Is the United States of America a Democracy or a Republic?
Fact

The United States of America is a type of Democracy [not a pure direct democracy, as is the classical meaning of the term, but a mixed-Republic with a representative democracy and democratic spirit].

Is the United States of America a Democracy or a Republic?

The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy). Despite a strong democratic tradition, the U.S. is not a “Direct Democracy (where people vote on laws directly*).[1][2][3][4][5]

The United States is Both a Republic and a Democracy (a Representative Democracy)

One way to phrase this is the United States of America is a “representative republic” (a “representative democracy,” in a Republic).[6][7]

The people democratically vote for representatives, who then represent them in government. Thus, in simple terms, the United States of America is both a Democracy and a Republic in this sense.

FACT: According to the CIA world FactBook, “a Federal republic [is] a state in which the powers of the central government are restricted and in which the component parts (states, colonies, or provinces) retain a degree of self-government; ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who chose their governmental representatives…” The page goes on to define the United States as a “Constitution-based federal republic [with a] strong democratic tradition.” In other words, this is the way in which the United States is both a Democracy and a Republic. Learn more about what it means to be a representative democracy at uscis.gov.

When the Founders Created a Republic, they Created a Mixed-Republic With Democratic Features

America’s founders purposefully created a mixed-Republic with democratic features to ensure a lawful popular government.

Thus, the constitution is both democratic and republican by design (which speaks to why the major parties are Democrats and Republicans).

The only caveat here, and the caveat from which most of the confusion comes, is that the U.S. is not a pure direct democracy (where everyone votes on and creates laws directly; which is what “democracy” means in the classical sense, and is what America’s founders were trying to avoid). Instead of pure direct democracy, the U.S. uses a more aristocratic and republican system in which many positions outside of the legislative branch, and most legislation, is voted on by elected representatives.

  • When people say “America is a Republic” they are essentially referring to the system in general (a type of lawful popular government, with checks and balances, and some form of representative democracy).
  • When people say “America is not a democracy” they generally mean “it isn’t a pure direct democracy (where people vote on and create laws directly).”
  • Likewise, when people say “America is a democracy” they are denoting the democratic elements within the republican system.

The bottom line here is: The United States of America is a Republic with a Representative Democracy (a type of Democracy, but not a Pure Direct Democracy). Therefore, while technically a republic, it isn’t incorrect to refer to the U.S. as a democracy (or more specifically as a representative democracy) in most contexts.

As Benjamin Franklin was exiting after writing the U.S. constitution, a woman asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a republic or a monarchy?” He replied, “A republic—if you can keep it.

* To clarify the statement on direct voting on laws in the United States. The general form of Government of the U.S. is “a Republic” and not “a direct democracy”. The exception to this is that people do vote directly for some state-based laws brought forth by the people, initiatives and referendums (see how voting works in the United States). The people can also bring forth and vote on recalls. Otherwise the people vote directly for local, state, and federal officials who create and vote on legislation and serve as their representatives in Government, except in the case of President and Vice President who are elected by appointed electors and in the case of other select positions (like Supreme Court Judges and executive positions) which are appointed or hired by officials.

The Ways in Which America is a Democracy and the Ways in Which America is a Republic

One reason people get confused about whether America is a Republic or Democracy is because the U.S. has a complex mixed-government with many democratic and republican features (that have evolved over time).

To illustrate this, consider the following true statements:

  • The U.S. is a type of Republic (a type of lawful popular government; a government for the people, with the rule of law, that is not an absolute Monarchy).
  • The U.S. has a type of “Representative Democracy” in a Republic, in other words, it is a “Representative Republic” (a representative government where “the many” sovereign citizens delegate power to “the few” elected representatives in democratic, aristocratic, and republican fashion via the ballot box, who in turn create and vote on federal laws, and in which elected and appointed officials hold office).
  • But, the U.S. also has aspects of “Direct Democracy” in terms of voting on some state and local legislation (some, not all, state legislation can be drafted, brought forth, voted on, and even recalled by the people in some states; see Initiative, Referendum And Recall).
  • Thus, while the U.S. is “democratic,” the U.S. is not technically a “Democracy” in terms of the classical meaning of the word (which implies a “Pure Direct Democracy” as an overarching system, where citizens create laws and vote on all the laws directly, like Athenian males did in Athens).
  • Specifically, the U.S. is a large, mixed, constitutional, presidential, federal, democratically minded, trading “Republic” with a representative government that is not Monarchical. It is a large Republic consisting of 50 Republican states in a “federal” Union, with the rule of law (state and federal), with basic human rights ensured, bound by a single federal Constitution, with a separation of powers (the three branches), with a mixed-capitalist economic system and mixed-trade system, where power is delegated to elected and appointed representatives including a President).

In other words, the U.S. is a Republic (in that it isn’t a Monarchy or a Despotic state), but it is a specific kind of Republic where the classical government types (including democracy) are mixed.

Thus, the U.S. has a mixed-Democracy in a mixed-Republic (technically “a Democratic Republic;” although in modern times we avoid that term)… which is essentially why the major parties are called Democrats and Republicans and why Jefferson’s Party was the Democratic-Republicans. Consider, the U.S. is also federalist, which is why the early factions called themselves federalists and anti-federalists. TIP: See the namesakes of the U.S. parties.

Consider, in terms of the single classical factor that defines government types, “who makes the laws,” and in terms of “who votes”:

  • Congress makes and votes on federal laws (and state congress makes and votes on many state laws), citizens don’t vote directly for the President or the Supreme Court, and citizens didn’t initially elect Senators directly. These are Aristocratic and Republican aspects of our Republican government in terms of voting and lawmaking.
  • Citizens directly elect many officials (especially in the legislative branch) and citizens vote directly on some state laws. These are Democratic aspects of our Republican government in terms of voting and lawmaking. Here the federal laws are created by a “Representative Democracy,”… but the direct voting and lawmaking is “Direct Democracy.”

Thus, while we can’t describe the United States’ overarching system as a “Pure Direct Democracy,” we can’t claim “that it is not a Democracy” either.

We can instead just say: United States of America has a “mixed democratic and republican government,” which is what the term Republic essentially implies in the first place.

In other words, the United States is a Republic in the classical sense (which means it is democratic).

With that in mind, we have only really scratched the surface of every aspect of the United States’ democratic and republican nature, below we explore other facets of the liberal and conservative mix of laws, culture, and customs that define the United States of America.

“It is difficult for the united states [of a federal Republic] to be all of equal power and extent.” – Montesquieu, CHAP. III.: Other Requisites in a confederate Republic (Montesquieu describing Lycia as a union of Republican states under a Republican government… in 1748).

The Republic for which it stands: According to most philosophers, and according to America and the West, the ideal form of government is essentially the Mixed-Republic (a Constitutional mix of aristocracy and democracy; a “representative democracy,” a republic… or more accurately, an enlightened mix of aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, and democracy with a separation of powers and just laws to defend the state against tyranny; so a liberal free-trading republic… indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.)

TIP: I’m not just pulling these terms out of thin air, they are in ways the main focus of the works of greats like PlatoCicero, Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, and the Founders themselves (for example: the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers).

ALL STATES, all powers, that have held and hold rule over men have been and are either republics or principalities. – The first line of the Father of Political Science Machiavelli’s the Prince.

“… the governments of the people are better than those of princes.” Machiavelli’s Livy Book I, Chapter LVIII

TIP: Today we don’t have Princes AKA Kings, we have a government of the people, a representative government, a Republic.

TIP: Although the U.S. system has become more democratic over time, both our Democratic and Republican nature can be confirmed by the works of the founders and the founding documents. This and many other key points are explained in detail below. The key here is understanding that the term Republic implies aspects of Democracy. Consider, a Republic can be defined as, “a system in which citizens vote for representatives to represent them,” and democracy can be defined as, “government by the people, who either vote and make laws directly or through elected representatives.”[8] As so long as we note that the United States’s overarching system is not a “Pure Direct Democracy” in the classical sense, we can say that the terms Republic and Democracy are otherwise not mutually exclusive. There are many ways to say this, and many more details to add, so keep reading if you are interested! Feel free to ask questions below.

