In a republic, the people delegate decision-making authority to elected representatives in government.
A Democracy is a form of government in which everyone has a say. This could be done indirectly or directly.
Is the United States a republic or a Democracy?
A constitutional republic is what the United States of America is.
Continue reading to learn what the various terms actually mean.
What Exactly Is a Constitutional Republic?
Let’s dissect it.
First and foremost, the term “constitutional” refers to the United States Constitution.
The Constitution serves as the supreme law of the land, which means that no laws enacted by state governments and also the federal government can contradict it.
If a specific law violates the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court’s Justices will decide whether or not it does so based on their interpretations of the Constitution.
But what exactly is a republic?
A republic is a political system in which ordinary citizens participate in government decisions. The term “republic” is from the Latin phrase “res publica,” which means “the public thing.”
The ancient Romans established one of history’s most famous republics, from which the United States’ Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, drew much inspiration.
In contrast to what had previously existed: monarchy or kings’ rule, the Roman republic was defined.
Basically all Roman citizens voted for who would rule on their behalf.
To summarize, a republic is a “representative democracy” in which individual citizens do not directly exercise legislative authority by voting on laws, but rather delegate that task to those who win elections.
Republican characteristics distance ordinary citizens from the functioning of their government. People elect legislators, but that is about where their involvement ends.
The United States government has many characteristics that emphasize its status as a republic.
Article II of the Constitution, which describes how the legislative branch of government works, explains it fairly well:
Citizens elect representatives.
Citizens of states elect representatives to the House of Representatives and senators to vote on their behalf.
Representatives voting in place of citizens is classic republicanism – we see “representative democracy” at work once more.
The Electoral College is another republican concept. As previously stated, republicanism creates some “distance” between ordinary people and government functioning, which is what the Electoral College was designed to do.
A popular vote has always been held in which eligible citizens vote for the President of the United States.
The Electoral College was created to deliberate on that vote in order to prevent a populist or tyrant from becoming President.
While the Electoral College quickly evolved into its current form, in which all of a state’s electors follow the popular vote of that state.
The concept of a “elite” deliberative body is, once again, classic republicanism – the people have power, but not too much power.
All of this means that a presidential candidate can lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College, which has happened in 2016, 2000, 1888, 1876, and 1824.
Election of Senators
Another republican feature of America is the way Senators were elected in the past. Each of the 50 states is represented by two senators. These are now directly elected by the citizens of a state.
This, however, was not always the case.
Prior to the 17th Amendment (ratified in 1913), the legislature of each state decided who would be sent to the United States Senate.
Assume you were born in New York in 1890. You would vote for New York State Legislature members, just as you do now, but not for your two senators.
Rather, the members of the New York State Legislature who were elected would do so.
This original system, like the Electoral College, entrusted voting power to representatives, removing it from the common person.
Is the United States a Democracy?
The United States is often referred a democracy.
But is the United States a democracy?
This is a controversial question.
The United States is officially a constitutional republic once more. This does not preclude it from being a democracy.
As previously stated, a republic is a “representative democracy.”
When people say that the United States is “not a democracy, but a republic,” they are only telling half the truth.
It is not a direct democracy in which each person votes on specific legislation, but any system in which people vote for members of government is ultimately “democratic.”
Comparing the Constitutions of the United States and the United Kingdom
Using the modern United Kingdom as an example, we can highlight the differences between a republic and a democracy.
We cannot refer to the United Kingdom as a republic because its head of state, Elizabeth II, was not democratically elected. It is, in fact, a constitutional monarchy.
No monarch or mob rule
People in the United States, on the other hand, vote for the head of state, who is the President.
There is no aristocracy, which was one of the most significant differences between the fledgling republic and Great Britain’s form of government for the Founding Fathers.
The Founding Fathers of the United States feared “mob rule” or “majority tyranny,” and in this case, spoke negatively of “democracy” while promoting the virtues of a specifically republican government.
This is where the argument “the United States is a republic, not a democracy” frequently originates. However, most people today understand the term “democracy.” The United States of America is a democratic republic.
Republic vs. Democracy
The response to the question “Is the United States a republic?” is an unequivocal “yes.”
Whereas saying the United States is a “democracy” can be contentious and necessitates further investigation, saying the United States is a republic is completely accurate.
It was the world’s first constitutional republic, founded at a time when monarchy was the default form of government.
It remains to be seen whether certain republican features, such as the Electoral College, will change or be abolished.