The United States of America is not a democracy
By Frank Salvato
web posted March 30, 2009
“Pure democracy is the most vile form of government...such democracies 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.” – James Madison, Father of the US Constitution
The word Democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution...and for good reason. The United States is not a Democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic and it is essential that the American people understand this reality. If we continue to allow the untruth that the United States of America is a Democracy to flourish we invite the demise of our government and our nation; we invite the cessation of the American Experiment and doom future generations to a fate unknown.
Over the course of our day-to-day activities we enjoy freedoms and liberties that have been established by our founding documents -- The Charters of Freedom. These documents consist of: The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights. These documents established a Constitutional Republic; a nation, ruled by a government based on the rule of law, laws enacted by governmental representatives elected by the people.
But as we exist today, many among us -- including many of the more popular pundits, political activists, special interest groups and even many elected officials -- erroneously refer to our system of government as a Democracy. In fact, our Founders and Framers understood a Democracy to be a dangerous vehicle that, given time, would devolve into mob rule or government by majority; a government where the minority had little or no voice; a government unrestrained in it reach into our lives. It is for this specific reason that the Founders and Framers established our nation as a Constitutional Republic; a nation based on the rule of law and not the rule of men.
Those who possess nefarious and/or ideological agendas for our nation often refer to our system of government as a Democracy, knowing full well that Democracy is a transitional state between a Republican form of government and an Oligarchic form of government; a vehicle for transition to first, majority rule, which, in light of the corruptible and narcissistic frailty of human virtue, eventually leads to the establishment of an Oligarchy – or, rule by an elitist class – and the trampling of the rights of those in the minority. The implementation of this transition is facilitated by a distracted and uninformed citizenry and a people who exist constitutionally illiterate.
In the interest of accreditation, accountability and transparency – and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, a notion foreign to many mainstream publications, productions, pundits and personalities – the catalyst for the need to explain this critical issue came in the form of a video titled, The American Form of Government, a superb offering found at Wimp.com, which can be accessed here.
The Wrongly Portrayed Spectrum of Left v. Right
In order to better understand why it is so important to discern the critical differences between a Democracy and a Constitutional Republic we must first correct a major misconception regarding the Left v. Right political spectrum.
Over the centuries – and most applicably, decades – political opportunists and those who wished to compromise our system of government have preyed on the uninformed and under-educated by misrepresenting the true left-to-right political spectrum. Where these opportunists would have us believe that Left v. Right refers to Liberals versus Conservatives or Democrats versus Republicans; the fact of the matter is that this understanding is short-sighted and manipulative. It is a manufactured spectrum created solely to divide the American electorate politically.
The true left-to-right political spectrum finds total governmental control on the far left and no government at all on the right. Where on the left side of the more accurately defined political spectrum we would find Communism, Socialism, Nazism and Fascism, to name but a few forms of totalitarian forms of government, on the right side we would find no government at all; anarchy. In the center of this spectrum we find the representative form of government; the Republican form of government; the government our Founders and Framers established for We the People, the Constitutional Republic.
In light of the proper portrayal of the left-to-right political spectrum it is much easier to recognize that those who feigned intellectualism in their condemnation of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as fascists and dictators – the links of Code Pink, MoveOn.org, America Coming Together and ACORN – were not only delinquent in their understanding of the terms but completely devoid of any fact-based, accurate education in political science, government and history.
Types of Government
While there are many forms of government that have and do exist around the world, for our purposes we will focus on three: Oligarchy, Democracy and Constitutional Republic. So that we can set the terms for discussion a brief definition of each is given here:
An Oligarchy is a form of government where power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society; the elite. This elitist class can be distinguished by a variety of variables including royalty, wealth, family, military influence, religion or political lineage. In Oligarchies it is not uncommon for politically powerful families to emerge, families that exert a disturbing amount of influence over government. Examples of such familial institutions include the Rockefellers and Kennedys, generationally.
Direct Democracy, traditionally referred to as pure Democracy, is defined as a government wherein sovereignty rests in the direct will of all citizens who choose to participate; a one-man-one-vote-to-law system of government, as it were. Many Democracies allow for three forms of political action: initiative, referendum and recall. And although pure Democracy may sound compelling and some of these actions sound familiar, in practice pure Democracy is transitory in character.
Given the corruptibility of human nature, Democracy, in all its states, has traditionally facilitated a transition from the one-man-one-vote-to-law system of government to Oligarchy. It has, throughout history, served as a vehicle for transition from majority rule (a form of government where minority rights are vulnerable) to rule by an elitist class (a form of government that traditionally tramples the rights of those in the minority).
A Constitutional Republic is a form of government where the head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people, representatives mandated to govern according to existing constitutional law. It is because of this mandate that the elected class in a Constitutional Republic is limited in their power over the citizenry. The United States of America was created as and intended to survive as a Constitutional Republic.
Our Constitutional Republic is separated into three separate but equal branches of government; the Executive, Legislative and Judicial, represented by the Presidency, Congress and the Courts. Because of this no branch has a rein on absolute power thus assuring that there will be checks and balances to the governmental system and protection for the rule of law.