TIP: With all the above said, I want to confirm, America is most certainly a Republic (as our founders intended). If you think back to the Pledge of Allegiance I was quoting above, the founding fathers, and the core founding documents this becomes clear. The trick isn’t just knowing the U.S. is a Republic, it is knowing what type of a Republic it is, why our founders chose this style of democratically minded Republic, and understanding the Democratic nature of Republicanism in general.

Liberty and law have marched hand in hand.

All the purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectively as under any other government on the globe, and at a cost little exceeding in a whole generation the expenditure of other nations in a single year.

Such is the unexaggerated picture of our condition under a Constitution founded upon the republican principle of equal rights

…If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated [which is a way to express a federation of states] representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled.” – John Quincy Adams Inaugural address 1825

The United States as a Mixed-Republic

With the above introduction in mind, fully explaining the liberal, democratic, republican, federalist, etc nature of our mixed government in the classical and modern sense is a bit of an art (so bear with me while I repeat a few points and make a few more).

In the classical sense, the U.S. can be described as a “Republic” (which generally implies a mix of aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, and democracy, and rule by elected officials and the laws they create like the Constitution) with a Representative Democracy (rule by elected officials and the laws they create), and a general Republican and Democratic spirit, value-set, and subsystem (where the democratic elements denote the liberties and rights of the bill of rights, elections, and direct voting on laws, and where the republican elements denote law, order, and a popular mixed government).

The four governments of which I spoke, so far as they have distinct names, are, first, those of Crete [monarchy] and Sparta [timocracy], which are generally applauded; what is termed oligarchy comes next; this is not equally approved, and is a form of government which teems with evils: thirdly, democracy, which naturally follows oligarchy, although very different: and lastly comes tyranny, great and famous, which differs from them all, and is the fourth and worst disorder of a State. – Plato’s Five Regimes From his Republic (where a Republic mixes the forms to avoid tyranny).

In other words, there are a few ways to describe the United States in terms of its power source and structure in modern and classical terms, and some descriptors like Representative Democracy and Republic have overlapping meaning.

All that said, we can generally call the mixing of forms like Democracy and Aristocracy within a Republic, a “Mixed-Republic”.

Then, from there, we can add details like “a mixed-Republic with a strong Democratic tradition”, or “a Constitutional mixed-Republic with a Representative Democracy”, or “Democratic in that we elect officials, and Republican in that they create and vote on Federal law and the citizens don’t vote on federal law directly”.

The takeaway is that it isn’t wrong to call America a Republic, and it isn’t wrong to call it a Democracy, but it is wrong to use those terms to insinuate that the structure is “not Democratic” or “not Republican”, or alternatively, to insinuate that it is a “Pure Direct Democracy” (especially for partisan reasons).[9]

TIP: A good way to understand government types is to understand the “attributes of government“. “Elective”, “Constitutional”, “Federal”, “Representative Democracy”, and “Republic” can all be thought of as different attributes that define the power source and power distribution of our “mixed-government”.

TIP: Article IV of the Constitution reads, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…” Thus, not only is the U.S. a “mixed Republic”, each state in the Union is also a “mixed Republic”. Pair the letter of the law of the Constitution with all that direct voting one does each year, and its pretty easy to confirm the United States is both Democratic and Republican. We don’t call ourselves Democrats and Republicans for nothing.

BOTTOMLINE: It is a myth that the United States is a “Pure Direct Democracy” in the classical sense, however it is not a myth that the United States “is a Democracy” regarding the idea that it is a mixed-Republic with a Representative Democracy, a democratic spirit, democratic values, and some direct voting on state-based laws. This can be correctly stated as “The United States is a Presidential Electoral Constitutional Federal Republic with a Representative Democracy, some direct voting on state-based laws, some advisory voting, and a general Democratic Spirit“. Or for short, a Mixed-Republic (where both Republic and Mixed imply a popular government). Otherwise, although each term is an important descriptor of our real mixed form, distinctions have a tendency to be semantic.

TIP: Consider Montesquieu’s take on government types from his Spirit of the Laws 1748 below, and note that Montesquieu inspired figures like Madison (the father of our Constitution and Bill of Rights) and was revolutionary America’s most cited author:

THERE are three species of government; republican, monarchical, and despotic. In order to discover their nature, it is sufficient to recollect the common notion, which supposes three definitions, or rather three facts:

“That a republican government is that in which the body or only a part of the people is possessed of the supreme power: monarchy, that in which a single person governs by fixed and established laws: a despotic government, that in which a single person directs every thing by his own will and caprice.”

Understanding Why the U.S. is a Mixed-Republic, Classically Speaking

One can accurately say that the United States is both a Republic and a Democracy, as it is a purposefully “mixed-Republic” (it is a mix of aristocracy, democracy, and more within a Constitutional Elective Republic).

One could call this form a “Democratic Republic”, although other countries that use that term tend not to be very democratic or republican (and thus it makes using that term, “prickly”).

While a term like “mixed-Republic” ultimately works well to describe the U.S. (using other for descriptors as needed), it helps to instead understand the classical government types upon which the United States is based (giving one the tools they need to describe the system for themselves).

Classically speaking, Plato’s five regimes (the five forms of government from Plato’s Republic, on which the West bases its political theories) are Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny.

Meanwhile Plato’s ideal state, his “ideal Republic“, is a state rooted in a lawful and wise aristocracy that mixes the other forms to prevent Tyranny and to maximize liberty and equality (so the term Republic has specific connotations classically speaking, but it is generally like a “lawful” container which to put the other government types in).

With that in mind, technically, the U.S. is a straight up mix of Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, and Democracy (with each “higher form” ideally restraining the “lower form”, as one can confirm by the Constitution which originally called for an appointed President and Senate). In other words, the U.S. government is an attempt at creating a model Republic).

Given the above, comparing a Democracy and a Republic is, classically speaking, a bit like comparing apples and oranges (this can be confirmed by Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws CHAP. II.: Of the republican Government, and the Laws relative to Democracy as well; here one would note that Montesquie was one of Madison’s inspirations for the Constitution and his book one of the most cited of the early U.S.; if one wants to compare forms, they should compare aristocracy and democracy within a republic, not compare a democracy and a republic).

Keeping in mind that the U.S. really is “a Republic” (a lawful state with a popular government), the argument that “America is a Republic, not a Democracy” is essentially wordplay. This all gets politicized due to the namesake of the major political parties. Both Democracy and Republicanism are core concepts of liberalism, and both are ensured by “the Republic” (which is why our ancestors choose those terms for the parties).[10]

TIP: See CIA World Factbook of Government Types for an idea of the different types of real life governments. Notice how although “what a government says they are” and “what they are” don’t always line up, the term Republic clearly denotes a mixed government (and beyond this the distinction is other attributes like parliamentary vs. presidential). Even when a term like parliamentary democracy or presidential democracy is used, it is still generally denoting a type of mixed government with a representative democracy. Thus, we see there is real wisdom in Machiavelli’s simple philosophy illustrated in the quotes below, that all states are either popular mixed governments or not. The United States is a popular government, a Republic (which implies a popular and lawful mix as opposed to a despotic, anarchistic, or tyrannical government).

In what ways is the United States a “Democracy” or a “Republic”?

As we have noted, for the sake of simplicity one can call America “a Mixed-Government”, “a Mixed-Republic”, or just “a Republic”, but the most formal description of its form is probably “a Constitutional Federal Republic; with a strong democratic tradition”.

Constitutional because of the Constitution, Federal because its a Union of states and commonwealths (each with their own republican governments), and Republic because 1. the people are sovereign and ruled by law, 2. the nation is sovereign and ruled by law, 3. and it is “ruled by the few [representatives]” (an Aristocracy), and not “ruled by the many [directly]” (Democracy)  or “ruled by one” (Monarchy).

