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Why the Left Hates It When You Point Out We’re ‘a Republic, Not a Democracy’

Posted on Saturday, June 22, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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For as long as I can remember, the Left has been sneering at anyone who points out that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. They find the notion almost as unsophisticated and fascistic as flying a revolutionary-era flag. Others dismiss the democracy/republic debate as pedantic or a semantic distraction. They shouldn’t.

The other day, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan tried to make Trump fans who repeat this factual contention look like a bunch of dumb, lockstepping authoritarians. To explain the problem, CNN even recruited “democracy” expert Anne Applebaum, who noted that, “America is a democracy. It was founded as a democracy … the word ‘democracy’ and the word ‘republic’ have often been used interchangeably. There isn’t a meaningful difference between them …”

Sure there is.

Ask the contemporary leftists who target virtually every protection we have against mob rule in the name of “democracy” – attacking the Supreme Court, the Electoral College, federalism, the filibuster, the Senate and even the existence of states. They understand the difference, even if just intuitively.

Ask leftists who treat the “popular vote,” not as a wishcasting cope but as means of legitimizing presidential elections. Those who want a few big states ruling the nation via a direct federal democracy are not interested in a “republic” that derives power from the governed but one that strips local control and individual rights from those they dislike.

Blunting the federal government’s power over states and the state’s power over individuals is an indispensable way to ensure a diverse people in a huge nation can govern themselves and live freely. The “save democracy” types who refer to these long-standing federalist institutions as “minority rule” do not view “democracy” and a constitutional republic as interchangeable concepts.

Neither do smaller blue-state governors who sign a national vote compact that not only dilutes their state’s power but circumvents the Constitution. They love a direct democracy. A constitutional republic? Not so much.

When writers at The Atlantic, where Applebaum is a contributor, talk about “The Democrats’ Last Chance to Save Democracy,” they aren’t lamenting Biden’s unprecedented executive abuse but the “democratic deficits in the Senate and the Electoral College” – as if these institutions weren’t specifically instituted to diffuse centralized control. They know the difference.

Democrats who want to “expand” the Supreme Court for failing to follow democratic trends don’t care about the “republic.” After all, many of the high court’s most historic decisions, including Dred Scott and Plessy, cut the legs out from under “democracy.”

Or take the so-called moderate Democrats who want to get rid of the filibuster or use the slimmest of fleeting majorities to shove through massive, generational federal “reforms” without any national consensus – Obamacare or The Deficit Reduction Act [sic]. They’re aware that “reforms” will overturn hundreds of state and local laws. They want local minorities subordinate to the whims and vagaries of national majorities.

Then again, the more “democracy” we have, the more demagoguery thrives. Of course they’re fans.

As it turns out, according to CNN a number of Trump supporters also understand the distinction even if they are unable to articulate it in poli-scientific terms.

Then again, if O’Sullivan wants to dunk on them, maybe he should take a civics refresher himself. “There is, of course, a legitimate debate to be had on what form of democracy we have here in the United States – direct democracy, representative democracy, in fact, constitutional republic, which you heard people mentioned in that piece, that is a form of democracy,” the CNN host explained.

There is, “of course,” zero “legitimate debate discussion” to be had over whether we are a “direct democracy.” Not today, nor ever. “Democracy” isn’t even mentioned anywhere in any founding document, much less a direct one. None of the framers entertained any notions about majoritarianism or federal power that would even loosely comport the ones now embraced by the Left.

People will often tell me that, sure, we might be a republic, but we also have “democratic institutions.” Of course we do. We also have numerous nondemocratic institutions. The Bill of Rights, for instance, is largely concerned with protecting individuals from state and the mob. The insistence that we only use “democracy” is meant to corrode the importance and acceptance of those countermajoritarian rules and traditions.

“[F]or centuries,” insists O’Sullivan, “America has celebrated its democracy,” before playing clips of Ronald Reagan and others praising the notion of “democracy.”

Indeed, the word “democracy” – from “demos,” the people – has been used as a shorthand for self-rule since before Pericles. In the past, we’ve used it to convey respect for a set of liberal ideas about liberties and rights, as well as self-determination. I’m sure I’ve used it in that way, too. No doubt, most Americans also comprehend the notion of “democracy” in the same, vague context.

These days, though, a bunch of illiberal progressives (and others) have taken universal notions that once fell under the umbrella of “democracy” and cynically distorted them to champion a hypermajoritarian outlook. It’s no accident the people who demand you call us a “democracy” also champion the idea that 50.1% of the country should be empowered to lord over the economic, religious, cultural, and political decisions of 49.9%.

It’s the point.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of five books – the most recent, “Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent.” His work has appeared in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reason, New York Post and numerous other publications. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.

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Diana Erbio
Diana Erbio
5 days ago

Well said! We are a Republic and following our U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights is the key to keeping our Republic!

David Millikan
David Millikan
20 days ago

Excellent article. We are a Republic as Benjamin Franklin clearly stated.

Mike
Mike
20 days ago

The Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic recited verse that promises allegiance to the flag of the United States and the republic of the United States of America.

Matthew
Matthew
20 days ago

The constitution also states that Every State will be guaranteed a Republican Form of Government. ” Article IV Section 4″. Know and re-read your Constitution!. We are a Constitutional Republic!

Steven Coughlin
Steven Coughlin
20 days ago

A democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what to have for dinner.

Charles
Charles
20 days ago

Democracy is easily defined: as 2 wolves and 1 sheep deciding what’s for dinner.

Fake courts
Fake courts
21 days ago

So who’s going to be the next sc judge?
judge Judy? lol

Equal mesure
Equal mesure
21 days ago

you Mean a bunch of rich land owning slave owners who didn’t want to pay taxes started a war just so they could evade taxes? Is that what you are saying? Lol

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