In the president’s farewell speech last week, he referred to the United States as a democracy, and my immediate thought was, “No, it’s not. Actually, it is a republic.” To be fair, the president has referred to our nation as a republic in the past.
However, considering the ongoing reaction to the election; questioning the purpose of the Electoral College; and the upcoming inauguration it would be helpful to remind our fellow citizens of the simple fact that we are a democratic (constitutional) republic.
Though the outcome of the election may not have turned out as some may have wished, our form of government ensures the rights of all — this, of course includes protecting those who are in the minority.
So, let us begin with a definition of terms. What does it mean to be a democracy? In a pure democracy, the citizenry vote directly for who their leaders should be and determine the laws that should govern them. The beauty of a democracy is that each person has an equal vote, and therefore, at least theoretically, have their interests represented equally under the law.
A republic suggests that the citizenry vote for those representing their views. It is assumed that these representatives will submit themselves to the laws and governing documents (e.g., a constitution) of the land. From our founding, it was understood that stronger states could dominate smaller ones. Therefore, within the framework of the constitution and government, processes were established to prevent the stronger, more populous states from dominating the weaker ones.
Therefore, the beauty of our democratic republic is that it acknowledges the rights of individuals as given by our Creator, while putting in safeguards to protect them from the tyranny of the majority.
What I see today is a vocal plurality disregarding our laws, our founding, and the representative will of 30 states, 306 electorates, and nearly 63 million people to assert its will, because it had over 65 million votes — primarily within the 18-20 states it won. To claim, “Trump is not my president, because he did not win the popular vote” wrongly presumes that we are a democracy and not a democratic republic.
I cannot help but wonder if those who vehemently cry foul at the outcome, based on “democratic” principles, would maintain their stance if the roles were reversed, and Clinton won the Electoral College and a majority of states. I suspect there would be very little outrage.
This brings me to the fundamental challenge I face when having political conversations. That is, my ever-growing difficulty in finding a point of reference for reasoning and discussion with those who are ontologically at odds with the history, governing, or benevolent identification of our nation.
While our nation is not perfect, and no system of government established and enforced by men can ever hope to be perfect, it does hold within it laws and processes that are decent. Where it falls short, it establishes a process whereby the people can lawfully correct it.
Therefore, there is no other country on the face of the earth and throughout the history of man that I would rather live in than this democratic republic, the United States of America.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville with her husband and their five children.]