The U.S. is also specifically an elective republic, because there are elections (which is allows the sovereign people the democratic ability to consent via the ballot box).

Those technicalities aside, broadly speaking, we can refer to America as “a type of Democracy” (a “Representative Democracy”) because [today] everyone can democratically vote for [many] officials AKA “representatives” (including advisory voting for the President and Vice President) and can bring state-based legislation to the table and vote on it directly.

We can also refer to the U.S. as a “democracy” under an even looser definition where “democracy” implies “democratically minded principles of liberalism” like voting rights, a separation of powers, and values like those found in the First Amendment (where free speech, press, and association allows for an outspoken people, which is very “democratic”).

So, while the the classical form of government isn’t “Democracy”, the United States upholds many democratic principles.

Thus, we can say, we live in a Republic and be correct, or speak of “our Democracy” and be correct, but more specifically we have “a mixed-Republic with a Democratic sub-system”, essentially the mix of Democracy, Aristocracy, and Oligarchy Plato called a Kallipolis and Aristotle called a Polity (i.e. one can argue that the founders intentionally attempted to build the ideal state from Plato’s Republic with the separation of powers that Montesquieu suggested, the principles that Locke suggested, and more; and as suggested by all the aforementioned, they purposefully avoided creating a “direct democracy”).

TO SUMMARIZE: Although the structure of the United States government as defined by the Constitution is technically a Mixed-Republic in the classical sense, there are many democratic aspects to the government in practice (especially at the state level), and thus we can describe the U.S. as a “mixed-Government” AKA “mixed-Constitution” or more specifically, a “mixed-Republic” (as the founders intended).

TIP: The Constitution as originally written was less democratic than our current system. States’ Rights movements and Progressive Movements have led to the winner-take-all system, the direct election of senators, and to the people being able to bring forth and vote on state-based initiatives and referendums. Our founders picked a Republic on purpose… but they envisioned a more aristocratic form of government than the one we have now (with the hope that it would stave off corruption and special interests). We may think of Democracy as ideal, but Plato’s Republic and all of philosophical and political history disagree strongly. That is why we have a mixed government. The idea is maximize liberty and equality by using authority, order, and restraint.

TIP: Republic and Aristocracy, when discussing forms of government, can at times almost mean the same thing. But like this conversation, that conversation is a little more complex than can be summed up in a sentence. See “What is a Republic?”

TIP: When American politicians say “our Democracy” they are referring to all the Democratic aspects of the American Republic, including advisory voting, direct voting, all the liberal Amendments, rights, and customs, they aren’t being literal in the sense of the classical meaning of the word.

TIP: When people say “bring democracy to the world” they don’t mean bring a system of direct democracy for voting, they mean help ensure the principles of democracyliberalism, federalism, and republicanism, as this ensures a nation that can participate in free-and-or-fair trade and ideally that the people have a voice… even if direct governmental action is delegated to an elected and appointed hierarchy as it is in our Republic. See the Monroe Doctrine and “why America’s founders chose a Republic“.

TIP: Representative Democracy and Representative Republic are basically synonyms. Both imply officials are elected to rule and create laws (elected to be “representatives in government”) rather than people voting on laws directly. It is a type of “indirect democracy”. Remember though, in the U.S. we vote on some state-based legislation, so it really is a “mixed” system.

TIP: The U.S. Constitution sets up a Republican form of government for the U.S. and it also guarantees every state a Republican form of government (which is very Democratic, as it puts power into more hands by ensuring the power of state governments). Thus, not only is the U.S. a Republic, each state is also a Republic. When we say “Republican” we mean an ideology that is pro-Republic (rather than pro-Monarchy for example; We aren’t talking about the Republican party). When we say Democratic, we mean favoring the people (we aren’t talking about the Democratic Party). All of America’s founders were both Democrats and Republicans (as are almost all Americans today)… this is why the party of Jefferson was the Democratic-Republicans. The current party names are both named after American values and the ruling style of the parties of the 1800’s, they have little do to with the ideologies of parties of today. See the history of the parties.

NOTE: Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

Why the U.S. is a “Mixed-Constitution” and Not a Democracy – More Details

To fully understand why the U.S. is a specific type of Republic and not “a Democracy” we need to cover some details regarding the above:

First, we have to understand that the types of government are classically based on who votes for laws and who rules, not on who gets to vote in general.

It is very a Democratic thing that everyone gets to vote and that the people can vote on some state-based legislation brought forth by citizens, but this isn’t what defines the power structure of a government. What defines it is who makes the laws and rules, and in the U.S., elected officials rule and make the laws, not the people.

Thus, the U.S. is at its core: a type of aristocracy (ruled by the few) and a type of Representative Republic (ruled by elected representatives). The other aspects of the mixed system are essentially contained within the bounds of Aristocracy / Republic.

Correct (lawful) Deviant (corrupt)
One Ruler Monarchy Tyranny / Despotism
Few Rulers Aristocracy / Republic *You are here-ish Oligarchy / Plutocracy
Many Rulers Direct Democracy Anarchy

NOTE: Remember Republic isn’t “a classical form”, I put Republic next to aristocracy to show its aristocratic nature, but it is more like a container in which other forms can be placed.

With that said, as noted above, our Constitution has many Democratic elements. It dictates a separation of powers: an Executive, Judicial, and bicameral (two part) Legislative branch.

Meanwhile, as of today, the Senate and the House are elected by popular vote, as are some Judges and many local positions.

Due to the elective nature of many positions, the fact that other positions are appointed, the fact that the people vote directly on some laws, but not on others, and due to other aspects like the separation of powers, paired with our capitalist “[sometimes] oligarchical” economic system, paired with our liberty, equality, and freedom at home, the U.S. government is well described as a “mixed” Government (or “a mixed-Republic”, or “a mixed-Constitution”) rather than just “a republic” (like the old Republic of Venice was, and in line with Madison’s take on Montesquieu’s political theory of the separation of powers and checks and balances).

All this to say, the U.S. is very Democratic (and very proud of that fact), and can be accurately be called a representative Democracy, but it isn’t a pure direct Democracy (but this makes sense as, after-all, it isn’t really a pure anything).

FACT: When Plato and Aristotle first gave names to the forms, they specifically used Democracy and Aristocracy to denote who rules. Since all future political philosophers have used their naming, the distinction is important. When we don’t stress the idea that the U.S. is a Republic (here meaning a sovereign law-abiding mixed-constitution “rooted in an aristocracy”), it makes aspects of the Constitution like the Electoral College very confusing. Yet, when we stress the term Republic too much, it makes it seem like the Republican party is inherently more American or that they hold only Republican principles, but all of those ideas are pretty far from the truth. If you want to know more about that, see the U.S. party names explained.

Who Rules? (Types of Government). A take on the forms of government.

To Summarize all the above into four points:

  • The American people vote for elected officials who create laws, they don’t create laws or vote on the laws directly (aside from the aforementioned initiatives and referendums which are state and not federal, but which can be drafted by and voted on by citizens; learn more about how voting works). Thus, America’s power source can be described as a Representative Democracy,Representative  Republic, or just Republic.
  • America is a Federation of states with local governments and a strong central government. It is not an other power structure like a confederation (see history of the U.S.), where states have more power than the central government, so America’s power structure is described as Federal.
  • The structure and power source are defined by a legal constitution, a legal document with principles and limits by which a state is governed (as opposed to say, “the divine right of kings“), so America is Constitutional.
  • The Constitution is amended by a democratic and liberally minded Bill of Rights and other amendments, this along with the structure and power source as laid out by the Constitution (especially the checks and balances, separation of powers, and citizen participation), and along with intentions expressed in the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, state-based rules, and general American history, helps to confirm America’s strong democratic values and tradition.

Read in full: The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. See a history of Human Rights documents.

