General Question

Steve_A's avatar

Is America a Democracy or a Republic?

Asked by Steve_A (5125points) March 2nd, 2010

Which is it?

Can you explain to me more or is it a mix?

Everyone has a say in America but do we really?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. ”

“to the republic for which it stands” Are we saying that we agree with what the republic stands for at the moment, and not the overall ideal that is America?

If it is a “mix” then what is it called then?

It seems to me it is a republic.

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24 Answers

ru2bz46's avatar

It is a democratic republic. Small groups of democracies joined together to form a republic.

Steve_A's avatar

Why do some people insist on saying it is a democracy then?

njnyjobs's avatar

Republic is the proper description of our (US) government, not “democracy”.

Democracy is that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy.—Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, pp. 388–389.—

grumpyfish's avatar

@Steve_A It’s a form of Democracy—the populace elect representatives, who then make decisions for them.

Notably, California is an example of why direct democracy is a bad idea. The people as a whole NEVER vote for tax increases, and ALWAYS vote for an increase in services. Leading to bankrupcy.

ragingloli's avatar

Both. The latter is a form of the former.

“or indirectly through a system of representation”

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

It’s a republic, nationally, and probably even on the state level… we have elected officials that vote for us. A true democracy would be impossible to implement in a country the size of the US.

noyesa's avatar

The US is a representative democratic republic. It is a republic in the sense that its citizens have a say in how the government is run (through elected officials, thus the “representative” qualifier) and it is democratic in the sense that all of its citizens are treated as equals under the law, and that it is bound by a constitution.

The chain of events by which things make their way from the people into the federal government is long, but implementing a direct representation of each citizen in the federal government would be completely unmanageable or impossible. Instead we have the Federal system by which the constituents of each state vote for representatives who weigh their district’s opinion at the Federal level. It’s an aggregate representation, since each state consists of many districts and there are many states.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It is a Republic.
We only elect our officials through the Democratic process,but that’s where Democracy ends.The nature of the United States does not change because of a political whim,as it would if it were a Democracy.
In a Democracy,there are no individual rights guaranteed by a Constitution.If 9 cannibals vote to eat the 10th,it’s ok because they voted on it ;))
In a Constitutionally Limited Republic,which the US is,it is the government’s power that the Constitution limits ,not the individual.

noyesa's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I suppose the 60-second, dictionary definition of democracy appears to elicit that, but majority rules is one of many subsets of democracy. The modern definition of a democracy usually includes some kind of constitution that explicitly lists the powers and freedoms of each citizen and protects the freedom of them as well. Separation of powers is one of the oft-cited defining features that makes a modern democracy work.

urwutuis's avatar

We are now living in a fascist police state where we need government approval to do anything. Elections in this country are no longer meaningful. Candidates are screened by a handfull of powerful corporations through the control of the media so that anyone capable of affecting true change would stand a better chance of being struck by lightning while winning the lottery than getting their name on the ballot.

Elections are held to give us the illusion of freedom.Both sides of the aisle are bought and paid for by the same group of corporate lobbyists through campaign contributions and outright bribery.

This is the only result capitalism is capable of producing since no matter what contols are employed the majority of wealth will always be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful companies.

Walmart now holds sway over more wealth than Saudi Arabia.
All of this comes under the egis of the Federal Reserve whose owners are the ones who are really in control.

MrItty's avatar

“to the republic for which it stands” Are we saying that we agree with what the republic stands for at the moment, and not the overall ideal that is America?

Not at all. The “it” in that phrase is the flag. You are pledging your allegiance both to the flag, and to the republic for which that flag stands. That is, to America. That part of the Pledge says absolutely nothing about what America itself stands for.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America”
(self explanatory)

“And to the republic for which it stands”
(the Republic for which the US Flag stands is the US, so you pledge your allegiance both to the US Flag and to the US itself)

“One nation, <under God>, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”
(this phrase then describes that republic for which the Flag stands)

thriftymaid's avatar

It’s a democratic republic. Pure democracy requires a vote on everything. In a republic the citizens elect representatives to speak for them.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Can we be a federation?
Russian Federation just sounds so cool.

Cruiser's avatar

Republic no if’s and’s or but’s!

