Are We a Democracy?

Is the United States of America a democracy? Most Americans have become accustomed to the belief America is indeed a democracy. That’s the problem when words lose their meaning and are redefined to mean something else altogether. Many Americans have what I would call a romantic and fanciful understanding for the term democracy. It is not based in reality; it is based on a perception of reality.

“Create a concept and reality leaves the room.”

–Attributed to Jose Ortega y Gasset

So let us separate the romantic and the conceptual interpretations of democracy from the technical meaning of democracy. It is crucial, in my mind, Americans begin to understand just what true democracy really is … to separate its true meaning from the romantic version of democracy we, as Americans, have been exposed to for over a hundred years now.

First–returning to the original question: “Are we a democracy?” Technically the U.S.A. is now a democratic republic. But this was not always the case (as I will address later).  Our nation was originally founded as a true republic. The most important and fundamental difference, in my opinion, between a republic and a democracy, is the underpinning of law, not mob rule.

Let’s just look at the Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of republic (emphasis mine):

1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in  modern times is usually a president (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

c : a usually specified republican government of a political unit <the French Fourth Republic>

Now look at Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of democracy (emphasis mine):

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

2 : a political unit that has a democratic government

3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the United States <from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy — C. M. Roberts>

4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority

5: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

The similarities which appear to exist between democracy and republic may not be so similar on closer inspection as one might be led to believe. For example, our form of government–a constitutional republic–provides representatives and electors on behalf of the people who freely elect their representatives. In a democracy, it is majority rule. It is one reason the Left pushes for the popular vote over the Electoral College vote.

The Electoral College provides equal representation for the smaller States in relation to larger States; otherwise, smaller States (for example, Rhode Island) would never be able to petition the federal government, because larger States (like California) would always win out with a majority vote. Once again, that is why the Left wants to do away with the Electoral College and institute a popular vote; which totally flies in the face of the Founders’ intent for equal representation–a true constitutional republic.

Sen. Al Franken

We have already moved toward democratizing our Constitution via the Seventeenth Amendment. It was the the Progressive Movement which pushed for the ratification of the  Seventeenth Amendment. The Seventeenth effectively wrenched the Senate from the States. We now elect our Senators via a popular vote. This Amendment to our Constitution is why we must technically call our form of government a democratic republic now, as opposed to a true republic, as it was intentionally founded.

There are some very important distinctions between these two forms of government–democracy versus republic. But perhaps a little review of the rise and fall of Athenian Democracy might highlight these important differences a little more clearly and fully.

The video provided above gives what I call the “romantic definition” of democracy; it fails to point out some troubling aspects of Athenian-style democracy and its ultimate collapse from within. Although there are many aspects of Greek culture, and their form of government, that have heavily influenced our own, not all of it was good.

Alexander the Great

Active citizenship for the Athenian was considered a duty. Athenian citizens would assemble at the public square (or the Parthenon) in the city-state of Athens to vote on government policies and public affairs. But only those who showed up would be able to vote. This lead to a constant changing dynamic within the Greek democratic body politic that lead to some very bad decision-making. For example, one Assembly would vote to send ships and troops to attack a rival, then another Assembly would vote to call them all back. Sound familiar?

Democracy’s legacy dates as far back as 600 BC. But in the year 322 BC, some earth-shaking changes were occurring in the world. This was the year that saw the demise of Alexander the Great and the death of Aristotle.

From the blog Hans Is Great (emphasis mine):

“In June of that year, Alexander developed a fever and died. When his advisors asked who would inherit his empire he answered, “to the strongest”. He was only thirty-three years old. The effects of his death were immediate: revolts broke out everywhere, and fifty years of civil war followed as various successors fought one another for dominance.

The same tragic year brought the death of Aristotle. It was the end of an era: the total collapse of Greek democracy. The city-state had been incapable of solving the problems of government, and had discovered no way of reconciling local autonomy with national stability and power. Class warfare had become bitter beyond control, and had turned the free market into legalized looting. The Assembly, once a noble body, had degenerated into an unruly mob rejecting all restraint, voting itself every favor and taxing the other classes to the point of crushing industry and initiative.[…]”


This is why our Founders warned us “democracies always fail.” True democracy does not provide the underpinning of law; it does not provide rights for the minority, despite any opinion contrary. Our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights does provide rights and protections for the individual and private citizen, which is the ultimate minority. The whole concept and idea of individualism, for all intents and purposes, did not exist until the creation of the United States of America.

David Barton’s piece entitled “Republic v. Democracy” provides some extremely revealing quotes from some of our Founders regarding their views concerning true democracy:

[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.2 James Madison

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.3 John Adams

A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way.4 The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.5 Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for the First Amendment

We have seen the tumult of democracy terminate . . . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in despotism. . . . Democracy! savage and wild. Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and wise to thy level of folly and guilt.6 Gouverneur Morris, Signer and Penman of the Constitution

[T]he experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.7 John Quincy Adams

A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils.8 Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

In democracy . . . there are commonly tumults and disorders. . . . Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.9 Noah Webster

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.10 John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

It may generally be remarked that the more a government resembles a pure democracy the more they abound with disorder and confusion.11 Zephaniah Swift, Author of America’s First Legal Text

As the video above points out, there really are only four forms of government in the world: monarchy, oligarchy, democracy and republic. Most governments in the world are oligarchies–a small group of individuals who rule over the majority. Even most monarchies are in reality oligarchies. The “king” or “president” of such monarchical regimes are usually just figureheads who represent the group of individuals who collectively rule the majority behind the scenes.

