America Never Was a Democracy
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
As much as I’ve heard media pundits sound off recently about the integrity and preservation of our democracy, you’d think these same “defenders” of the American cause might admit that our country never was a democracy, but rather a constitutional republic from the start. But that admission never came and still these people continue to misuse and misapply their ahistorical claim for their own political arguments.
But it’s important to note the difference between a democracy and a republic and why our founders deliberately landed on the latter, and why it’s the best form of government.
First, the founders had a unique scope with which to consider government. They saw their home countries of England, France, the Netherlands, and other European world powers exert majoritarian democratic dominion on its subjects. They also saw the imperfection and tyranny of a ruling monarch. They had, too, over a century of American colonial perspective, which provided invaluable case studies in personal responsibility and the role of government. And yet they had the foresight to preserve European systems that they knew worked, like English common law for instance, which is the backbone for our modern justice apparatus.
But it wasn’t a democracy that the founders chose. They weren’t presumptuous or haughty in the pursuit of constructing sustainable government. Their chief concern wasn’t power or control, but rather freedom. They knew that in order to check the potential tyranny of the majority, self-rule, the essence of a republic, had to be the structure with which everything else would be built upon. So, their system didn’t empower the 51% over the 49%, it placed the power squarely with the individual. And it didn’t rely on the majority to legislate, it relied on elected representatives to write laws, which a separate branch of government would enforce, at a local, regional, state, and national level.
Further, in case there would be any confusion then or now, a constitution was drafted to draw the lines and boundaries of this republic. A bill of rights was added to this covenant which memorialized a series of uncompromising virtues that no government, person, or entity should question or take away. This system, established to protect the people from government, as opposed to equipping government to exercise control over its people, was formed, sealed, and delivered.
So, no, it’s not a democracy where the majority rules and the populous holds and exacts power, it’s a republic where individual rights are ensured and every possible obstacle to group or class tyranny is in place. It’s not perfect but it’s the best system of government this side of heaven.
- Joe D'Orsie (written October 2020)