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Is America a Democracy or a Republic?

Updated on April 6, 2010
The Signing of the Constitution
The Signing of the Constitution

The Pledge of Allegiance

When I came to America, I was 8 years old and made to say the pledge of allegiance in elementary school. I felt a little odd about it. When I had my hand on my heart and pledged allegiance to the American flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, I experienced a sort of revulsion. Not to America, and not to the government because I had no understanding of government, but to the idea of pledging allegiance to a republic. It wasn't even that I understood what a republic was, but the very fact that I had to stand up with everyone else, with my hand on my heart and repeat that chant, made me feel less like a person, and that something dominant and scary was overseeing my life.

I never had to do that in Holland. Never. It was required here, and the funny thing is that being forced to say the pledge of allegiance did not make me care more for America. I have a warmer place in my heart for my tiny home country of Holland than I do for America. Don't get me wrong, I do love America, and I appreciate the great things America has done for the world. If it wasn't for Americans, we would all be speaking German. Americans were the first to break the sound barrier through a mixture of guts and engineering. America gives the world hope in the form of democracy and free speech.

Beautiful Sight for Immigrants
Beautiful Sight for Immigrants

Dividing the Truth from Perspective

But what does the word "republic" mean? It’s very simple. I found a weird description in Wikipedia: "A republic is a state or country that is not led by a hereditary monarch, in which the people (or at least a part of its people) have an impact on its government". So now we know what it isn't and how it is affected. But can the absence of definition truly define something? That's like saying God is not the Devil. Great. Now can someone tell me what God is? Well, God is love. But I digress. Let's take a look at the Oxford American Dictionary, copyright 1980: "A country in which the supreme power is held by the people or their elected representatives, or by an elected or nominated president". Now we are getting somewhere.

Just as an interesting side note. We must be vigilant to watch how history is twisted and distorted by rewritten text books, redefined definitions or altered perspectives from presumed objective viewpoints that use different facts, especially on the internet. The Wikipedia version may or may not have had malicious intent, but if we start defining a thing by what it is not, then anyone that comes along who assumes to be an authority, can then define what that something is, because the definition is open to interpretation. Especially in our current education climate, where students no longer learn as much as they did before, but are even taught twisted truths instead, (protected sex is better than abstinance or teaching that evolution as a fact when in fact it is only a theory that has many opponents for example). I think I'm going to go look for a set of forty year old encyclopedias, published in a time when not everything was considered open to interpretation. It may not have the current periodic table, but at least I'll have a base of unbiased knowledge which I can reference and compare simple facts with. Back to the main subject.

The Capitol
The Capitol

Mob Rule or Democracy?

America was founded as a republic. But what is America today? America is still a republic. One that uses a democratic process to maintain its political leadership. Obviously a republic couldn't exist without the democratic process, so it follows that America is also a democracy. Its defining characteristic is that power ultimately rests with the people. The Oxford Dictionary defines democracy as: "Government by the whole people of a country, especially through representatives whom they elect". Wikipedia again slightly alters the meaning, but it is much much more subtle: "Democracy is a form of government in which state-power is held by the majority of citizens within a country or a state". Did you see it? The 1980 definition suggest unity when it says "whole people," when Wikipedia says "the majority of citizens," which suggests that majority rules. Both definitions can be accepted as being equal, but it is important to point out there are some proponents of republicanism that feel strongly the original intent of the Constitution was to protect individual rights versus mob-rule. If you’re really paranoid, you might see this is an attempt to remove the idea that the founders advocated individualism. Then again, just because you’re paranoid does not mean that someone isn’t really chasing you.

If it is meant to be individualism over mob-rule, then America is certainly not a democracy, but does employ democracy in choosing new leaders. Technically, the answer to the main question is yes. America is both a republic and a democracy, but it is only a democracy by default because it is necessary for a republic to be a democracy in order to exist. The entire argument about whether it is one or another seems to be more about dividing people into groups, or differentiating between the purpose of democracy in America versus what is defined as democracy today.

Credit goes to Brent Amacker at
Credit goes to Brent Amacker at

What's in a Name?

Whether America the republic and the democracy is defined by the political parties of the same names, is another subject entirely. When considering the motives of the founding fathers, they advocated individualism, an opposite sentiment than what the Democrats would like to see in government. We were never meant to be subjects of the government, but we find ourselves inadvertently halfway in that position today. The U.S. government acts more like a monarchy than a nation ruled by its people as temporary taxes become permanent. As police officers are tasked with giving us tickets for not wearing seatbelts in our own cars and helmets while riding our own motorcycles. As tolls meant to pay for bridge construction are continued even after they have done the job.