TIP: When people say “our Democracy” they are referring to our Democratic spirit and tradition, they aren’t being literal and referring to our power structure which is more Republican by nature. A Free-Republic (or in our case “a Free Trading Republic”) is a very popular sort of aristocratic government. Historically the free-trade-Republics, like the Venetian Republic (which had an unelected Prince and was thus a hybrid), the Athenian “Republic” (which had a hybrid oligarchical Republic / Direct Democracy by lottery in terms of voting), and Roman Republic (which had a hybrid Democracy / Republic) have represented the pinnacle of popular governments (the pinnacle of polities as it were). Consequently the U.S. is in many ways based on all three, although it also drew its principles from other past governments like England’s post-Glorious Revolution government and Lycia’s Confederate Republic.

The American Form Of Government. Minus the bias (this video really wants you to associate Republics with the American political party Republican… which is incorrect; see American history), this video provides the best video-based answer as to why America isn’t a Democracy. To summarize, America isn’t a Democracy because there are only three types of governments and they are Monarchy, Aristocracy (Republic), and Democracy… we are a mixed-Republic, so not a Democracy (almost every Government is a form of Republic). Learn “why the founders choose a Republic“.

TIP: Athens claimed to be a Pure/Direct Democracy (everyone votes directly on laws) and Rome a Republic (elected officials vote on laws). In reality, both were mixed systems like the Venetian Republic. America’s Founding Fathers wanted the best of all worlds, while avoiding the pitfalls of any single type, so they designed “a mixed Constitution” (a hybrid of the classical forms) as suggested by philosophers like Montesquieu.

The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8

TIP: The democratic principles like our freedoms and separation of powers all come from the growing liberalism of the Age of Enlightenment. Learn about the enlightenment and the birth of modern governments.

FACT: According to the CIA World Factbook America is, a “Constitution-based federal republic; with strong democratic tradition”. Learn more about the basic government types and the political left and right.

Where US Politics Came From: Crash Course US History #9. What did the founding fathers want the country to look like?

TIP: Our founders called America everything from a Republic to a Democracy. Jefferson was frustrated at being given a label because he considered himself a Federalist, Democrat, and Republican. Meanwhile, John Adams used the term “representative democracy” and Benjamin Franklin and Governor Morris both confirm the United States to be Republic. This is because terminology is largely a matter of semantics and context. You can read the Constitution and slap your own label on America if you wish. The important take-away is America isn’t a Direct Democracy and does vote for elected officials.[11]

Is the United States of America a Democracy or a Republic? – Definitions

Above we explained why America is a “Mixed” Constitutional Federal Republic with a Strong Democratic tradition. Below we will examine each aspect on its own accord and look at a few more terms. From here forward its only about reinforcing what we have already covered above.

When speaking of the power source of government specifically, “The United States of America is a Republic,” where elected officials vote for laws, not a Direct Democracy, where citizens vote for laws directly. This truism is often used to imply a political party or style is best, but that is simply a matter of opinion (even Plato’s warnings of the dangers of pure Democracy are “opinion” technically speaking, if I say that as an admirer of Plato, you can imagine what I think of some politician trying to conflate the modern U.S. party’s with their namesakes).[12]

The following questions and answers will help clarify America’s political system and form of government:

  • Is America a Democracy? America has many democratic traditions, but the basic agreed on government style is a Constitutional Federal Republic. That is a very democratic type of Republic, sometimes called a Representative Democracy.
  • What is a Democracy? Democracy is one of the major government types; it broadly means “the people vote on laws directly,” although there are countless sub-types including limited representative democracies like America has.
  • Is America a Republic? America is a type of Republic called a Federal Republic, it’s a democratic form of government that uses a Republic governance style where elected-officials create laws. Many other government types are used as subsystems, especially by the non-legislative branches of Government, and thus a better term is “mixed Republic”.
  • What is a Republic? A Republic is a system where people vote for politicians and politicians vote for laws. Different types of Republics favor different forms of government and different styles of voting for or appointing representatives.
  • What are the other Government types? There are many government types, but the basics for power source are Democracy (ruled by many), Oligarchy (rule by few), Monarchy (ruled by one). A Republic is a sort of Democratically formed oligarchy, an important hybrid defined since Plato’s Republic as “a good choice”.
  • Is America a Representative Democracy? America can also be described as “representative democracy,” we can say there are technical differences, and sometimes the term representative democracy can be used semantically to contrast a less democratic republic, but generally they are similar. See this conversation.
  • Why is the United States a Republic and Not a Democracy? America is a Republic because the constitution specifically organizes the States as a Republic run by elected officials. This is literally what is meant by Constitutional Federal Republic.
  • Why Do People Say America is a Republic and Not a Democracy? Typically it is a matter of semantics, sometimes it’s party politics, but sometimes it’s people being sticklers for terminology. The basic government types only include a few choices, saying Democracy in this regard implies “direct democracy”, America isn’t a direct democracy.
  • What does “Federal” Republic mean? It refers to a federation of states (Federation), a union of partially self-governing states with a democratic form of government, under a central (federal) government. This describes a power structure, not a power source. Other options include: chiefdom (kinship based), empire (nations under the rule of single power), hegemony (nations under the rule of other nation), confederation (weak central government), and unitary (single power, not state power).
  • What does it mean that America is a “Constitutional” Republic: It means the government style is laid out by a constitution. Not all nations are defined by constitutions, and any power source can have a constitution (for instance, a constitutional monarchy is a monarchy established by a constitution).
  • What does “of the people, by the people, for the people” mean? It means a government formed of citizens, by the citizens, for the interest of the citizens. Not by the aristocracy, or for the special interest oligarchs for example. It doesn’t imply America should be run by mob rule; it speaks to our Freedom of speech, press, and assembly and right to vote for elected officials (and specifically against a Monarchy).
  • Is America a Democratic Republic? You could say America is a Constitutionally Limited Representative Democratic Republic. The trick here is that lots of countries call themselves Democratic Republics, but then are run like something else. Authoritarian regimes like to use this term, so let’s avoid it. See Democratic Republics.[13]
  • Is America a Corporatocracy? This is a matter of opinion, the Founding Fathers talked about factions. Those include political factions and other “special interests.” We can say the growing power of corporations and special interests in America can be described as a type of Corporatocracy but this would be a subsystem of the Republic, and a matter of complexity and semantics. America values liberty, and that means people have the right to form interest groups. Deal making requires sitting across the table from interest groups, to balance the power.
  • Is America Christian? America has no official Religion; instead we have freedom of Religion. Still, about 70% of Americans identify as Christian, that means (statistically speaking) no one political party is “Christian.”
  • Is America Capitalist? America has no official economic system (but in practice the current system is quasi-capitalist). America values liberty, law, and justice, which allows for a flexible economic system, taxation, and regulation. America’s constitution could stand as is in a completely different economic system, although some don’t mesh well with our values. A regulated form of capitalism has been traditionally favored in America. Unlike with the religion bit, the constitution more flexibility here.

TIP: The political parties have very little to do with government style. They are mostly Democrat and Republican by name, which party supports which platforms and issues are always changing.

Is America a Republic or a Democracy?

America is a Republic. If you think back to the Pledge of Allegiance, founding fathers, and core documents this becomes clear.

What is America’s Political System in Practice?

In practice, America functions a little different than it does on paper. America’s political system can loosely be described as a Constitution-based, mixed-government, limited, Federalist Democratic Republic, with a mixed-market Capitalist economic system, and strong Democratic values. The amended Constitution ensures rights like freedom of religion, press, and speech, but America doesn’t have an official religion or economic system.[14][15][16][17]

Due to the mixed nature of the United States, and specifically due to recent deregulation of campaign finance, some call America a type of oligarchy called a corporatocracy (where crony capitalists and corporations make the laws). How true this is in practice is a matter of perspective, and requires a deep understanding of history and the current political system.

