Is the U.S. Truly a Democracy or Republic?

So often Americans refer to our nations as a Democracy.  But this is not entirely true.  If it were a true Democracy everyone would vote on every law and there would be no need for a legislature.  Democracies are only practical in small communities or tribes of less than a hundred people.  It becomes too difficult to manage and engage larger numbers of people to study, understand, and vote on every law for larger communities.  As communities and nations grow so do the number and complexities of laws requiring people with special skills and resources to create and understand them.  What we really mean by Democracy is that we hold free elections.  We are actually a Republics where people elect legislators to represent smaller blocks of voters within a much larger population to make laws.

But there are other countries who call themselves Republics such as People’s Republic of China and Republic of Iran.  What differentiates us from these two example is the frequency of elections and the great latitude in freedom we have in the United States to believe as we wish when voting.  We take freedom of speech quite seriously.  But so convoluted is free speech nowadays that we consider giving large sums of money for political campaigns as part of free speech.

There are countries who call themselves Democratic Republics but in practice are neither democratic nor republic such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.  Some of these so-called Democratic Republics hold elections once in a lifetime and are far from being free in terms of speech.  A Democratic Republic should be a country that holds frequent and free Democratic elections that reflects the will of the people as opposed to the will and controlling interests of a powerful central government.

The United States is closer to a true Democratic Republic as it is a hybrid between the two concepts.  Our founding fathers cleverly took the best of both concepts to devise what they hoped would be a perfect government.  To keep it honest they created three branches of government and divided the power equally among them with checks and balances to limit the power of any branch from overwhelming the others.  They also devised two legislative bodies to equally represent the population and each individual state and staggered elections held often enough to make it difficult for any one person or group to become too powerful as well as to maintain continuity of government.

Yet over many years legislators and those in power have found workarounds in the checks and balances designed by the founding fathers.  Now that the Supreme Court has redefined corporations as individuals and money as free speech in Citizens United and McCutcheon a few very rich people and corporations now have enormous power, influence, and resources to overwhelm all other smaller political messages.  And these extremely loud voice do not have to tell the truth, brainwashing voters into becoming misinformed voters.  This is how influence and money are buying votes in America, similar to bribery and brainwashing in other nations.

So who is to say that our government is any better than any other government calling itself a Republic or a Democratic Republic because political bribery is now legally practiced by the already too rich and powerful?  What is the effective difference between the Government in the People’s Republic of China where only a few hold power over their nation and control elections and the United States where only a few very rich people and corporations hold the power to influence legislators and influence elections?  Elections are still freely and frequently held but voters are deceived by a few prolific false advertisements to vote for something or someone they would otherwise not vote for if they knew the full truth.

So a Democratic Republic only works properly if those who vote are well-informed.  Otherwise elections do not represent the will of the people and are , in effect, not much better than rigged elections of countries like the People’s Republic of China.

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