What is a Republic?
A republic is easy to understand in concept. It is simply a government that is elected by the people with guiding principles known as laws. At its most basic level, a Republic is really the rule of law. We'll talk about "for," and "of," and "by," in later parts of this essay. For now, we are safe to define a republic simply as a government "by the people with an elected head of state (President v. Monarch), and with a set of laws."
Our republic is a bit more complex as our founders wished nothing more than to keep all of US honest after they were long gone and had disappeared from our earth. They worried about US without knowing US; and their legacy and ours depends on how well we take their advice. James Madison, the principle writer of our Constitution, offered his thoughts on republics v. democracies in Federalist Paper # 10 in 1788.
"Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths... A Republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking."
A constitutional republic is in many ways redundant as a constitution is a fundamental (basic) set of laws. All republics have a set of laws which describe what they are all about. Website Americanbuilt.us offers US all a great perspective on the history of republics: "The US government is the most free and secure form of government. Classical republics from the past were most often downgraded to become greedy democracies, hostile anarchies, and were finally ruled by dictators under an oligarchy." Hence, we Americans must be careful to preserve our republic as it is.
What is a representative democracy?
The US is not only a republic; it is also a representative democracy. A representative democracy is a type of republic since its leaders are elected by the people. Democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. Many find the terms representative constitutional democracy and republic to be synonymous.
In our democracy, the people decide who will represent them in Congress, and in the states and the cities. The people also decide who will head the government at the national level (president) and the various local levels. They do so by choosing between candidates from competing parties in regular, free, and fair elections.
This type of government is based on the consent of the governed (the people). Consequently, in a democracy, the people are sovereign. The people represent the highest form of political authority. The leaders are in essence the employees of the people and serve only at the pleasure of the people.
There are many other types of governments that are not republics and most of these types are not democracies either. For example, there are self-appointed governments, about which we have heard in our lifetimes. For example, there are dictatorships, juntas, monarchies, oligarchies, and theocracies. None of these are republics and none are democracies. Let us again say that the USA is a republic and a representative constitutional democracy. The USA actually has a few other attributes and we will discuss many of them as we proceed though the parts of this essay.
To repeat and embellish a bit, a major purpose of this discussion is to provide all Americans an easy opportunity to be reacquainted with the basic tenets of our US representative constitutional democracy, which of course is a republic. You may have noticed that I slipped the word, constitutional, into the mix. This was not a mistake. The laws put forth in the Constitution are the basis of our republic.
Thus, the Constitution can be highlighted as the major ingredient of government that has helped our nation survive for well over 200 years. Unfortunately, without the resolve of the people of America in maintaining our constitutional republic, we have no guarantee that it can or will survive much longer.
As heralded previously, Alexis de Toqueville, predicted that after 200 years, America would begin to collapse under its own weight. We see the signs wherever we look. We are 37 years past 200 years so the things we see around us should be expected. Having Barack H. Obama, a progressive socialist—a person who has been proven to care less about America than even the Castro brothers care about America—as the top person in our government; will surely hasten our demise.
For a much deeper explanation of the US government and its underlying political principles, in addition to the prior referrals, I would encourage all to take an excellent free course available on the Internet by visiting the Cyberland University of North America. Just plug that name into your favorite search engine, and get ready to learn about America and its goodness, and your role, and the role of all Americans in keeping US all strong. This is all part of the major exhortation in this essay to "pay attention!"
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr. University President & Professor of Political Science, in his free Internet course titled Political Science 201H—The American Political System: Politics & Government in the USA, captures the details of politics and government in America. It is an excellent detailed reference for just about any facet of American government and politics that you would like to examine. My hat is off to Dr. Way for a wonderful work and for him, a thank you for sharing it freely.
After witnessing the first three parts of this op-ed / essay about the government of our country, it is helpful to know that more parts are ready to be served. Additional concrete information is on its way, which all good people of America can use to defend the precepts of our government as founded. Gaining or refreshing this knowledge will help all to know when our government goes off the track so we can help put it back.
When our representatives choose not to be tough, the people must be tough. Because of our governmental structure, every couple years, we get to appoint new leaders so even when we Americans lose some faith, no time is the right time to say NO to America! There is always hope when there are good people.