TIP: Generally speaking, pure Oligarchy is not desirable, and history shows clearly that Barons pose real historic danger. However, we should acknowledge that the Greeks generally encouraged aspects of oligarchy in their ideal mixed government (not because they loved oligarchy, but because the human condition essentially demands it, as can be seen in Plato’s theory of a producer class from his Republic for example). Those who are frustrated by any aspects of oligarchy in the state should consider that fact. Plato’s main warning was that pure liberty and equality were pitfalls (pure democracy is a pitfall)… because it breeds an oligarchical tyrant without restraints. So, the lesson: liberty, equality, democracy, capitalism, order, authority, and more are all great things, but they don’t work good in their pure forms. They work best when “mixed”, in a “system of checks and balances”, retrained by “a set of fair laws”. In words, they work best in a Constitutional Mixed-Republic.

The Proofs in the Constitution

Taking into account all of the above, we can say the U.S. is a regulated mixed-market hybrid Republic with freedom of religion with strong democratic principles. Despite subsystems that occur to preserve liberty and equality, or the many subsystems laid out in Constitution (for instance the agencies created by the executive branch, or Court nominations for life which use other power and structure types), America’s core political system is confirmed specifically by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and it’s economic system exists within these bounds. Important clauses include:

  • The US Constitution. Section. 1-3. Lays out the structure of the government.[18]
  • The US Constitution. Section. 4. 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.
  • The Bill of Rights. Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[19]

TIP: See our page on how to understand American politics for an overview of the whole political system. See the history of party switching to spot how today’s themes are old as the country itself. You can also read more about why our founders picked a Republic instead of a Direct Democracy here.



Conclusion

The United States of America is a Constitutional Federal Republic, not a Direct Democracy (which is the traditional meaning of the term Democracy).

The simplest way to describe America, is a “mixed constitution” or “mixed government rooted in a Republic”. For more detail you can say, “America is a mixed-market Federal Republic with strong Democratic principles, and Freedom of religion, where all people are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, free speech, a free press, and the right to defend those ideals against invaders foreign and domestic”. In other words, America is not meant to be overtaken by mob rule or oligarchs.

The 1st amendment gives us the technology to protect the Republic from mob rule and oligarchs, the 2nd amendment is only a last resort reserved for foreign threats, when the scales become unbalanced we will find our solution in the wisdom of our forefathers (not in corporate funded soundbites). If you think you’ve found the answer in the extreme of a political party, think again. There is a war of information going on, always has been, always will be, but look close at the history of western democracy and you’ll find the right role models in great men like Plato, Aristotle, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and more.




Citations

  1. Constitutional FAQ Answer #76” usconstitution.net
  2. Government” Wikipedia.org
  3. Representative Democracy
  4. “The United States is not a ‘democracy,’ it is ‘a Republic.’”
  5. Democracy in the United States. uscis.gov.
  6. Is the United States of America a republic or a democracy?
  7. The United States is both a ‘republic’ and a ‘democracy’ — because ‘democracy’ is like ‘cash’
  8. Is the United States of America a republic or a democracy?
  9. Is the United States a democracy?
  10. The United States is both a ‘republic’ and a ‘democracy’ — because ‘democracy’ is like ‘cash’
  11. Is the United States of America a republic or a democracy?” Washingtonpost.com
  12. Is the United States of America a republic or a democracy?” Washingtonpost.com
  13. Is the USA a democracy or a republic?” Thomhartmann.com
  14. America’s Changing Religious Landscape” Pewforum.org
  15. Capitalism” Wikipedia.org
  16. Democracy” Wikipedia.org
  17. Mixed government” Wikipedia.org
  18. Constitution of the United States” Archives.gov
  19. Bill of Rights” Archives.gov


"The United States of America is a Democracy" is tagged with: American Politics, Capitalism, Liberalism and Conservatism, Liberty, Types of Governments, United States of America


Vote Fact or Myth: "The United States of America is a Democracy"

Your Vote: {{ voteModel || 'no vote' | uppercase }}

Ida on

Well, I still think by the guys at Princeton that shows that America is an Oligarchy is pretty much spot-on. Even if most won’t admit it.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Here is our take on that //factmyth.com/is-america-an-oligarchy/

Sarah Goodwich on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

“America is an Oligarchy”
Of COURSE America is an oligarchy, because a minority holds final authority– which is an oligarchy by definition. It’s irrelevant that the People are “permitted” to vote on some of the MEMBERS of this oligarchy, since again they do not hold final authority; rather, it’s simply an ultimatum by limited choice.

Meanwhile, democracy means exactly what the Declaration of Independence says: “government deriving its power by consent of the governed,” so that the People have the right to alter or abolish it, and institute new government.

This is exactly what they did in 1787 by overruling their existing governments to establish the Constitution; since “consent” by definition is the right to REFUSE. And so they refused the existing government, and established the Constitution in its place.

And so they had every right to do so a second time, like they did in 1861; but murderous charlatans revised history to seize power under this false claim of “indirect democracy,” an oxymoron coined by “useful idiots” who desired a benevolent dictatorship, and the additional oxymoron of “document-limited government” which equates solely to pagan dogma.
And therefore, the GOP’s Mosaic pretense, along with its false claims of national authority, enabled its international Jihad to destroy real democracy, replacing it only with a mockery of true consent; and thus the resulting imperial oligarchy soon invaded Europe under similar pretense, and then Asia.
It’s just inevitable that power corrupts– but then we already knew that; we just didn’t know it was power, because the ignorant had been indoctrinated to believe that simple written laws can constrain the hands of those who wield it, without living superiors to invoke it against them– i.e. true democracy.

David on

AGREED. WE DEF ARE NOT A DEMOCRACY. MOST AMERICANS LIVE IN SUCH A FANTASY. I WISH SOMETIMES I STILL BELEIVED IN SANTA CLAUSE BUT THE TRUTH IS ALWAYS WORTH KNOWING. JUST LOOK AT THE CONSTITUTION. A PIECE OF PAPER THAT IS ONLY ENFORCED WHEN ITS CONVENIENT. TECHNICALLY, THE 4th AMENDMENT SHOULD BE REPEALED OR AT LEAST AMENDED BUT YEAH, THE CONSTITUTION IS A F*CKING JOKE!

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The Fourth Amendment is really far down on my list of Amendments we would want to see go.

1st (freedom of expression, etc) and the 4th (prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures) are two of the most vital protections of our liberty. Not sure where you are going with that? Feel free to enlighten.

Also, the type of representative Republic we have, any way you want to look at it (in-intent or in-practice) is essentially a type of democracy. So it isn’t a pure democracy, but it also isn’t “not a democracy.”

Ditz on

That just confused me more.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I tried to make it clearer. Please ask specific questions so we can make it as clear as possible. Understanding it is easy, conveying it… not so much.

I am working on a way of saying everything in simple terms. Our founders created a mixed government that was based on all past systems and complex philosophical theory. It isn’t easy to translate in practice all these years later, especially with 240 years of American history at our backs.

We are a Republic and each state has a Republican government.

However, people vote on some state laws directly (those brought to the state by the people)… which is Democratic. Each aspect of our system can be described using classical terms, but the overarching deal is we are a Republic ruled by elected officials, not ruled directly by the people as a Direct Democracy would be.

Sarah Goodman on

“Our founders created a mixed government that was based on all past systems and complex philosophical theory.”

No. No they did not. The Founders clearly established that they had no right to force government on anyone, but solely that governments derived their just powers by consent of the governed.
They simply PROPOSED the Constitutional government to the PEOPLES — i.e. the voters– of each state, to alter and abolish their existing government, and establish a new one.
The Constitutional conventions were not engaged by permission of the legislatures, but rather superseded them by this right, and thus the People of each state exercised their right of consent, to alter or abolish their existing governments and establish new government.
And in doing so, they formed a NEW union– but the Peoples of each state did NOT unite their nations-states as a single nation-state; but rather, they simply DELEGATED power to the federal government, differently than they had done under the Articles of Confederation, where the state government was the final authority.
Under the Constitution, then the PEOPLE of each state were the final authority therein.

