Your Teacher Lied To Youcivics ·
Fact or Fiction: America is a Democracy
America is not, nor has never been, a Democracy. When the Founding Fathers sat down for the Constitutional Congress to build a new nation, they studied every government created in written history. What worked? What didn’t? How can we create a nation By The People and For The People?
Just like today’s Congress, a large majority of the Founding Fathers were well educated people. Lawyers, merchants, businessmen, writers, physicians… And all of them, representing the people of their respective “states”, knew the importance of developing a system of government that would not only support the will of the people, but also allow for change and growth over time.
So, why not Democracy? It seems like a good idea. Everyone would vote, on everything, and the most votes would decide any question. What’s wrong with that?
For starters, no true Democracy has survived in the history of the world. This form of “majority rule” ultimately discounts the needs of the minority, imposing laws and restrictions that destroy individual freedoms, and leaves the rights of the minority largely unprotected. True Democracy is “mobocracy”, which leads to Socialism, which leads to anarchy. This has been proven through history, time and time again.
No, America needed a form of government that would allow equal representation of all of the people, and provide rules of governance without allowing one person, or faction, enough power to control the people. They looked at some of the longest lasting and most effective governments throughout history, and studied where they may have gone wrong, and formulated a new plan for a system that would need to change and grow with a nation in a continuously changing world.
The Founding Fathers decided upon a much more representative form of government, creating something that had never been tried before: A Constitutional Republic. At it’s basest level, John Adams really described it best:
John Adams said that a Constitutional Republic was “a government of laws, and not of men.”
A Constitutional Republic has a chief executive (The President) and representatives (Congress) that are democratically elected by the people. The chief executive is ultimately selected by the electors of the Electoral College (As defined by Article II of the Constitution, and superseded by Amendment XII), while representatives (as well as electors) are determined by state elections.
What the President and Congress can and can not do, in their elected office, is determined by our Constitution. If there is any dispute, over what can be done within the bounds of the Constitution, that is then decided by the (Supreme) Court, which is independent of the chief executive or the representatives.
Understanding that the needs of the people are different, from one state to another, it was decided that the number of representatives, in the House of Representatives, would be determined by the size of it’s population. (This is also how the number of electors in the Electoral College are decided.) This was to provide for equal representation of all people. The Constitution outlines the limited powers of our nation’s government (and it’s representatives) at the federal level, while maintaining the rights of the states to govern the people at the state level.
The United States was the first Constitutional Republic, when it began almost 245 years ago. Many countries have claimed to be Constitutional Republics since then, but none has survived or flourished as ours. This is largely due to the depth of care that went into writing our Constitution, from the very beginning, and the dedication with which the American people have spent to protect and defend it’s ideals. The Founding Fathers created a blueprint, not only for the creation of a new nation, but for a nation expected to grow and change over time, while keeping America free.