Student Opinion – America is Not a Democracy

Many Americans operate under a fundamental misunderstanding about our government. Democracy is a buzzword meant to harbor thoughts of rainbows and flowers about how awesome people are and how they get to directly influence their government. Yes, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has proven to be a societal achievement in man’s history, but we need to stop calling the U.S. a democracy.

Hear me out.

Technically, our government is a democracy, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” However, flinging around the buzzword to describe American government without context has many times led to confusion about how our system operates.

Take our presidential elections, for example. Every four years, television pundits must explain to voters how the Electoral College works, where the winner of the election receives the most points from states won instead of a popular vote. To the shock and chagrin of some, the candidate with the most votes doesn’t always win — awfully quirky and undemocratic of a democracy, right?

Look at the United States Senate, where every state gets equal representation of two senators regardless of population. California, with a population of 39 million people, receives the same number of senators as Wyoming, with a population of 579,000. That’s not very democratic of the U.S., is it?

Furthermore, the Senate rule of the filibuster, which requires 60 of 100 votes to pass legislation through the chamber, is perhaps the greatest enemy of those who view the United States as — or want it to be — a pure democracy. The majority of people want something passed, so why can’t it pass? That would be a fair and logical question to ask if you were under the assumption that the U.S. is a democracy in the way it is commonly described.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a more recent example. Confusion arose as to the nature of nationally-protected rights and how nine unelected judges could decide the laws of the land on abortion seemingly on a whim.

If I described these rules to the average American, they would probably be confused and appalled. The notion that America is overwhelmingly democratic causes people to misunderstand the true purpose of our government — it’s
false advertising. 

The United States government has these undemocratic institutions because they are supposed to be undemocratic. Government representing its people is a beautiful and successful thing, but the U.S. has these institutions on purpose.

Our nation is called the United States for a reason. Fifty sovereign state governments make up the collective that forms our national government. Although “We the People” have a direct say in our government, our nation has protections against mob rule.

As someone once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” Just because the majority wants something doesn’t mean it is good or necessary. American government is intended to give the minority a voice.

While democracy as a theme is a great thing, it requires a refined approach to ensure the general will gets accomplished rather than a mob rule in the form of a simple majority.

The U.S. is more than a pure democracy. It has a federal system where power is decentralized and divided between the national and state levels. It has safeguards, such as the Senate, to ensure each state retains sovereignty and isn’t trampled by California.

Enough with the straw man description of American government. Yes, it is technically a democracy, but it’s much more complex than that. It is a constitutional republic, intent on protecting that lamb from being eaten for lunch.


BROWDER is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter

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