, that somehow we are all suppose to believe and accept this lie of theirs, but facts are stubborn things! And the fact is we are a not representative democracy but a Constitutional Republic by the authority of our Federal Constitution and not some dopey “constitutionally limited representative democratic republic” as the seditionist Thom Hartmann whales about. Here are some more facts that support our republican form of government being a constitutional republic and not a democracy:

1. The words representative democracy are not found together in Federalist Paper #10 but only arguments by Madison in support of a republic over a democracy as our form of government, “Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” But you can find the words representative republic together in Federalist #48, “But in a representative republic, where the executive magistracy is carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its power; and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly…”

2. There are 85 Federalist Papers, 18 of which mention our republic or republican form of government. Only 3 of the 85 mention democracy but only in a negative light to promote the republican form over the democratic form of government.

3. Federalist Paper #85 Conclusion by Alexander Hamilton does not mention democracy or democracies even once but mentions the word republican four times.

4. The Constitution of the United States of America does not contain the word democracy or forms of the word.

So the words democracy and republic were NOT interchangeable during the Constitution Convention of 1787, in fact James Madison clearly demonstrated the difference between the two forms of government and that is way the founders gave us the most unique constitutional republic known to mankind.

The Founders that ratified our Constitution knew full well about the ills of democracy and that is why they gave us a Constitutional Republic instead.

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the building where, after four months of hard work, the Constitution had been completed and signed, a lady asked him what kind of government the convention had created. A very old, very tired, and very wise Benjamin Franklin replied; “A Republic, ma’am if you can keep it.”

Our Constitution lays out our republican form of government, its one in the same with our Constitution.

I swore an oath to a Constitution that laid out a republican form of Government, not democratic or socialist government. Unless that government is changed constitutionally (Article V) and not by sedition or seditionist like Thom Hartmann; I hold no allegiance to the progressive seditionists that changed the constitutional text by unconstitutional means and neither do the American People.

There can be sedition against our republican form of government which our Constitution outlines …

Section 4 - Republican government

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.

Thom Hartmann is promoting socialism with a smiley face and this socialism first must be implemented in government principles before the economics of “genuine socialism” can be enforced. This is not hard to understand, unless of course someone like Thom Hartmann wants to misrepresent what the constitution actually says to promote his “genuine socialism”.

Promoting democracy to introduce socialism into our "republican form of government" is indeed SEDITION against our Constitution and making no mistake Thom Hartmann is promoting sedition.

Someone like Thom Hartmann and those who follow him are true seditionists against our Constitutional Republic and need to be exposed as such!

DugFmJamul's picture
DugFmJamul
Joined:
Apr. 25, 2010 11:27 pm
when Progressives like Thom Hartmann tell this lie about our Republic over and over again, that somehow we are all suppose to believe and accept this lie of theirs
I believe and accept it. Let's take a vote and move on. (Democracies are so cool!)

Art's picture
Art
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Art:I believe and accept it. Let's take a vote and move on. (Democracies are so cool!)

Democracies are NOT COOL if 51 votes can take away my Constitutional Rights, the Founders gave us a Constitutional Republic to protects us against the ills of democracy but progressives seditionists like you AND Thom Hartmann use democracy as a tool to vote away our Republic our RIGHTS!

p.s. I'm a OUTLAW here so if I don't respond it means the Fascists running Admin have banned me again for expressing my point of view.

Got to love progressives.....NOT!

DugFmJamul's picture
DugFmJamul
Joined:
Apr. 25, 2010 11:27 pm

Sore losers. Don'tcha love em.

Art's picture
Art
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Art:

Sore losers. Don'tcha love em.

As long as the SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT OF OBAMA is in power this nation loses and so do you!

DugFmJamul's picture
DugFmJamul
Joined:
Apr. 25, 2010 11:27 pm
Quote DugFmJamul:
Quote Art:I believe and accept it. Let's take a vote and move on. (Democracies are so cool!)
Democracies are NOT COOL if 51 votes can take away my Constitutional Rights, the Founders gave us a Constitutional Republic to protects us against the ills of democracy but progressives seditionists like you AND Thom Hartmann use democracy as a tool to vote away our Republic our RIGHTS! p.s. I'm a OUTLAW here so if I don't respond it means the Fascists running Admin have banned me again for expressing my point of view. Got to love progressives.....NOT!

So long as you aren't making ad hominem attacks or making threats or the like, I doubt you'll be banned. The message board rules are pretty clear about what is and isn't allowed.

Out of curiosity, what specific Constitutional rights of yours are being violated? And do you think Republican administrations have also violated any Constitutional rights, yours or other people's?

reed9's picture
reed9
Joined:
Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Dug, the critical mistake in your understanding of the Constitution is that, unlike Cicero, the Founders did posit the authority of the people rather than the balance of elites and masses in the American Republic. There was more than a general suspicion of "mob rule" associated with the pure democracy you mention, and the franchise was not universal to be sure. But there was a theoretical rejection of aristocracy and monarchy as the way to control the excesses.

It is also useful to remember that there was a general British and American reaction against the brutalities of the French Revolution. There is a lot that went wrong with the French, but they had active enemies all around them working to subvert them. We were pretty much by ourselves and only had to deal with internal divisions.

I think we will all be fighting a losing battle to try to restore all the nuance and subtleties to "The Story of Us." The History Channel is already spinning the story with some outrageous distortions. Hagiography goes down like sweet juice if you don't know that it is high fructose corn.