Good people and good leaders come from an informed public. And, so to assure that America continues, I encourage all to pay attention. It is your life, your future, and the future of your legacy that is at stake. Do not turn your head in disgust, though the situation may push you there. Instead, pay attention, be tough, and do your part to preserve our freedom and our liberty. And, by all means, keep your guns! If they take your guns and mine, there will be no America.
Americans almost always advocate principles of democracy for any government. This is what we have experienced and it is what most of US believe to be the foundation of our government, and most of US are pleased with this. Yes, our government is a democracy in part, but it is also a republic at its core. In a republic, supreme power is held by the people through their elected representatives. A major differentiating factor compared to all other government types is that a republic has an elected president, and not a king or a dictator. Additionally, by law, nobody from a hereditary line of rulers can ever assume control.
In my family, that means there will never be a King Brian I. I willingly accept that. I am also pleased that our republic also prohibits a King Barack I. Unfortunately for America, I am more sure that there will never be a King Brian than I am that there will be no King Barack in our lifetimes. That is another reason why we all must pray and go to church; and of course, we must pay attention.
The terms democracy and republic are not mutually exclusive, but they are not identical either. To repeat in more simple terms, democracy means "rule by the people."Republic means "rule of the people by elected officials" (as opposed to hereditary rulers). Without adding hereditary rulers to the mix here, we could assume that elected officials were the same as those elected in a representative democracy.
To crystallize the two notions it would help to know that all republics are democracies, but not all democracies are republics. For example, a direct democracy, explained later in this part of this multi-part essay, is not a republic. In this, the people rule directly without representatives.
For the intellectuals, we can say that in a republic form of government, the country as a whole, from a leadership perspective, is considered a "public matter." Many of our finest words come from Latin and the word republic comes from the Latin term, res publica, which in Latin means that the government is not the private concern or property of the rulers. It follows that offices of such a government or state are not inherited, but instead are elected either directly by the people or indirectly by delegates. Such a government is a republic. The United States is a republic.
In the 21st century, the most simplistic definition of a republic is that it is a government where the true head of state is not a King or a Queen or a member of royalty. The head of state in America, as we all know, is elected.However, many will not deny that the current head of state in the US (2013) exudes the notion of royalty. Just ask any of the Air Force I pilots!
For purposes of the study of democracies and republics, it is best to divorce the form of government from the notion of a political party. Thus, it would be better for the Democrats to be considered the X party and the Republicans to be considered the Y party. When we discuss any form of the word Democrat or the word, Republican henceforth in this essay, unless the word Party immediately follows the term, please consider the term as a form of government, rather than a political party. Therefore it need not be capitalized and shall not be capitalized in this essay.
How would we make a republic out of a democracy, it is quite simple. The government must include in its precepts a body of laws which override the whims of the politicians. In the US, this is known as the Constitution. A constitution is a great idea for a government since it establishes principles for the governors and the governed.
In the US, the overriding principle is that the people are in charge and not the government. Thus, when you hear the term limited government, it means that a government gone bad cannot override the will of the people. Even Joe Biden cannot trump the 2nd Amendment, though I would bet that Joe does not know that. His recent report to the President demonstrates that he missed this lesson on the Constitution.
And so, most experts say the US is a republic. It is. Self-appointed governments such as monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, theocracies and juntas are not republics. Some say the US is a constitutional republic. It is. That phrase introduces some redundancy, since a republic always has a body of laws. Thus, some may claim that is redundant, and to an extent, they would be correct.
Additionally, our government is also called a constitutional representative democratic republic since it is a representative democracy held in check by a constitution. Perhaps we can agree that a republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic, the sovereignty is vested in each individual person. In a democracy the sovereignty is vested in the group known as all people. To better explain, consider that in a republic the group only has advisory powers; the sovereign individual is free to reject the majority group-think. I admit that is tougher to do in practice than theory. The good news is that a lynch mob, though a majority, cannot choose to hang anybody in the US because in a republic, the individual is sovereign. In a democracy, the thief is a goner as majority rules.