Through the elected representation employed by our Constitutional Republic the influence of the majority is tempered by protections for individual rights as mandated by constitutional law. Our form of government is deliberate in its attempt to thwart majoritarianism, thereby protecting political dissent and individuals and minority groups from the "tyranny of the majority" by placing checks on the power of the majority of the population. The power of the majority of the people is checked by limiting that power to electing representatives who are required to legislate with limits of overarching constitutional law which a simple majority cannot modify.
Madison's Cautionary Thought on Factions
James Madison, considered the father of the US Constitution, in Federalist No. 10, stated plainly his distrust of and aversion to pure Democracy, endorsing instead the Republican form of government. The catalyst for this mindset came in his concern with the influence of factions in government and how factions in a pure Democratic form of government would invariably lead to the oppression of the minority and facilitate the transition from pure Democracy to Oligarchy.
Madison understood a faction to be:
“...a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
In other words, Madison understood a faction to be a group of citizens with special interests that are hostile or contrary to the rights of other citizens or to the best interests and well-being of the whole country. Additionally, he understood that in a free society, factions are inevitable and, under the pure Democratic form of government unavoidable.
“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”
Madison made clear his belief that if a faction is in the minority, the normal process of the Republican form of government, in which the majority of elected representatives decides the outcome, insures that the faction will not succeed in subjugating the rights of fellow citizens or enacting legislation detrimental to the country. He alluded to two elements of the Republican form of government that helped stem the tendency toward factious majorities: representative government and the expansiveness of the republic itself.
Because a representative government – a Republican form of government – would, in the eyes of Madison, employ citizens in elected positions beholden to the constitutional mandate of civic responsibility, these elected representatives would be less inclined to put self-serving factional interests ahead of the best interests of the whole nation. Further, he argued, the actual expansiveness of the Republic would control the influence of factions if only for the fact that a Congress of diverse individuals from wide-spread geographical locations would be less inclined to form special interest or factional alliances.
But, he warned, the mechanisms to thwart factionalism employed by the Republican form of government were not absolute and that they provided a governmental vehicle least likely to result in an elected class that was factionalized; that sacrificed the best interest of the whole nation. This elicited a response from Thomas Jefferson, in correspondence to Richard Price circa 1789, that charged the citizenry:
"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
Today, as special interest, ideological political factions hold power in The US House of Representatives and the US Senate, we realize Madison's concerns and stand at the moment of action as a citizenry as commanded by Jefferson. As Progressive-Left House leadership craft legislation behind closed doors and without input, debate or even descent from the minority party, and as House and Senate leadership emerge as a factionalized cabal – an Oligarchy comprised of an elected elitist class, the opportunity for the oppression of minority rights – as well as majority rights – presents itself. Should the American citizenry continue to abdicate its constitutional responsibility of governmental oversight our Republic would fall to the will of an ideologically elitist faction and Oligarchic rule.
The Dangers of Misrepresenting the United States as a Democracy
As I stated earlier, Democracies have traditionally facilitated a transition from a one-man-one-vote-to-law form of government to rule by an elitist class. Those who promote the misnomer that the United States is a Democracy infer direct governmental control by the people, thus usurping the established governmental system. In most cases, this cultivates a false sense of entitlement and in some cases promotes anarchical behavior among factions of the citizenry.
Further, misrepresenting our representative form of government as a pure democratic form of government allows the disingenuous among the elected class to falsely claim ideological and political mandates based on election vote tallies. Perhaps the most potent example of this politically deceptive practice came in the aftermath of the 2008 General Election where the hollow rhetoric of “hope” and “change” was foisted on a fickle electorate. This non-existent “mandate” has culminated in a flagrant and damaging raid on the US Treasury creating a national debt that will take generations to satisfy.
But perhaps the most lethal by-product in advancing the falsehood of an American Democracy comes in its direct threat to the well-being of our Constitution itself; in how the politically and ideologically opportune use it to force the transformation of our nation from a Constitutional Republic into a Socialist Democracy. The apathy of the American citizenry to render adequate governmental oversight has produced a congressional Oligarchy that is eviscerating our representative form of government. From crafting legislation behind closed doors and in exclusion of the minority party to employing procedural tactics to thwart the established legislative process, the leadership of the 111th Congress of the United States, for all practical purposes, has abandoned the representative form of government and has, instead, employed oligarchic strategies to fund and implement a special interest legislative agenda. This elitist contingent, by their refusal to enter into floor debate and the committee process, through their threat to use budgetary reconciliation to implement ideologically based programs and by their adherence to the tenets of one-world political correctness to the detriment of every American's right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” uses the notion of an American Democracy to deceive the citizenry into abandoning the most successful form of government throughout the world's history: the Republican form of government and, more refined, the Constitutional Republic.
It can be argued that at no other time in the history of our nation have we been so vulnerable to insurgent ideologies, ideologies that stand in direct juxtaposition to Americanism. I am frequently asked, “But what can I do...what can be done to help preserve our American Heritage?” Perhaps the most important thing that any patriotic American, any individual citizen can do, besides providing adequate governmental oversight by communicating with your elected officials on a continual basis, is to correct those who mistakenly refer to our system of government as a Democracy.
The United States of America is not a Democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic.
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is a member of the International Analyst Network. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network and on The Captain's America Radio Show catering to the US Armed Forces around the world. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally. He is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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