James Madison observed that one of the most important differences between a democracy and a republic is “the delegation of the government [in a republic] to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.” The primary effect of such a scheme, Madison continued, was to: refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the same purpose (Federalist No. 10).

He also had this to say which is reflective of the mindset I see prevalent today….

“There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice and truth can regain their authority over the public mind(Federalist No. 63).”

davidk's avatar

A repubic is a form of democracy. Any democracy that is indirect, i.e, representatives are elected to form a legislative (law making) body, is a republic.


indirect democracy = republic

demos + kratos (anc. greek) = “The people” + “Rule (make the rules/are the rules”)
res publica (latin) = republic (english)
res publica= “of/by means” + “the people/public”

Ron_C's avatar

We used to be a representative democratic republic. That means that our elected representative voted base on his constituents opinion. Of course, that hasn’t happened in my live time. I never agreed that it was o.k. for Joe Mccarthy to prosecute people because they may have had some distant ties to socialist programs, I never agreed that the Viet Nam war was a good idea, I never thought that Reagen in anyway, represented my choice as president. I was completely against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I never wanted military tribunals, a tax cut for the richest among us, or the torture of prisoners for any reason. I also never supported the patriot act, or calling people that didn’t agree with Bush (either one of the sociopathic family) for any reason.

I don’t know when this country changed but I know that it in no way represents its citizens. We are now corporately owned and operated. We no longer have any say in the government and are among the stupidest people in the world.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Ron_C May I suggest you would feel better about the government if you got yourself involved – the local government (city, county) is the best place, but if you prefer a little less ‘hand on’, volunteer to work in the local office of your congressional Representative or Senator. People who are actively involved in the process tend to have a much better view of the realities of the situation.

Ron_C's avatar

@YARNLADY you know, The even more depressing part of this is that I have done all of what you suggested. I have been both active and in a minor elective office in the Republican party and an activist in the Democratic party. The problem isn’t on the local level, it is at the state and federal level in which ordinary citizens have virtually no say.

The only real solution is term limits, making corporate lobbying illegal, and public financing of campaigns. If we can’t trust the people that pay for elections, then it is our duty to make sure that they have little or no influence in the election process. Now that he supreme court has granted human-hood to corporations, us ordinary humans must fight back of get out of the process entirely.

nerfball6's avatar

We are BOTH. A republic is a form of democracy. The word democracy simply means “rule by the people”. And the whole purpose of our republic is to have rule by the people (through representatives and a constitution).

Confusion arises when “democracy,” a GENERIC term (meaning “rule by the people”) is equated with “PURE” democracy (majority rule with no protections for the minority) which we are not. Those that emphatically say were are NOT a democracy are not considering the context of how the word is being used. They are only thinking in the sense of a “pure” or “true” democracy.

Our founders often referred to our republic as a “democracy” and the people “democrats”. They also used the words democracy and republic interchangeably. They of course were using the word in the context of “rule by the people”.

So… the exact meaning of the term “democracy” must be gained from the context in which it is used. When used with reference to a government which is acknowledged to be a republic, it obviously does not refer to a “pure” democracy. To assume that the term “democracy” always refers to a pure democracy is a mistake.

tigerkhanali's avatar

If it were a republic we would be under common law. We live under a socialist regime pretending to be a democracy. President Roosevelt declared in 1933 that “all ownership of private property is with the state”. Maritime admiralty law is the law we live under and that law is administrative and favors the equity rights of creditors. Under the common law of a republic, no individual can be prosecuted for a crime or a claim without someone having sworn to a loss or injury, hence traffic violations would not exist.

Response moderated
Dog's avatar

[mod says:] Duplicate quip removed.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Ron_C I agree. We live in a wholly corporate owned and operated system under the illusion of a democratic republic. It’s not hard to fool people who not only don’t pay attention, but are confused as to the type of system they were promised by their founding fathers’ actions and the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the constitution of that system.

“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent they conquered.”
― Thomas Jefferson

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
― Frank Zappa

Ron_C's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Thank you for the quotes. It looks like Jefferson had an uncanny insight into the future and Zappa said it poetically. I wish they were wrong but I suspect that if the republicans manage to manipulate the next election we’ll see the “brick wall at the back of the theater”.

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