Our Constitution writers chose not to use the word democracy and so, looking for original intent, in the strictest sense of the word, we can say that our government, formed via the US Constitution was never intended to be a "democracy." When we say the Pledge of Allegiance for example, we speak of the "republic for which it stands."
Additionally, within the Constitution itself, we find a declaration that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." The lawyers fight the big battles each time they go before the Supreme Court hoping to get a definitive ruling about a precept in the Constitution that may have a modicum of ambiguity.
Since our constitutional republic is formed with a democracy as its basis, we, by definition have representatives of the people. These representatives, after too many terms in office caused by a constituency (we the people) that does not pay enough attention, become politicians. Politicians are as despicable as the old English corporations.
Now that we have walked through the basics, let us now take a deeper look at our constitutional democratic republic or as some might say, our constitutional democracy. We now know that the United States of America was formed as a "constitutional democratic republic." A quick review of the simplistic definition of democracy is government by the people or by their elected representatives. Let us say that the term republic means by law, and that should help put all of this in perspective. The law of the land is the Constitution.
There are multiple forms of democratic governments. The US is a representative democracy but there are other popular notions of democracy and one of them is called a direct democracy.
What is a direct democracy?
A "direct democracy" or as it is sometimes called, a "pure democracy," is not something most Americans have experienced. It is a system in which all the people of a country or entity, who choose to participate, do so directly without elected or appointed representatives. There would be no need for Congress in this case since, for the most part, the people would make all the decisions without having a Congress.
As an aside, when the people elect representatives, the type of government that is formed is called a representative democracy. Our type of government at the federal level at least, would therefore not be a direct democracy.
A direct democracy philosophically is a worthwhile study. It includes three specific principles:
1. Initiation (produces initiations or propositions)
2. Referendum (a.k.a. plebiscite)
3. Recall (the act of returning an elected official to be an ordinary citizen)
A representative democracy can have one or all of the three above characteristics and when it does, it would be classified as a limited direct democracy. The US Constitution unfortunately has none of these mechanisms of a direct democracy built-in for the federal government. However, such notions do exist in about twenty government constitutions within the states. Let's define these opportunities for direct citizen involvement in government:
Initiation provides the opportunity for a certain number of people to propose legislation to be placed on the ballot. A certain threshold of signatures is typically required to get on the ballot. Once on the ballot, all of the people in that jurisdiction have the opportunity to vote to pass the law or reject it.
Referendum: Using this process, the legislature may refer a piece of legislation to the people to either approve or reject it by vote. There are three types of referenda.
Compulsory referendum—certain types of legislation must be submitted to the people for approval before they are considered ratified. A new constitution would be an example.
Voluntary referendum—when the legislature chooses, at its option, to refer a piece of legislation to the people for approval.
Popular referendum—the people may challenge a law recently passed by the legislature. When enough signatures are gathered, the law is placed on the ballot and it may be upheld or nullified.
Referenda are in many ways similar to a governor's veto power but the veto is coming from the people. Besides canceling out legislation, the referendum process permits the people to reinstate an act that the legislature has expressly repealed.
Recall provides the opportunity to place the name of an officer of the state on the ballot for potential recall from their position. In essence it is a defined means by which voters can gain enough signatures to place a name for recall on the ballot. In this way, the people can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended
There are web sites dedicated to interject direct democracy principles into our Federal government. I think it would be a good idea. You may enjoy a visit to http://www.cusdi.org/. Another site called thisnation.com, offers a perspective at http://www.thisnation.com/question/011.html
Gray Davis recalled in California
Many Americans remember that on October 7, 2003, Gray Davis, who had taken California to the point of bankruptcy, became the second governor to be recalled in American history. Davis was succeeded by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger on November 17, shortly after the recall election. I reference ole Gray as his demise shows that in a direct democracy as they have in California, sometimes the people do win. Perhaps Conan was not the best choice for California, but the ole Gray Guv'n'r not only "ain't what he used to be." He quickly disappeared, signifying a triumph for the people.
The specific makeup of a direct democracy may take on different forms depending on the will of the people. It depends on the structure of the system. For example, members of an assembly might pass executive orders, create laws, elect and dismiss leaders and conduct trials. When elected officials conduct the people's business in a direct democracy, they are considered executive agents or direct representatives and thus are bound to the will of the people.