There seems to be a cognitive failure, regarding the inability of written laws to constrain those IN final authority; and so they blindly trust to the Constitution as some sort of pagan dogma which they hold as unbreakable by oligarchs who wield final authority; and just as Jesus called out the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, and Martin Luther called out the charlatans, the American People(s) must call out the federal government as hypocrites and charlatans who illegally and murderously seized power over sovereign nation-states, under color of law.
That’s history the way it happened.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The federalists and anti-federalists did not fully agree on the role of government. You are taking a more anti-federalist, early Democrats, Confederate states’ rights Democrats, and then modern “Constitutionalist” (and sometimes Republican or libertarian) view of the purpose of the founding documents and intentions of the founders.

I put forth the idea that they created a mixed government, where power came from the people and states (the House, the people, local government), but otherwise governing duties rested in a federal aristocracy (the Senate, President, and Judicial branch), due to the fact that there was not a broad consensus of who should rule and exactly what powers they should have, and that checks and balances in a republican system were the best way to ensure the ideals of liberty and justice (and ensure against tyranny).

If you read Palto, Cicero, Machivelli, Montesquieu, etc. It is clear that the founders got many of their ideas from that line of liberal enlightened figures. In that sense we can be very sure that they were intentionally creating a mixed Republic that was meant to ward of the tyranny of the one, few, or many and create a system of checks and balances and a representative government where there was democracy on a local level, rights on a state level, and a federal government to glue it together, itself separated into three branches. They disagreed on the mix, like they do today, but they did generally agree on a set of guidelines (as seen in the Constitution and Bill of rights).

Great thoughts and well said, but hopefully my response helps better explain my perspective.

Langej on

We are not a democracy at all.
When a Wyoming citizen’s vote counts 3 times as much as a Californian’s.
1) It’s what England used to call rotten borough.
2) It’s what Democrats call anti-American
3) It’s what Republicans call “Phew, and a good thing, too.”
4) It’s what Independents call “WTF?”

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The general idea behind the system is that it is trying to prevent a majority from overrunning the will of the people, but for 2016 we got a slight minority winning a very tight race… This adds infinite complexity to the conversation.

To reiterate the above, we are not a direct democracy in the classic sense regarding federal legislation, some federal positions, and aspects of the state government.

As for the winner-take-all state based custom, which I don’t think could really stand up to SCOTUS if pushed, it is quasi-democratic since it is based on states’ rights popular sovereignty (the will of the states over the popular vote).

Here is one of those times where “mixed-republic” or “mixed-constitution” or “mixed-government” is a good description. If you think of a single word that describes a Federal Republic where a President is elected by appointed party electors, that is advised by a customary state-based popular vote that is weighted to ensure a minority voice in terms of states, let me know. For me, democratic isn’t a bad choice and neither is republican. But it is complex, and 100% think there is room to question what system we use moving forward, especially given the cons of winner-take-all have seemed just as prickly as the cons of a national popular vote (in 2000, 2004, and 2016 especially).

Patrick Campbell on

Except if your black or native American,or just down on your luck.

Steve Oren on

I challenge you to find the word “democracy” in ANY of our founding documents. I’ll save you the time – it isn’t there.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Very true. However, in the writings of the founders it is all over the place.

The structure of government is meant to be a republic, under which many democratic elements reside. The people can speak freely, run for elected office, form groups, vote on many positions and state-based measures, etc.

It is meant to be democratic, but NOT a direct democracy.

//www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/
//oll.libertyfund.org/groups/36
//www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/the-federalist-papers/
//www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/

etc

Anynomus on

This is positively and absolutely false because we are what they call a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY! Please make sure you know what you are talking about.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Ok, well, I mean the first sentence of the page says The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy).

So, I very much appreciate the response (as we agree!)

However, it is important to understand we have a mixed-Federal-Republic with a Representative Democracy which also has aspects of Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, and Democracy depending on which aspect of government and which power we consider (executive, legislative, judicial at the state or federal or citizen).

So, the classical forms are: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny.

Republic isn’t even an option. A Republic is like a container you put the other types in. Our type is “mixed”, it is a mix of the classical forms… but the Constitution and Bill of Rights show clearly that we are very proud of the Democratic aspects of “our Democracy”.

Just technically speaking, we don’t even have a pure representative democracy. We don’t elect our President or many other positions directly. So not only do we not create the laws, we also don’t fully elect everyone involved in their creation.

So we could go on and on, or we can just be like: The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy).

Or, we could say a Republic with a Representative Democracy. There we have Republican and Democrat right in the title and we don’t have to make it political. Does that make sense? Our founders created a VERY MIXED government and thus it is hard to give a perfect name to.

lgantner on

Laughing at the title. Extremely manipulative. You state the United States is not a “democracy” in the title, then immediately move the goalposts when you clarify in the description “[direct] democracy”, an extremely specific type of democracy that almost no country implements. The title of this article is why people continue to use the argument that America is not a *democratic* nation. A republic is a type of democracy.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

On our site we take things people believe and fact-check them. People tend to think “America is a Democracy”, but it is not just “a Democracy” it is a Constitutional Federal Republic with a Representative Democracy and elections for many positions.

With that said, the website isn’t about proving ideological points, it is about debunking misleading ideas and digging toward truth.

I could see changing the title to “America is a type of Democracy” and then labeling it a fact, or America is a Pure Direct Democracy and then changing it to a myth.

Maybe those would better convey the idea while debunking the myth.

Appreciate the input.

And upon further reflection, I think you have swayed me, I tweaked the claim and labeled it a fact after realizing that both phrasings are equally correct when speaking in terms of a mixed-government that mixes republic and democracy. The article already makes it clear that the U.S. is not a pure democracy.

Rick Smith on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

The United States is a Constitutional Republic. PERIOD.
You can call it a democracy all you want, if that makes you
feel better.
Thank God, and the wisdom He gave our founders, because
if we WERE a democracy, that evil, wicked witch Hillary Clinton
would be president right now.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

This is what we clear up in the article.

Consider:

1. The United States is most certainly a republic, and a federal one at that. We have 50 Republican states (the constitution demands each state we have be one) under a large republic under a single social contract (the constitution and federal law). In this sense no one can or should deny our republican nature.

2. The way we vote for president has become more, not less, democratic over time, what you assume is republican with the winner take all system is actually more democratic than the constitution dictates, winner take all is state law and custom and involves state based popular votes. So not national popular, but state based popular. This is a democratic aspect of our republic (our democratic republic) and so what you praise is an aspect of our democracy. Keep that in mind and don’t confuse party names or other details with the reality of our system.

3. Otherwise the republic has many more democratic and republican aspects, too many to name, but most of which are detailed above. Consider we direct almost all state level and all legislators directly (then they mostly vote on laws). That isn’t direct democracy is most causes but it is democratic (there is not no better word to describe such a system).

Now take into account state based initiatives and recalls. Now account for the advisory vote. The list goes on and on. We are a presidential constitutional federal republic with a representative democracy. A purposefully mixed republic, a shot at that ideal mixed constitution.

We are a republic with a representative democracy and democratic and republican spirit. This is so true we named the major parties after this fact.

A republic, in the classical sense and the sense the us established a republic in is a very democratic thing rooted in an aristocracy.

I am attempting here to speak nothing but pure truth, many, many, many talking points attempt to confuse this issue to their own benefit. You can say trump won because of our republican system, but no, he won due to state popular votes of the people, and thus he won due to our democratic nature. I actually doubt appointed officials would have chosen him if it wasn’t for the advisory vote. Meanwhile the national popular would have given us Clinton, only one very specific and democratic aspect of our current system (originally meant to ensure the southern democratic south more power) was going to give us trump.