Except for national health care, and other like cases where competition becomes a disadvantage to the people’s best interests, limited government and a free market is generally a greater benefit to society, and would work well if politicians ever gave it the room it would need to prosper. With the bailouts, certain businesses that should have failed and naturally been replaced by another corporation that could do it better, now continue to survive, like proverbial ticks gorging itself on the family dog.

Today's Democrats do not represent the democracy intended for the republic of America, so the truth is that America is not a democracy as democracy is described today. But in its purest form, we can say that America is a democratic nation.

Two Ideologies, One Country
Two Ideologies, One Country

I Pledge Allegiance

As to my feelings about the pledge of allegiance, I now understand what the founders intended. They wanted a strong nation that was united under a powerful president but also answerable to the people to limit that power so its citizens would not become the subjects of its own government. I still prefer socialism, at least the best examples of socialism in Western Europe, but American democracy gives control to the people, and it has been proven to work. America is prosperous, leading the world in technology and military strength, sending out the most missionaries and giving the most aid to other countries. If I decide to become a citizen at some point, I will be happy to say the pledge of allegiance.


Is America a Republic or a Democracy?

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    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I like that. So all we need to do is stop paying taxes until all the parasites in government leave? Sounds good to me! I would worry that the American military is too powerful to resist peacefully.

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 

      8 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thanks very much for your compliments, it is appreciated.

      A follow up thought to our budget busting Congress, we citizens might look at what happened in mid 20th century India. Ghandi in an effort to expel the British encouraged the whole country to STOP WORKING! Once the commercial infrastructure collapsed, the British left.

      If we tell the Congress that we will stop working in order to stop their spending (no income), results in no more credit, no more spending.

      Radical, maybe so. But what does our future hold for us under the current circumstances.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Hello Don, I am not ignoring your comment, it was just so insightful and well thought out, I wanted to take out the time to respond properly.

      I have to believe you're absolutely right about there being numerous entities gaining power by taking money from American citizens - I'll add: via heavy and unconstitutional taxes and even laws designed to push us toward a seeming dependency to the government which then pushes more of the weight of, "taking care" of its citizens right back on the citizens while keeping the money supposedly intended for our care.

      I had never considered the idea that helmet laws were propagated by health insurance company lobbying because I have always heard that the argument was that somehow tax money was being used for uninsured head and spine injury cases that would need constant care for the rest of their lives. What you state is equally possible and I have to think more likely the case. Either way, the main culprit is the giving away of our rights to the government because they dictate our personal rights and actions (and activities). Either way the goal is to take away individual rights. And I can completely see your point and I again I have to agree, there is a heavy involvement from the commercial side of things. It makes sense because everywhere you look in the field of employment, there is a movement that creates an environment of, "group think," in order to save money and supposedly increase efficiency. The blue collar jobs almost all advertise that you must be able to excel in a team environment AND work completely independently. This is insanity, but micromanagement, taking away personal responsibility and forcing everyone to become an unthinking automaton is the rule of the day while individuals caught in this sort of system end up taking the blame for someone else's actions.

      I agree that majority only matters to the liberals when it works in their favor, and if it doesn't, get another judge who can push their radical and minority cause through. Those of us who are independent need to be just as rebellious and ignore those unlawful rulings and laws, defy them en masse and they would be unable to enforce them. But people are too apathetic. They say they believe it is wrong but simply go on about their business. I don't know if the liberal brainwashing caused the apathy or the apathy caused the brainwashing to happen.

      Your last paragraph says it all, I really love that first sentence because it epitomizes what this democratic republic was meant to be. The second line is the state we are in today and I am 99% sure that only a true, bloody revolution will resolve it. I think it's very possible that those who believe in the old values are mostly brainwashed into continuing to follow the unconstitutional law changes and by the time they realize America is gone as we knew it, it will be way too late and at that time a revolution would happen for many reasons not having to do with restoring a Constitutional America. I think that battle was lost during the Civil War.

      Thanks so much for YOUR thought provoking comments and adding intelligent insight to this hub. I think you could have written this and written it better. I'm definitely coming by to check out your work.

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 

      8 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Great article, thought provoking.

      Unfortunately America is falling more and more towards a combination of socialism, commercial control and radical anarchism. Sadly most Americans think that there are only two political viewpoints, left or right - conservative or liberal, but in fact the country is immersed in a cesspool of numerous entities trying to gain power by taking the money from the citizens.