Would that be a nice notion if we were able to call our representatives and they would be ordained to listen and act on our behalf? Of course it would! But, would they? When the people again feel the power of our republic, we will again be able to take appropriate action against errant legislators. First, we must pay attention even without a direct democracy.
In our existing national representative democracy, the representatives often become stale about their role to represent the people. So, they become free-wheelers since, when recall is not part of a constitution, the only recourse voters have is to un-elect them.
We all know that the most dishonest legislators have the largest goodie bags from which they can dole out gifts to people who are on the take. These despicable citizens put personal gain ahead of country, and have no problem being dishonest. And, so we get a dishonest government as a result.
Consequently it has become difficult to unseat a legislator after they have created a cadre of loyal supporters. Because of this, the notion of recall in all states and the federal government is becoming more and more popular. The founders never expected Americans who were free would give up their freedom for a small taste of elitism and some special favors.
Many citizens of the US are upset with our leaders because after a period of time in office, the representatives more often than not choose to be unaccountable to the people. This is a lot tougher to do when direct democracy principles are in play. The notion of leaders being tied to the will of the people as defined in a direct democracy has substantial merit. After giving up control to a poor government with corrupt politicians, it gives the people a second chance. Again, there can be no democracy in any form if people do not pay attention.
With well over 300,000,000 and counting as the population of the US grows, one can also see how it may be unwieldy for such a system to be fully direct in practice, regardless of how attractive it is in theory. That is why even in such a system, there is a need for executive agents. Unlike "representatives," executive agents cannot go rogue and become independent.
Thus, for a direct democracy to be workable, intermediary public groups are needed. Sometimes we must resort to old adages. "Where there is a will, there is a way." The converse is also true. "When nobody gives a crap about what is happening, you can expect more crap." So, we all must pay attention!
Theoretically, the executive agents in a direct democracy can be the state legislators. However, this too has issues in that the notion of "honorables" and poor representation of the people's interests is also a big ailment of representative state governments.
The vehicles that are used in a direct democracy – namely, Initiative, Referendum, and Recall all have merit and need to be included soon as amendments to the US Constitution. In this way, our federal government can gain these positive elements and representatives who become politicians would no longer be quite so independent of the people. A limited direct democracy is a great idea for the people. It is not such a good idea for politicians, however, and that is why we have yet to see it in many states and at the federal level.
When our representatives choose not to do the will of the people, a form of government that inhibits actions directly by the people gets in the way of being able to immediately handle these situations. There is always the wonderful idea that when they are not doing their jobs, we can throw the bums out, and we should—by simply not re-electing them. But, what if we could fire them immediately as in a limited direct democracy? Would that not be immensely better?
Today, many of US believe that our President is violating the Constitution with his too-many executive orders. Unfortunately, in our form of government, it takes an act of impeachment by the Congress to remove the President from office so we can stop his unlawful acts. This takes far too long, and the biased, totally corrupt press would make any representative taking such action, into the fool of the day if it were their boy that needed impeachment.
Would it not be a better notion for it to be an act of recall (direct democracy) so that no President—Democrat or Republican—in their last term could ever think they were impregnable from the people's wrath? If the President is unresponsive, the people need a means of eliminating her from the government hierarchy immediately.
This is very difficult and as we have seen in the Clinton impeachment debacle, the results of impeachment are not often fair. Therefore, the people's representatives choose not to attempt impeachment even if the President has chosen to trump the Constitution. Thus, the impeachment process is not workable without brave representatives, who will be nailed by a corrupt press. Many of US do not believe such honest and patriotic humans exist far past two months of their first term.
Impeachment can be used if our legislators choose to do so, and if they have the courage of their convictions. If more people paid attention to what is going on, we could take these bums out every two years when they choose not to do our will. America the beautiful would be the direct result of paying attention, and if we would no longer permit our fellow Americans on the take, to influence our decisions. Yet, Recall is still a better option than impeachment, because all the action items would be in the peoples' hands, including dumping the members of Congress in both Houses.
