As strange as that may seem to some folks, it is true. The United States of America is not and has never been a democracy. It is what is known as a Constitutional Republic.
There is a big difference.
First, the Pledge of Allegiance refers to our country as a Republic. Additionally, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution 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 . . .
No state may join the United States unless it is a Republic. Our Republic is one dedicated to “liberty and justice for all.” Minority individual rights are the priority. The people have natural rights instead of civil rights. The people are protected by the Bill of Rights from the majority.
I see this republican form of government work in court every day. One vote in a criminal jury trial can prevent the majority from depriving any one person of his rights to life and liberty. This would not exist if the United States were a democracy.
By the way, The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution do not even mention the word “democracy.”
Many people are under the false impression our form of government is a democracy, or representative democracy. The Founders were extremely knowledgeable about the issue of democracy and were as concerned about it as they were about the tyranny of the king.
They knew the meaning of the word “democracy”, the history of democracies, and they deliberately set up our form of government to prevent it from being a democracy.
In a Constitutional Republic, the sovereignty of the people lies within. In a Constitutional Republic, one may act on his own or through his representatives when he chooses to solve a problem assuming his actions are legal. The people have little to no obligation to the government; instead the government is the servant to the people. Not the master.
A Constitutional Republic does have one similarity to a democracy which may be the cause of why so many people believe that we live in a democracy. This similarity is that both systems of government use democratic processes to elect representatives of the people. The striking difference between the two is that a Constitutional Republic has a set of bright line rules (The Constitution) that limits the power of the government. A true democracy is nothing more than mob rule. Whatever the majority votes for, it is done. There is no limit on the power of government.
Put another way, in a republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a democracy the sovereignty is in the group.
This distinction is important because our nation needs to be informed about how our government is actually set up to operate. Too many people either don’t understand or don’t care about how our nation functions on a daily basis.
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson put it a little more bluntly. He said that liberty and ignorance cannot coexist. Specifically he said that “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
I hope that our people will become more aware of the true type of government that we live in. It is crystal clear that in America individual freedom trumps the freedom of the majority. Though for some reason, this concept has been lost in the decades of our history.
By the way, I am sure that everyone has heard of the great philosopher, Socrates. He was executed by a democracy. Though he harmed no one nor committed any crime, the majority of the Greek democratic government found him to be unacceptable.