      Your comment on motorcycle drivers using helmets is really derived from the Insurance Industry lobby forcing laws on helmet usage in order to save insurance money on accident claims. Likewise, the health industry starting in the early 20th century set about creating a monopoly on heath care. By controlling the laws involved in heath care America went from an inventive capable people who raised many generations of healthy people to today where your not allowed to make your own diagnosis or even to treat yourself for your own problems. Now just like the helmets, what harm does it cause to allow us to fend for ourselves except for the fact that you would be circumventing a multi billion dollar business that is in total control of our government just to protect their monopoly. For instance the ObamaCare fiasco that was not accepted by a majority of the citizens, but rather rammed through Congress on political favors.

      Finally, the radicals and other factions who hate majority control have now made the "Majority" a politically incorrect posture. This to the point of seeking out extremist judicial judges to back their otherwise unpopular position. This process totally subverts the balance of power system that our forefather so carefully crafted, and which our antagonists so hatefully resent.

      Early Americans are raised to understand that individualism is a great forum to bring new and brilliant ideas into democracy, with the understanding that those individual ideas are confirmed valid with the blessing of a true majority. This can't happen when the system is manipulated into a self serving autocratic control or other political control that is not involving the majority of its citizens.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      It took me a while to get to your comment because I wanted to give it the consideration it deserved, you obviously put a lot of thought into it.

      Although it is an excellent and valid point, the issue of morality and individualism is outside the scope of this article - although I completely agree with your assertion. I think socialism can work with a good moral foundation - it does not have to be the sinister agent Americans feel it is if properly managed.

      The three branches of government, were they ever intended to rule over the United States? At some point after writing this, I have come to believe that the modern federal government is not what the original states ever intended - as they fled a monarchy and built a country based on individualism, each state banded together to defend themselves against national enemies. Now the US acts as one entity in all matters of state that weight the heaviest. I could make a short but significant list off the top of my head of things that the federal government presides over but that also falls outside the scope of our comments :-)

      From my limited knowledge, I have to entirely agree with you about the Supreme Court having too much authority - obviously going against the will of the people. Lifetime appointments need to go.

      Although I love W's presidency, I see now a few things I don't like at all such as the, "Patriot Act." The same powers given to the president that may be managed better in the hands of a right leaning leader can be (and is) even more misused in the hands of a political extremist like we have today. I think you are correct, and that we already are living in a type of dictatorship already because it IS moving in that direction. Hitler made small but important changes at first as one easy example, and that's how it starts. The masses are very happy with those changes and are completely blind to the long term changes they bring. If they had the foresight, they would be just as adamant as those who want limit executive powers when the abuse first begin.

      I am not sure if I agree with you about the electoral college, when I first learned about it, I didn't like it, it seems unfair. Now that I am against big government, I believe that states ought to vote as single entities and whatever form of districts they contain ought to collect individual votes. So I suppose I support the electoral college from the little I know about it. I didn't give it much thought before you mentioned it. I do understand the principle behind it, but I'm not sure it is fair to count regional votes. We can come up with a hundred criteria to decide how much weight a specific area has in a national vote because their importance to the economy is elevated. I think that kind of thinking leads to the philosophy that only educated people should be allowed to vote. It is a kind of common sense, but it goes against individual freedom. Personally, I don't like the idea of city people deciding the course of this nation, but if they chose to live there, who are we to judge whether they are misguided or they chose to be in that region because of their values?

      Naturally, my kind of thinking lends itself to mob-rule, something I do not want either. I am not decided and I'll stop here because the debate of this issue is probably an endless one and I don't want to disagree and agree with myself more than I already have!

      You make an excellent argument for the electoral college, but I think it wouldn't be necessary at all if the federal government didn't have so much power in the first place. I think one state should be able to say that people can drive 170mph on their highways and the next state over has speed limits set to 45. I know this is extreme and ridiculous, but this allows people to choose how they want to live by choosing which state suits them best.

      What you said: "The Founding Fathers envisioned local control of local issues with the federal government handling only those issues that involved defense and relationships between states." best describes my feeling about America. I am not a citizen but would like to be, but I can't bring myself to become loyal to a growing dictatorship, and if I could become a state citizen, I would do that.

      WannaB, you are way more educated about this subject, I hope I haven't rambled too much but I very much appreciate your contribution here. I think you could write a great hub about this, if you haven't already.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      One point I didn't see made here yet is that the founding fathers believed this new republic they founded could only function as intended with a moral people who could govern themselves (as individuals) so they would not need so much government from outside. They knew if the moral foundation crumbled, the republic would crumble with it. Again, we can look back at the example in Rome.

      Our founders knew that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's why they intended the three branches of government to balance each other so that no one of them could have power over the other two. They did not envision a Supreme Court acting as the final judge of what the Constitution ought to mean.