Today, the people must fight entrenched politicians without the help of a free press. You may remember in the 1990's when the "free" press took sides. As surprising as it was to conservative Americans, the media back then chose to take the side of President Clinton, even when clear thinking women, who were hurt by him, proved him to be wrong. The press knew full well that he had defiled the Oval Office, but rather than castigate the President, they chose to convince Americans it was a small personal act—much like masturbation.
For the "free" press, it did not matter whether Clinton was guilty or not guilty of the offense. The in the tank press, on its own mounted a campaign against the American people so that justice could not be done. The corrupt press asked Americans in the Clinton era to ignore the President's transgressions because it was a personal act; yet it was while he was on duty and it occurred in the Oval office. Any other American would have been fired immediately and disgraced.
Let me say that again. Any other human working for any other business, institution or government, in any country would have been fired for just one Clinton act and many have been fired since for similar acts. Our democracy—our constitutional republic is surely fragile—and a corrupt press makes it unsustainable. If we can't fire our legislators today, perhaps we can be more selective about which newspapers we buy or which TV or Radio stations we tune in.
My point in taking you all through this menagerie is those Democrats, who love hypocrisy far more than truth, wanted good ole no-values Clinton to escape impeachment, regardless of whether he was Jesus-like or a reprobate who defiled women. Today he is an almost billionaire and he is "Father of the year," and might one day become the "best man who ever lived."
It did not matter to the Democratic Party, the party of faux women's faux reproductive rights, whether Bubba was guilty or not, as long as he was wearing protection and would acquire no life-threatening disease. The women he hurt were worthless according to the Democrats and their cohorts in the press. Clinton was their boy.
The women were unwilling pawns in a scheme that helped their boy have a few happy moments. The women were hurt but it did not matter. Mr. Clinton is not like US. This whole thing, however, should matter to US as it shows that the most basic tenet of the liberal progressives is hypocrisy, and the notion of concern for women exists only if the victimized woman knows her place—serving men of importance!
Republicans, who were correct in their analysis of the situation; wanted Clinton to fry for his misdeeds. He should have fried. Perhaps it was because a lot of Americans found some extra cash in their wallets, and wanted to forgive the "great man," even though most knew with certainty that he had defamed the presidency. Yes, he also defamed a lot of women, as well as the country. Now, this rich guy who likes to pretend he is poor has over a quarter billion dollars in his pocket. Gullible Americans still trust him, ant took his advice to reelect President Obama. The injustice from a misapplication of justice often goes on for a lot longer than it should. Honesty takes a back seat.
The American people always want to know the truth and in the 1990's, we were naive enough to think that the media in the Clinton era would deliver it. They did not. We still expect the popular press even now to deliver the truth. Unfortunately, there is no truth in the corrupt media. They delivered no truth and they are not inclined to deliver solid truth ever again. You might want to check out my op-ed in Conservative Action Alerts titled, The Day the Free Press Died from December 18, 2012.
If capitulation via a media that was honest was feasible, it would have been a far more simple process than impeachment. Recall would have helped in this regard even though the media had already declared Clinton innocent. Recall would have helped the country immeasurably, with minimal fanfare. And the corrupt media, a branch of the Democratic Party would not have gotten a vote, nor would the low-information voters.
Instead of a bunch of puffed up Senators in impeachment proceedings, brandishing their white whigs from colonial days to look the part, the people eventually could have taken control of the process rather than have it languish in the lap of American leadership incompetence.
Our representative constitutional democratic republic, in which the people must wait two years to vote out lousy members of the House, four years for a lousy President, and six years to vote out lousy members of the Senate, did not serve us well then, as it is very inefficient. We still need a better method. Principles of a direct democracy would help all the people. Let's press our representatives to give us this needed tool.
Impeachment did not work as history has well documented, even against Andrew Johnson. So it is seldom attempted. Having Initiation and Referendum in the tools bucket would have given the people a stronger, more effective voice. Recall would give all of US recourse when we make a mistake and we place a scoundrel into office. He can be trapped and caught and skinned before his or her term is up. Therefore, some direct democracy notions would surely help our representative constitutional democracy. Don't you think?