Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Are we a Democracy or a Republic?

Are we a Democracy or a Republic?
Al Ritter

Although there have been forms of Democracy centuries before Jesus. The modern day democracy believes in a political system, which all members, of the society have an equal share in the political power, and should govern from a simple majority. There are many hybrid form of Democracy as there are Republics, but for argument sake we will just talk about the two systems as they relate to the United States.

The Constitutional framers thought that a democracy could be too easily changed into an unrecognizable entity in too short a time, and therefore inserted many provisions into the Constitution to slow the change. Limits to Executive and Congressional Power, was one means, but the most important change was the “super majority.” This 2/3rds vote required by Congress would slow the change, allowing a gradual progression rather than knee-jerk laws to individual questions.

The founding father were all advocates of the republic, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and in the writing of the Constitution inserted Article IV Section 4, where is states,
“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.”

This article has been argued three times in the Supreme Court, but with no real resolution other than to declare that everyone has the right to choose their own party affiliation, but it was clear by the wording of the framers, that the intent was for a republic style government rather than a democracy.

Thomas Jefferson defined a republic as,
“...a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority; and that every other government is more or less republican, in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of the direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township. The first shade from this pure element, which, like that of pure vital air, cannot sustain life of itself, would be where the powers of the government, being divided, should be exercised each by representatives chosen...for such short terms as should render secure the duty of expressing the will of their constituents. This I should consider as the nearest approach to a pure republic, which is practicable on a large scale of country or population ... we may say with truth and meaning, that governments are more or less republican as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition; and believing, as I do, that the mass of the citizens is the safest depository of their own rights, and especially, that the evils flowing from the duperies of the people, are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents, I am a friend to that composition of government which has in it the most of this ingredient.”

In 1792-93 Jefferson and Madison created a new "republican party" in order to promote their version of the doctrine. The party, which historians later called the Democratic-Republican Party, split into separate factions in the 1820s, one of which became the Democratic Party, the other the Republican Party. It wasn’t until 1854 that the party was officially named “Republican,” to associate themselves with the struggle of 1776, in a fight to bring an end to slavery.

The differences
Although parties view the differences as huge, the reality of the differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties is closer than you think. Ideologically they are very different, but in the overall politics of the world, the differences are small.

Let’s view this informative video to see the real differences.

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1 comment:

barb p said...

Thanks Al, very informative!