      Now we have one branch of government -- the executive -- usurping the power of Congress -- the elected representatives of the people. If this is not challenged and stopped, we will soon be a dictatorship. Our government wasn't meant rush changes in laws and policies without proper debate in Congress. Sometimes it's good that Congress reaches a stalemate. It means one group can't just walk all over another. Just because the two houses of Congress can't agree on something is no justification for a president to use executive power not granted to him by the Constitution to override Congress. You will notice our President always refers to this country as a democracy, and the Democrats are trying to make it one by doing away with the Electoral College. Their argument is that people's votes don't count if there is an Electoral College. More and more states are changing their laws toward a more popular vote by letting delegates be split for a state.

      The Electoral College is the safeguard to keep smaller or less populated states from being dictated to by the larger and more populated states. You see what happens with no Electoral College if you look at California. In California, most people live in sparsely populated areas. These areas produce our food. Their people seem to be more self-reliant than their more urban counterparts. They want smaller government and more individual freedom. But the urban folk in Southern California counties and the Bay Area have more voters , and so they tend to prevail in elections and our state houses are controlled by Democrats.

      Without the Electoral College, the West and East Coasts would control the Heartland of the country. Los Angeles and New York would be determining the speed limits in Nevada and Wyoming, as they did during the time of Jimmy Carter. The Founding Fathers envisioned local control of local issues with the federal government handling only those issues that involved defense and relationships between states. You can see how things have changed.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Bretuski, you have added an important idea, that America was never meant to be a democracy. I agree if you mean pure democracy, especially in the view that democracy is one of the tools used to administer rule in the American republic. I never want to see a pure democracy, but neither do I want to see a pure republic.

      Your reasoning for compulsory democracy is hilarious! I'll tell that one at my next anarchists meeting.

      Your comment is awesome and thank you for the votes.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      phdast7, thank you for such a considered and kind comment. It reminds me of the idea that if you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart and if you are not a conservative when you are older, you haven't matured (something to that effect). Right now, I would place myself in between independent and conservative with a small helping of liberal :-)

      I am grateful you called me a "true intellectual." This is what I struggle to be. There are things in life that I think it is wise to take a permanent stand on, but the human experience is best when an individual grows as they gather new information and new experiences.

      Very much appreciate your visits.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 

      9 years ago from California USA

      Hello Alexander, thanks for a very good hub.

      I would add that the United States was never intended to be a democracy. It was always intended to be a Representative Republic. The founding fathers all considererd wealthy, white, landowners, lawyers and business men to be invested in the new nation. Those groups were the ones selected to provide the voters and the candidates.

      Today the US is still limited as a democracy as many Americans today choose for whatever reason not to vote in elections. If voting were made compulsary it might move to becoming a democracy, but then that would be government interference in ones right to decide to abstain from political pursuits! Voted UP and Awesome

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Alexander - Good article about the differences in a republic and a democracy. And especially important are your comments about how even slight differences id the wording of a definition can equal major differences in meaning and practical application.

      Most interesting to me is the slow evolution or development in your thought as I read through the comments. It was encouraging to see someone being a "real" intellectual, a person who will reconsider and slightly modify his positions as he is presented with additional information. This is wisdom and priceless.

      People who made up their minds ten years ago based on limited information are not to be trusted. Slowly changing one's opinion does not indicate instability; it indicates maturing reasoning and flexible logic. A very good read. Thanks, Theresa

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      It is wonderful to meet like-minded people like you tomismobile. Since I have written this, I feel that I have a little bit broader view on things, and I am leaning a little more toward Libertarian these days - but I am not even sure what exactly defines libertarianism yet except for limited government.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with, "answerable to the people." Early American laws were made to protect the people from their own government, but sadly, that is no longer the case, the government is truly more powerful than its people, I don't believe that any American militia would be able to stand against the US military.

      The last nail is American complacency. Too many people want their debt, cushy living and they don't want guns or think about having to defend themselves against the government. Heck, most people love to eat a juicy burger, but can't stomach killing the animal they eat. I am the same way in that regard, but I intend to learn how to kill and prepare an animal for dinner. Doesn't that sound ludicrous, like it's some great event?

      I think I got a little carried away with my response. Thanks for reading and your comment which brought me back to this old hub too.

    • tomismobile profile image


      9 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I really wish more American citizens had this clear an understanding of the American system of government. Maybe then we could return to a representative democracy that is actually answerable to the people like it was intended.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      10 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Thanks WUA.

    • profile image

      Wake Up America 

      10 years ago

      Great article.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      11 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      You didn't miss any that were published I think, because this was published before we fanned each other. I certainly don't expect anyone to go through all my hubs, but I'm glad you liked this one.