As the story of the advance of freedom and economic pioneering, it all goes to empire without anything catching in our throat. It is not presented as a critique of democracy or an argument for authoritarianism. It is all about freedom and democracy and the American Way of Life. What I am for is taking back the slogans as we expose the empire. It is all about We the People instead of They the Dominators. I'll take being dominated by the majority instead of by the rich minority.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I missed the History channal show. What a stupid title. The story of us?

Was it any good?

slabmaster
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am

I am interested in what the narrative being sold on TV is, but my initial review of the first episode is that it is a popular gloss of serious hagiography with a nod to the idea that the Indians lived here before "we" arrived. But the economic opportunity and the "available land" were celebrated along with the plucky English virtues of striving.

In addition to being the brave story of White People, and the suffering of the others who are now "us" as "we" allow "them" to be included, I suspect we will pay liberal lip service to the sin of racism and segregation while celebrating the economic and military valor of our "free world" leadership.

I would be shocked to find Howard Zinn as a source, or Gore Vidal. I think they will avoid overt American Exceptionalism and make the Global Cop and unwilling respondent to the call of History. There is a lot of evil to use to make us look good. Expect to see it all.

The same narrative would not recognize that the French treated the Indians as real people with diplomacy and treaties they respected. They would never admit that the Spanish too responsibility, at least formally, for the treatment of the Indians in their colonies. For the English, it was pretty much an economic and warlord equation. If the Indians were useful, use them. If not, kill them. Or enslave them before you kill them.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Cuba is not a Democracy.

It is a Republic.

If you don't like Democracy, move to Cuba.

kwikfix
Joined:
Apr. 9, 2010 1:51 pm

I had read one of the choices for our name was United Provinces of America, among others, but didn't see if it was in the story of us. I think Sovereign was in one of the choices, too. 'United' may have been an easier goal or statement when only 13 were involved. Now 'Sort Of United might be appropriate, SOUSA, has a nice ring, no? [John Philip So added the last three letters to his name in a patriotic deed]

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote douglaslee:

I had read one of the choices for our name was United Provinces of America, among others, but didn't see if it was in the story of us. I think Sovereign was in one of the choices, too. 'United' may have been an easier goal or statement when only 13 were involved. Now 'Sort Of United might be appropriate, SOUSA, has a nice ring, no? [John Philip So added the last three letters to his name in a patriotic deed]

DougasLee,

What's special about our Constitutional Republic and republican form of government?

DugFmJamul's picture
DugFmJamul
Joined:
Apr. 25, 2010 11:27 pm
Quote reed9:
Quote DugFmJamul:
Quote Art:I believe and accept it. Let's take a vote and move on. (Democracies are so cool!)
Democracies are NOT COOL if 51 votes can take away my Constitutional Rights, the Founders gave us a Constitutional Republic to protects us against the ills of democracy but progressives seditionists like you AND Thom Hartmann use democracy as a tool to vote away our Republic our RIGHTS! p.s. I'm a OUTLAW here so if I don't respond it means the Fascists running Admin have banned me again for expressing my point of view. Got to love progressives.....NOT!

So long as you aren't making ad hominem attacks or making threats or the like, I doubt you'll be banned. The message board rules are pretty clear about what is and isn't allowed.

Out of curiosity, what specific Constitutional rights of yours are being violated? And do you think Republican administrations have also violated any Constitutional rights, yours or other people's?

Dug is (and has been for as long as I can remember on this site) clearly in violation of rules #6 and #8 of those rules, and to a lesser extent, on the wrong side of rule #5.

drew013's picture
drew013
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I know, sincerity is his best defense. But the ideological mind freeze is in full tile boogie.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Good Bye Progressive Seditionist Dirt Bags....

DugFmJamul has been banned again.....

CHEERS

GOOD NIGHT NOW!

DugFrmJamul's picture
DugFrmJamul
Joined:
Apr. 27, 2010 7:20 pm

We could perhaps refer to ourselves as a constitutional democratic republic or representative democracy bound by the constitution. Since the constitution outlines the manner and form of the type of representative democratic elective process, or the indirect democracy therein, calling us a constitutional republic is fine with me.

EvanWells's picture
EvanWells
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

If you don't know, then ask somebody. Ask the Supreme Court. They shoot horses, don't they? However, one should detail the architecture of the White House, the Obelisk, and the Concrete Pond. Overlay these to the architecture of Dead Civilizations. Only then can one begin to discover if there is a method to the madness, or if the choices were as simple as, 'That sho' do look perdy, Masser". Democracy or Republic is not the best in this world.

GreenMule's picture
GreenMule
Joined:
May. 9, 2010 5:30 pm

Latest Headlines

Who rejected United States-North Korea peace talks?

There were conflicting reports on Sunday regarding a recent proposal for United States-North Korea peace talks which was allegedly made before North Korea"s recent nuclear test

U.K. Pound Falls As Markets Get Brexit Jitters

Bloomberg said on Monday the pound had sustained its biggest fall against the dollar in 11 months

Clinton: I'll defend Israel but push for 'two-state solution

Hillary Clinton believes both Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz "missed the mark" with their approach to the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict

How Can the GOP Run American Government If They Hate It?

The coal country state of West Virginia is in the middle of a special legislative session to deal with a $270 million budget shortfall, and it's setting the stage for Republicans to completely gut the state's government.

It's the same playbook we've seen the right-wing carry out in Wisconsin, in Kansas, in Michigan, and in Ohio.

Powered by Pressflow, an open source content management system