This is not another rant about Proposition 8, per se, though it does necessarily encompass the arguments for and against it, as well as pretty much every Presidential election over the past 20 years or so, and any legislation at a local, state or federal level.
I often hear that “we live in a democracy!” and that “the majority rules!” and that “in our democratic form of government, it’s one person – one vote!” These are phrases used in arguments to assail those that may be in the minority, or who think that in the United States, laws are always passed by the popular vote and depend on getting a majority, however slim, and that’s that. End game. No more discussion.
Friends, we do not live in a democracy and we have never lived in a democracy. The United States is a democratic republic. We rarely do anything based on one person – one vote, which would be true in a democracy. In that case, we would have no need for a congress, or a state assembly, or a town council, or a house of representatives because everything would require a vote of the people to pass.
In a democratic republic, we elect officials to speak for us. We have a representative democracy. We elect the people we believe will best represent our interests or opinions and send them to these other voting bodies and they make the laws for us. We elect the judges who interpret the constitution of our state or country, or we elect the person who appoints those judges. We don’t vote on what is constitutional. We elect other people — who are hopefully better educated and more familiar with those documents — to make those judgements.
A republic is any government that is not lead by a hereditary monarch or dictator or Pope, for example. A republic is a government (like ours) in which the people, or a part of the people, have a say in the government. Things are not decided by fiat, they are put to a vote, even if that vote is not by the general population but by their elected representatives.
So whenever someone’s argument comes down to “it was elected on by popular vote because we live in a democracy!” you are allowed to roll your eyes and smirk and feel slightly superior because you know the truth. This is also why the president is not elected by popular vote, but by the electoral college. You’re not voting for the president, you’re voting for someone who will vote for the president you told them to. The electors are technically free to vote for anyone they want to, so this is why Barack Obama will not actually be voted in as President Elect until December 15th, when the electors meet to cast their votes on our behalf for the next president of the United States, which will presumably be Barack Obama.
We do not live in a democracy. We live in a representative democracy. We live in a democratic republic.
November 12, 2008