June 19, 2024

In Brief: ‘We’re a Republic, Not a Democracy’

The Left really hates it when anyone points out this basic civic fact.

There’s a big difference between a Republic like ours and a democracy. Our Founders deliberately did not choose democracy, in fact, and yet far too many Americans have gone along with the shift of language in which “democracy” is a stand-in for “a form of government where people vote.” David Harsanyi comments on a recent CNN “man on the street” report on why this is important.

For as long as I can remember, the left has been sneering at anyone who points out that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. They find the notion almost as unsophisticated and fascistic as flying a revolutionary-era flag.

Even some people I admire dismiss the democracy/republic debate as pedantic or a semantic distraction. They shouldn’t.

The other day, CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan tried to make Trump fans who repeat this factual contention look like a bunch of dumb, lockstepping authoritarians. To explain the problem, CNN even recruited “democracy” expert Anne Applebaum, who noted that, “America is a democracy. It was founded as a democracy … the word ‘democracy’ and the word ‘republic’ have often been used interchangeably. There isn’t a meaningful difference between them …”

Sure there is.

Ask the contemporary leftists who target virtually every protection we have against mob rule in the name of “democracy” — attacking the Supreme Court, the Electoral College, federalism, the filibuster, the Senate, and even the existence of states. They understand the difference, even if just intuitively.

Ask leftists who treat the “popular vote,” not as a wishcasting cope, but as means of legitimizing presidential elections. Those who want a few big states ruling the nation via a direct federal democracy are not interested in an American “republic.”

Harsanyi gives several examples in which Democrats work to undermine our constitutional system precisely because they know there’s a difference. He continues:

Then again, the more “democracy” we have, the more demagoguery thrives. Of course they’re fans.

As it turns out, according to CNN a number of Trump supporters also understand the distinction even if they are unable to articulate it in poli-scientific terms.

Then again, if O'Sullivan wants to dunk on them, maybe he should take a civics refresher himself. “There is, of course, a legitimate debate to be had on what form of democracy we have here in the United States — direct democracy, representative democracy, in fact, constitutional republic, which you heard people mentioned in that piece, that is a form of democracy,” the CNN host explained.

There is, “of course,” zero “legitimate debate discussion” to be had over whether we are a “direct democracy.” Not today, nor ever. “Democracy” isn’t even mentioned anywhere in any founding document, much less a direct one. None of the framers entertained any notions about majoritarianism or federal power that would even loosely comport the ones now embraced by the left.

Finally, he addresses the use of the word “democracy” popularly speaking.

Indeed, the word “democracy” — from “demos,” the people — has been used as a shorthand for self-rule since before Pericles. In the past, we’ve used it to convey respect for a set of liberal ideas about liberties and rights, as well as self-determination. I’m sure I’ve used it in that way, too. Most Americans probably comprehend the notion of “democracy” in the same, vague context.

These days, though, a bunch of illiberal progressives (and others) have taken universal notions that once fell under the umbrella of “democracy” and cynically distorted them to champion a hypermajoritarian outlook. It’s no accident the people who demand you call us a “democracy” also champion the idea that 50.1 percent of the country should be empowered to lord over the economic, religious, cultural, and political decisions of 49.9 percent.

It’s the point.

Read the whole thing here.

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