“This is what Democracy looks like!”
This chant from protestors has always been irritating. From high school to college, people talk about America as a democracy. It has fueled arguments about the electoral college and other functions within our country. The main reason this is irritating is that America is not a direct democracy. America is a republic.
However, calling the United States a republic would be selling our country short. In fact, the United States government is unique to the point that calling a democracy or republic alone would show clueless people are about our own government. So, let’s break it down. Defining a republic, discussing the birth of America’s unique government system, and how current ideas are basically asking to tear apart what makes America…well America.
What is a Republic?
First of all, let us discuss what a republic is. A republic is a form of government where the power is held by the people and their elected representatives. The country is defined as a “public matter.” Furthermore, the power that representatives are given is given to them through democracy. This system prevents control through family lineage or groups. Republics have senates, assemblies, and magistrates that provide a check and balance system. In addition, a constitution is also placed to protect the people against the will of the majority. Sound familiar? It should. This form of government began with the Roman Empire in 503 BC. While republics came and went, there is something special about the United States structure.
The Birth of a Democratic Republic
The United States became the progenitor of the Democratic Republic Government System. While developing the government, the Founding Fathers decided to combine the characteristics of a Republic and Democracy Government System. As a result, the United States uses principles of both. This is accomplished by allowing direct democracy to occur on the local and state level, while the federal and other higher levels’ decisions are decided on by democratically elected representatives. Our government has three different branches of government that are checks and balances to each other. Most importantly, a constitution exists that protects the rights of all people against the will of the majority.
This is an amazing system, albeit having a complicated form of indirect democracy. However, people seem to underestimate how much this Democratic Republic has done for us and why asking for the removal of certain precedents like the filibuster or stacking the supreme court would destroy our current Republic
The United States Democratic Republic at Work
We Need A Senate
One of the major issues that have popped up in the feed is the removal of the Senate. Many arguments for this come from the fact it's undemocratic because a minority can overcome the majority. One of the examples was around the supermajority win in 2018, where a minority of senators did not show up, causing their agenda to fail. Furthermore, they argue it is elitist and only still around because of the constitution.
This argument is pretty shallow because the Senate and House system does not come from democracy but rather from the Republic. Senate and Assemblies are both needed to allow for our Democratic Republic to function. The House allows for the people to be represented based on the population of their state. To balance this, the Senate limits 2 senators per state. While it may seem undemocratic, that is not the purpose of the Senate and House. It is meant to balance the will of the majority against the will of the minority. Only when the majority or minority mostly agree, should legislation be passed. If you remove the senate, you basically allow a disparity of power.
Abandon The Electoral College?
Over the last 2 decades, the United States has had an unprecedented amount of times that the electoral college has decided a presidency. However, this is nothing new. After all, we have 5 total elections where the electoral college decision superseded the popular vote. Accounting for all 59 Presidential elections, that makes up 8% of total elections. Despite this small statistic, people are arguing to abolish the electoral college. Elizabeth Warren proudly made headlines wanting to get rid of the undemocratic system and also the ruling class to restrict the people.
While acting self-righteous, Warren completely forgets a core concept. The Electoral College is a republic function that is made to protect the states with smaller populations to have a say. The best way to look at the problem is to show what an election would look like without one. If the president was elected president through direct democracy, the majority would always devour the minority. The presidential candidates would focus on places with major populations, campaigning on their issues. Meanwhile, other states would not be considered (sound familiar?). After all, why should they waste time on the minority and smaller states? They cannot overrule the population of major cities.
The electoral college prevents all of the above from happening. Instead of allowing a few states to decide the state of the union, all of the states have a say. This guarantees that the minority populations of the nation have a voice. At this point, they are complaining that the majority did not win so it needs to be fixed. However, that is how the system is supposed to work! The majority of the time the majority and minority agree on a president, they only disagree sometimes.
Keep Our Democratic Republic
Just listing the two situations shows that people are willing to get rid of America’s system for the sake of the majority taking control. However, our Democratic Republic has allowed the minority of the population to obtain rights. If we were a direct democracy, things like Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage would have never occurred. As a result, the majority would push them down and into submission because there would be no way to protect themselves. That is why we have a mixture of democracy and republic. In a democracy, there is no constitution. There are no guaranteed enshrined rights for all the people, majority and minority.
So, don’t allow people to undermine a system of our democratic republic or reduce it to just democracy or republic. All aspects of our union are important. It needs to stay that way.