Does any of this democracy stuff our Founders warned us of sound familiar? Interestingly, it was our Founders who coined the phrase “mobocracy” in reference to true democracy. Can you say, “Occupy”? Can you say, “New Deal Democracy”? Who is it that currently pushes the concept that the U.S.A. is a true democracy? The Progressive Left (i.e. Democrats, MSM, Obama, etc.)! All of the time! What’s going on around the world right now? Democracy Movements! All courtesy of Obama and crew (i.e. Workers Family Party, SEIU, ACORN, etc.).

The whole intent and purpose of the Progressive Movement within American politics is to move us away from a true form of representative government, which protects the rights of the individual, toward direct democracy–a “national community”; whereby, the States’ autonomy is wiped out. The States must serve the Federal government, not the other way around, as was intended.  The notion of “States’ rights” is really misleading. States’ rights are, in reality, individual rights. So, by wiping out so-called States’ rights, one is really wiping out individual rights. The Assembly will have to decide for us. Welcome to the masses!

We have heard the President repeatedly talk glowingly about “democracy movements spreading throughout the world.” It should be clear now that democracy is really “mobocracy.” Yet the Left keeps pushing “democracy.”

Protestors mob Wisconsin statehouse.

Look at the facts: the Left has put its money in unions and mass organizations–mobs. Direct democracy is a circumvention of our representative form of government. If one needs proof of this, look at what happened during Gov. Walker’s budget battle in Wisconsin. Mobs were deployed by the Left in an attempt to usurp and intimidate the lawful legislature of Wisconsin. We have also seen examples of union mobs dressed in a sea of red gathering outside the doors of people’s homes in their own neighborhoods! Is this the kind of behavior we want for America?

The sinister aspect to the current #OWS and “democracy” movements is the overt praise of all things socialist and communist. Consider the symbolism currently being employed by the Occupy Movement–the fist. The symbolism of the fist has deep roots in communism and Marxist movements. If one studies Soviet-era propaganda, the use of the fist is quite prominent as a symbol of the Proletariat (“the workers,” “the have nots”).

And maybe it is just the graphical artist in me, but I find the symbolism behind Obama’s logo quite revealing. Since sloganeering is so prominent with the Left, I have always surmised that Obama’s logo had a deep and rich meaning behind it, if you know what I mean (wink).

But what ?

Maybe it was serendipity, but that would imply some sort of joy behind the discovery. For me, it was anything “but.”

I stumbled upon an image of the American flag recently. Due to the material the flag was comprised of, and the way the sunlight was shining through the Field of Blue–and the bad resolution and dithering of the image itself–it made it appear as if there were no stars in the Field of Blue. What do the stars in the Field of Blue represent? Answer: the individual–the States unified, but as individuals.

There are no stars  in Obama’s Field of Blue, in my opinion. Only the drab sea of sameness via one color–blue. No stars. No diversity. Just a sea of olive drab. At least, that is what it always boils down to … in my opinion, of course.

And what was it that Marx & Engels wrote as the lead sentence for the Communist Manifesto?

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

–Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto

What we see occurring in Egypt now may well be an indication of what is in store for any nation enduring “occupations” and “democracy movements.” Although the alleged intent of the democracy movements is the furthering of democracy, in reality, it appears (as it has in the past) true direct democracy ultimately becomes mob rule. The Muslim Brotherhood now occupies 75% of Egypt’s parliament. If the goal of the “democracy movement” in Egypt was to seat hard-core Islamists in the Egyptian government, then it looks like it was a smashing success.

I am not implying democracy did not have its good points. There are many aspects of democracy that have greatly influenced our own arrangement of government. The Athenians did freely elect their leaders and voted on government and public matters directly as an Assembly–which was a vast improvement over other  governmental systems of the time.

But Athenian Democracy did not provide protections and guarantees for the individual and private citizen like our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights does. It is important to reiterate once again, in my mind, what ultimately happened to Athenian Democracy: “[T]he Assembly, once a noble body, had degenerated into an unruly mob rejecting all restraint, voting itself every favor and taxing the other classes to the point of crushing industry and initiative.”

Without the solid foundation of law, and protections for the inalienable rights of the individual, democracy is a house built on sand. As John Adams wrote, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. “

In conclusion …  sometimes pictures speak so much louder than words:

h/t: Lt.

About Brent Parrish

Author, blogger, editor, researcher, graphic artist, software engineer, carpenter, woodworker, guitar shredder and a strict constitutionalist. Member of the Watcher's Council and the Qatar Awareness Campaign. I believe in individual rights, limited government, fiscal responsibility and a strong defense. ONE WORD: FREEDOM!
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