Holy Words – Democracy and Republic

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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Throughout this last year or so, I have paid far more attention than usual to politics and politicians, newscasts and newscasters, lobbying groups and their shills, and the skillful perversion of truth by twisting words and meanings. I’ve thought seriously about setting up a website for the truth, but recognized that my life would essentially be over, absorbed in an impossible task. I have some pretty good skills of my own, but technically I lack the specific skills and equipment to set up and maintain such a website. So many people, however, have made an effort to get the information out there, more than I could ever visit or absorb. What can I do to bring about some clarity in the midst of the rampant misuse of communication? By staying very simple–how about a few simple definitions, free of bias and with no knee-jerk rhetoric allowed? Remember, ignorance is never your friend.

I think that what disturbs me is that with a little sleight of mouth (similar to sleight of hand), words and their meanings can be so distorted as to become lies. How about an example? The health care issue and other political debates have zeroed in on the words “socialism” and “capitalism,” distorting them into irrelevant idiocy, to be hijacked and misapplied, turning well-intentioned citizens into frenzied advocates of such misapplication. Gosh, that was a convoluted sentence… Words and their meanings got hijacked and misused!

People bought into it and chaos ensued! That rhymed. I can help with this.

With my handy dandy dictionary and encyclopedia, we can determine the truth of the words and expose the nonsense. The truth WILL set us free. I’ll tackle a concept now and perhaps more later. You can take it further if you want, just go to any encyclopedic or dictionary source and dig.

Most Americans believe they live in a “democracy”. Do we? Let us look it up. Democracy is a system of government, which appears to have Greek origins, as a system of rule by the governed. There are other references throughout history but are less organized or codified systems. If the actual governing is supplied by those being governed, it is called a direct democracy. If the actual governing is carried out by a group elected or appointed that is called a representative democracy. By that definition, the USA would appear to be a representative democracy. But there is a fundamental question that needs to be answered first. Rule by the governed… is that everyone in a body of people or just certain groups?

The U.S. Founding Fathers revolted against a monarchy form of government (single rule), foreign in nature and circumstance. The call for individual freedom was strong. They chose individuality and freedom, but not for all. The individual states had individual ideas and the individuals within those states had individual ideas. The nation that was formed was a series of compromises. That reminds me of another definition of democracy called consensus democracy that sounds suspiciously like the process the Founding Fathers used. A broad range of opinions was solicited and argued and a consensus was formed and voted on. During the process between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights the appointed legislators used consensus to arrive at their conclusions to put in place what appears to be a representative democracy. Not everyone got what they wanted, and compromise denied a great many citizens their equal rights, even their citizenship. Over the 233 years of our country’s life, that has been sorely tested as it is being tested right now.

The USA is comprised of fifty states and other voting territories covering a vast area, each section is unique and has its own agendas. We have a population of 300+ million. Can you imagine trying to decide every single issue by referendum and individual voting? We would spend every minute of every day at the voting booth. That is direct democracy and it is just not going to work. It would look suspiciously like mob rule and would just be too difficult to contain or manage.

Can you imagine trying to decide every single issue by committee? Heck, we can’t get 100 Senators to agree on anything, to say nothing of our hundreds of Congressional Representatives. That would be representative democracy. Democracy seems to be fine in theory but can be impractical when it comes to the actual running of the country. That is why it has been so difficult for democracies to survive over the ages. Did our Founding Fathers find consensus by installing a representative democracy?

These very wise men didn’t really call the government they founded a democracy. They referred to it as a “republic.” Democracy as a concept didn’t flourish until it became a politically advantageous (read knee-jerk) word over 100 years later. Think of our national Pledge of Allegiance…”and to the Republic, for which it stands…”. So what is a republic?

Commonly a republic is considered to be a state in which there is no monarch and the people do have direct impact on their government. There is variety in experience. France is a republic; the U.S. Constitution affirms the states will have a republican form of government; the former Soviet Union was called a republic. Supposedly in modern parlance, a republican form of government is reportedly based on “civic virtue”. I am having a real problem with that definition based on what I am witnessing in behavior. Civic? Virtue? The modern version of a republic is one that will govern by the will of its people as opposed to a monarchy, such as the divine right of the Egyptian Pharaohs, or by a privileged aristocracy. Within each republican form of government there appear to be systems in place that provide for a leader and a congressional body and there is tremendous variety in how those roles are played.

Founding Father, primary author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and fourth President James Madison actually defined our Republic as a “representative democracy” and we’re back where we started in an earlier paragraph. If you ask all the Founding Fathers to describe our system of government, they would describe it individually according to their personal motivations and intent. But all would stress the importance of the power of the people, individuality and freedom, the desire to be free of monarchy, and as much equality as they were capable of under their personal circumstance. Some of those Founding Fathers were those who signed the Declaration of Independence and went to war to uphold their choices. Some are the Framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Their motivations, goals and passions were different. They would each describe their missions and their form of government differently.

The two major first political parties were the Federalists, who believed in a strong central government and the Democratic-Republicans, who believed in individual freedoms and states’ rights. The application of those concepts has changed so much over the centuries that they would not be recognizable to their founders. The Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln’s time would not be recognizable to its founders. The current Democrat Party evolved out of the original political parties, but common themes escape me.

No one has a monopoly on the words “democrat” and “republican”. They are words beyond political parties. They are at the core of America and should be treated as words of great honor. If you wear the label of such a glorious concept, act the part and honor them with truth and integrity, be passionate but not biased, don’t allow anyone to hijack those in the name of political expediency. These are honorable words and each has the right to be used to describe our country and our system.

Published on EZine online October, 2009, republished with slight editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.