Our system is too complex, to use the single word republic without noting our democratic (and honestly oligarchical and timocratic) nature. I’m very proud of exactly what we have, but if we want to keep perfecting it we must know it intimately. Have another read of the constitution and amendments and you’ll have a good sense of what I’m saying here.

I’m not anti or pro trump or Clinton here, just giving insight into what is.

Linda Merry on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I realize The U.S. is “supposed ” to be a representative republic, but as a member of one of the many marginalized populations, it just ain’t so. It is in fact, a Dog show. The “Citizens United” decision could very well be the final nail in the coffin with regard to any chance “We the People” might have with regard to any access to self govern. The Supreme Court decided that “Money Talks”, which is great for those with all the resources, hence the rest of us are thrown under the bus in a deluge from the opened floodgates of Plutocracy. I welcome you all to the third world.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

For sure, that is correct that citizens united has really corrupted things. Still with all positions considered it is still rather democratic.

There is good work left to do to say the least. Learn more about the oligarchy of the new gilded age here: //factmyth.com/is-america-an-oligarchy/

😀

In the meantime we most certainly have a Representative Federal Republic – if we can keep it.

LMC on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

The United States is a republic, no matter how you spin it.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Absolutely and positively a Republic. Which is a wonderfully democratic thing, especially in this country with our system of representative democracy within the republic.

The thing to realize here is that the concepts of a Republic bleeds into the concept of Representative Democracy.

The U.S. is not a pure democracy. It is a Republic with a representative democracy and democratic ideals (and even some elements of pure democracy). It is a mixed Republic.

There are lots of ways to phrase this and lots of aspects to discuss, but of course, this is what the page is all about.

Brandon on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

You’re wrong. If America was a democracy, why in the pledge of allegiance does it say “I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of The United States of America, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands, one nation under god with liberty and justice for all” If we were a democracy why does the pledge say otherwise?

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

The pledge is a nationalist hymn of sorts written in the late 1890s, then updated in the 1950s to say the word “God.” Its a fun story, read it here: //www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

Stories of the pledge aside, and its merit aside, it more important to look at the structure of our government and the Constitution than the pledge in respect to government types. Still, we say the word Republic in the pledge because we are one. As explained in the article and again below.

As the article explains, we are a Republic [for which it stands]. However, we are a mixed-Republic with many democratic features. Of those features, most are rightly described as representative democracy. Most Republics have an underlying representative democracy.

If you go back and read old political speeches and the writings of the founders this becomes clear. If you study the structure of our government this becomes clear.

There is perhaps no more accurate phrase with which to describe the system we have than “Presidential Constitutional mixed Federal Republic with a Representative Democracy.” Although we can just use the terms Representative Republic or Republic for short, as it in many ways implies this form of government specifically.

I would not call America “a Democracy” – Period. As we aren’t a direct democracy at our core… but certainly referring to the U.S. as a Democracy or our Democracy is still valid (as, like when we say Republic, we are implying the true form).

The form is an advent of constitution and rule. It is not the name that makes the form, but the system laid out by Madison’s Constitution that merits a description… Does that make sense?

It is a mistake to focus on the idea that we are a Republic, like Republicans, to justify identifying with the Republican party. The Republican party is no more Republican than the Democratic party, and the Democratic party no more Democrat than a Republican. Thus, likewise, it is a mistake to focus on the Democracy part to justify the party name Democratic party. This is a false association essentially, equating a name with a description of a governmental form. That maybe made sense at the formation of the parties in the 1800s, but too much has changed and the parties too broad and factionated for that to be true today.

The party names have been things like federalists, Democrats, and Republicans (and even confederates)… because we are ALLL of those things. A Federal Republic with a Representative Democracy (and elements of pure Democracy; for example with state-based initiatives… and elements of confederation; which understood properly is a loose federation that speaks to how states are bound together and to the old articles of confederation).

Thing is, the whole point of the article is to explain this. So next commenter who wants to say this, give the article another 5 minutes of your time and realize I’m trying to convey good information.

——

Consider this quote from John Quincy’s Inaugural:

“Liberty and law have marched hand in hand.

All the purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectively as under any other government on the globe, and at a cost little exceeding in a whole generation the expenditure of other nations in a single year.

Such is the unexaggerated picture of our condition under a Constitution founded upon the republican principle of equal rights…

…If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated [which is a way to express a federation of states] representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled.”

Nobody on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

If you step back and view your passionate, misguided, feeble attempt to add the word democracy to the “historical record”, you only see a emotionally charged, mythological attempt to do so. The fact that you are voting on it also introduces an element of doubt, not fact. A republic can have a democratic element, for sure, But the essence of our republic is that of representation, not necessarily elected and not necessarily, from an electoral college perspective, something that “the majority” may agree with. There are things that most citizens don’t even fully understand about this government, but they want to change anyway. These protections have been built in, and can protect all Americans, if you leave them the hell alone. At best you can argue that our republic, is a higher form of democracy, a refined form of government. It only exists here, protected by our borders, military and civilian militia. It provides protections a simple democracy does not. Otherwise we would be a mob rules, simple democracy. But saying “mixed” thirty times doesn’t make it more a democracy, Your own arguments prove we are actually more of a republic than you care to admit, or appreciate, not less of a republic.

The biggest lesson that needs to be taught here is:
1) A republic is a form of government.
2) A democracy is a form of government.
3) A republican is a person that believes in a political party and it’s values, not a form of government.
4) A democrat is a person that believes in a political party and it’s values, not a form of government.
5) An American is the luckiest person on the planet. If you don’t think so, you should move to a country that aligns with what you wish, you have that freedom. Not corrupting our form of government to suit you, the many, the few, or whatever political party, whichever it may be. I suggest North Korea or Sweden. kidding!
6) Do not confuse a republic, and a republican.
7) Do not confuse a democracy, and a democrat.
8) Capitalism is an economic system. One that favors best business practices. Not a form of government.
9) What would make the US government stronger? Improving it as a stronger republic, not trying to shift it towards a democracy. Maybe a one term limit for every post, get em in and out of there regularly!
No career politicians !

You will never confuse a democrat with a republican. Or vice versa.
I am neither, I am beyond the two party system, as political parties go.
I believe you should know why we have something before you try to change it, you’d be surprised how well the founding fathers had all best interests in the scope of their documents. It is the way it is, for a very good reason! You don’t have to be a republican, independent, green, democrat, socialist, communist,

Learn more, be more. We are created equal, but you can add value…..
Food for thought

I am an American, this isn’t star trek, or some global community, the rest of the world does not have your best interest in mind, and they don’t believe you have theirs. And they are right. Where is the country i grew up in?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, who is voting for me?

my name is nobody

Nobody on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Nobody
Clicked on myth, not fact. is this thing rigged?

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Not at all. It might be a bug if anything. I’ll ask the developer to check!

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

That is very well written, and I respect that.

I don’t think we really disagree on much if you read what I said.

What I said about the United States of America is that it is both a type of Democracy and a Republic. I agree that a Republic can have democratic features, and I agree that we aren’t a pure Democracy. However, we literally have Democratic elements (even elements of direct Democracy) in our system.

Thus, while the original article had stated “the United States is a Republic, not a direct Democracy” and had tagged the idea that “the United States is a Democracy” a myth… the more I thought about it, the more I realized that saying that was more wrong than just saying “It is a type of Democracy, a mixed Republic with elements of Democracy.”

We can call it representative Democracy, or we can call it a Republic. It is a Republic, but it is Democratic. It isn’t just “a Republic” and it isn’t a myth that it is a type of Democracy.

I really would love to phrase this all in a short snappy way that implies what I say and what you say in a simple way. I am working on that.

However, snappy and short aside, I did not like some of the articles I found online that tried to conflate republics, republicanism, and the Republican party and then try to insinuate that since the U.S. was a Republic, that the Republican party was superior to the Democratic party and Democracy.