      On that video: WOW. I learned so much. There is a lot to say about what the video explained, but one thing that struck me was the correlation between Roman government and the modern US government. They both grew in power, enacted socialistic programs (welfare in Rome), and the people were placated by "bread and circuses." In the case of the Romans it was demanded. In our case, entertainment was introduced casually and insidiously became a part of our lives. I currently do not watch TV, but may watch it in the future only for news - which also is extremely biased and filtered. I do watch shows, but either on the internet or DVD because I can choose when to watch and not have my time dictated to me by the networks.

      The way the video explains democracy, it seems even more evil than I had previously thought. But we do need a democratic process to run a republic right? Or do I have that wrong?

      In any case, in my schooling, I was taught that America is a democracy, a blatant lie. It makes me pretty angry, but this has been going on for decades because I encounter 40 and 50 yr olds that spout a simplified version of the idea that America is a democracy: "majority rules". But pure democracy is nothing better than mob rule.

      I'm also glad you put that link in there because seeing what happened to the Romans, helps ground me in the fact that the United States could only ever be a temporary phenomenon that like any other system run by humans, will eventually break down.

      I should know better than to resist that change, but you and I are the same kind of animal, we need our freedom and we have to get away from people. Unfortunately most civilized countries are socialist, so there is no better place for me to be than here, even though our rights and freedoms are being eroded through force and trickery and abuse of the laws that should prevent it.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      11 years ago from Arizona

      Mark, don't know why as a follower I did not get this and you had to bring it to me? I seem to have missed several of your hubs. This one is put together quite well.

      I will contend America was intended to be a republic and at this current time it is out of balance as the houses are all full of Democrats who seem at this juncture, that they could care less what the people desire.

      Check it out let me know what you think.

      This right here is the best description I have had the opportunity to view on forms of governments

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      11 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I should make it clear to any new readers that I have changed my mind and decided that the free market and individualism are better than socialism and I prefer America's governing system more than European socialism now.

      Recent events opened my eyes to the fact that anything other than limited government is dangerous and leads to more and more control over people.

    • EYEAM4ANARCHY profile image

      Kelly W. Patterson 

      11 years ago from Las Vegas, NV.

      Look into the history of the pledge of allegiance a bit and you might just be back to your original feeling toward it.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      11 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Thanks Pastor, appreciate the comment and the visit.

    • Pastor_Walt profile image


      11 years ago from Jefferson City, Tennessee

      Great article! Thumbs up!

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      12 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I totally agree, we can never have a truly good government system because it will be corrupted, but we'll have one when Jesus comes. We'll never see the kind of church the early believers had. It doesn't help that we have a thousand flavors of Christianity to choose from and pervasive heretical doctrines apart from the Bible. Thanks Vladimir, good comments.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 

      12 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Good article. Thanks Alex. I believe we do not have democracy, republic, or combination. All was distorted. We have bureaucracy and "abuse-cracy". There is no system any more which satisfies. Perhaps it is only me to say, but only kingdom of God will be perfect.

      First In God we trust and then those who are believers go to vote even they may have different ideas. 

      It is like the church. It is not the church today as was on the beginning.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      12 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Good clarification James, I didn't quite see the difference, but I did get some of my info from Wikipedia. Thanks for the kind comment!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      12 years ago from Chicago

      This is an interesting Hub and very well written.  America is a Republic, meaning the People rule by their elected Representatives. In a Democracy, the People would rule as their own representatives, which would truly be majority rule—51% of the populace could do anything they wanted.

    • Alexander Mark profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander Silvius 

      12 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      That's a good point about making it legal to tap phone wires. I heard Michael Savage say today that Bush was a socialist in some aspect, (I'm not sure which), and after your comment, I see the relevance. The fact is we are losing our personal freedoms. Things like the seatbelt law have nothing to do with harming anyone but yourself, so this is obviously wrong. However, if I get my way and nationalized healthcare replaces the current system, then it becomes necessary to regulate what people do when it affects others, (like medical bills that could be avoided by wearing a helmet or seatbelt). This is something I am considering when it comes to my belief in compassionate healthcare. Does socialized medicine mean that we are endorsing a socialized government in the end? Probably yes. But should we even bother to worry about it since we are going in that direction anyway? I don't know the answer.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      If you can look past George Carlin's comic routine about religion you may find he made some interesting political points somewhat along your lines of thought. Our rights get taken away when respect is lost for the individual human. For instance when George Bush made it legal to spy on everybody. Right then another freedom was taken from me. It's not the "Bill of Rights" any more, it should be called the "Bill of Privileges" because privileges can be taken away. In the state things are today, I don't know what to label the US.


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