We are a mixed Republic, a mixed government, we have a representative democracy and elements of direct democracy. It isn’t one thing, it is both democratic and republican (hence the party names).

None of these words mean the same thing, rather they all have different meanings and all apply to the United States in-practice (and even in theory in the Constitution; although that was more republican than the system in practice which with its direct voting on Senators, its Amendments therefore, is more democratic).

Hard to say in a short snappy way, as we both known, but keep in mind we are on the same page here essentially. I don’t mean to imply differently, I just meant to stress that we are today and always have been both democratic and republican in this mixed presidential federal republic with democratic sub-systems.

Sarah Goodwich on

Time to stop the charade-myths. The USA is not a sovereign nation-state, it is an international federal republic of separate sovereign nation-states– EACH OF WHICH IS ALSO A DEMOCRACY.

This is plain from the fact that the Constitution was ratified by the Peoples of separate nation-states, basically by their popular votes each OVERRULING their respective governments; and they did NOT expressly unite as a SINGLE nation-state by doing so– as did nation-states of Scotland and England in 1707, to form the single nation-state of Great Britain.
This point is key, since a sovereign nation-state is its own supreme ruler; and therefore ONLY an express act can relinquish that status to join with another sovereign nation-state to form a single, larger sovereign nation-state.
Not only does the Constitution contain NO such express act, but likewise all additional documentation proves that they intended to remain a voluntary union of separate, sovereign nation-states, while the Peoples of each respective nation-state remained the supreme rulers thereof (e.g. the People of New York remained the supreme rulers of New York, and the People of Virginia remained the supreme rulers of Virginia, while both states remained separate, sovereign nation-states etc).
Rather, the Peoples of each state simply DELEGATED powers to state and federal government differently, than had been done under the Articles of Confederation; but the People of the state were now supreme, while the federal government was simply first in the CHAIN OF COMMAND, and state governments second… in this way, they “formed a more perfect union–” which would NOT be the case if they formed a single nation-state, since that was the original cause of corruption in Great Britain which impelled the revolution in the first place. They had NO INTENTION of escaping from that frying-pan, to jump into that fire of a single nation-state republic; since they were only too aware of the potential of such centralized power to corrupt its handling of the Constitution, as had happened under Great Britain.
This is why the colonies broke from Great Britain as 13 separate sovereign nation-states, and not a SINGLE nation-state as early revisionists claim.
And now, today, modern revisionists likewise claim that the CONSTITUTION united the states as a single nation-state, simply because the PEOPLE of each state delegated supreme legal authority to the federal government; however this is a confession of ignorance by those who allege it, for reasons stated above.
Thus, each state is a sovereign national democracy in which the voters are the supreme rule, and can overrule their government by popular vote, and thus are the supreme power in the WORLD over their state.
Those who observe the Constitution in Article VI as “the supreme law of the land,” conveniently ignore the first three words of the Constitution WE THE PEOPLE[S, of each state, RESPECTIVELY] was the AUTHORITY by WHICH it is ordained and established.
Mass-ignorance and charlatanism has pervaded history and destroyed democracy for over half-a-century longer than the majority of citizens could even VOTE; and so now it is time to clarify truth as it came to pass, and not the distortions which have corrupted it into a covert oligarchy. For as Johann-Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “there are no People more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsely believe that they are free.”

And an oligarchy with elected members is not a democracy, since the People do not consent to it; rather it is simply an oligarchy with more steps to deceive the ignorant masses into falsely believing that they are free– i.e. that they consent to the government.
This presents “Dangerous Liasons” akin to the story of that name, whereby a learned rapist used double-talk to convince his adolescent victims into that they likewise consented to his pederasty…. and for the same reason, since the People clearly do not consent to a government which they cannot overrule.

Matt on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

We are a Republic!!!

Matt on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

If you do not know that we are a republic?
You are only as misguided as my sons social studies teacher. Guess thats why he teaches. Those that can’t teach!

Jason Pendergrass, PHD on

Hahahaha I kinda envy you. Sometimes, I wish I still believed in unicorns and magicians. The US is def NOT a democracy. In a democracy, power ultimately derives from the people. In the US, power derives from the wealthy and influential and voters are just as meaningless as the Electoral College. They are just casting the votes – not in their interest. Most Americans are too ignorant and misinformed by a corrupt corporate/social media to be able to warrant democratic rule. “The US is a democracy.” Hahaha yeah and the Constitution exist about as much as Santa Clause. Truth be told, the US has never been a democracy. Most Americans just think that because they live in a bubble, or pink cloud. You’re living in a dream world dude. Denial is very powerful but get real. Our nation is a corporate oligarchy and Americans are way too disinterested in politics and def too stupid for the US to ever be a democracy.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

It is a representative republic, with many democratic features (electing local offices, and initiatives and referendums for example), and within that framework there is a capitalist state and a lot of lobbyists. Like in Plato’s “Republic” you end up with at least a partial oligarchy when you mash the 5 forms up to create a mixed Republic. Of course, then, to my point, you have the lobbyists and man’s natural desire to get more stuff, and you end up with aspects of oligarchy and in the modern times corporatocracy.

Feel free to read my thoughts on that here: //factmyth.com/is-america-an-oligarchy/

ps. I’m being pretty literal and honest about the system. Literally a type of Republic, that Republic is rather Democratic in-spirit and in-practice, however we also have aspects of all the classical forms… because we are a capitalist state with a large military. So, literally like a mixed “Republic” from the book “the Republic”… which is where the term comes from that all the famous political philosophers used, who inspired our founders, who founded our Republic.
//factmyth.com/what-is-a-republic/
//factmyth.com/books/platos-republic-explained/
//factmyth.com/platos-five-regimes/
//factmyth.com/why-did-the-founding-fathers-choose-a-republic/

Dustin on

It’s absolutely not democracy! Anyone on this page that says it is, is an idiot and needs to go back to not only our founding documents but, also in our forefathers writings. They wanted America to be the furthest thing from democracy. You’ll here people throw out there that it is a representative democracy. Also, horribly wrong. All you really have to do is look at the insertion of our bill of rights, that in itself is a prime example of what our forefathers considered our country, let alone it says in our founding documents, in our pledge of allegiance. No where does it talk about America being a democracy of any kind. People who say this and believe this are either not properly informed, have been confused by other rhetoric or are simply wishing that it were, and there for putting there twist on it in an attempt to convince other people to believe. Also, one caveat to this that might make people think that we have a democracy, is the unconstitutional actions that happen. Granted in that sense the person claiming it to be a democracy would be correct. But, the truth is, is that those democratic actions that did happen, should have never happened in the first place. So, it doesn’t change what are country is, is just means that unconstitutional actions are happening. Pick up a constitution and read it and learn it for yourself instead of listening to the SHEEP!

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

We literally have a representative democracy… in a republic. It is a type of democracy. Then at a state level we have many democratic elements. The founders created a mixed government, on purpose, a very fine name for this style of democratic and republican government is “republic.”

It is rather annoying when Democrats (the party) try to say “we are a democracy” and Republicans (they party) try to say “we are a republic” to sort of reinforce this idea that they are right. We are called Democrats and Republicans because we are a type of democratic republic, a federal republic at that.

All the terms I’ve used thus far only begin to describe the true character of our government in practice and intent. Your argument is fine, but you are being overly dismissive of the democratic elements… me thinks because you identify as a Republican (if I have to guess).

“If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled…” – The great almost-founding Federalist John Quincy Adams

Terence on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Fact YouRAmoron! USA is an Oligarchy. Our corporations write their own laws through their puppets in congress. They control the laws that govern you too. They want your guns so you don’t put up a fight. The oligarchy controls the our congress, our laws, our country and our military. Meanwhile the 99% suffer as slaves to a system that SERVES ONLY THE RICH!!!!!

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I think this view of the world gives too much credit to the oligarchs. I’d propose that the world is a little more mundane and less coordinated than that. Although clearly monied interests do have a ton of influence for a myriad of reasons.