Democracy vs. Republic, Foul Pole vs. “Fair Pole”


    Over at the Coffee Party website, Annabel Park refutes the ridiculous notion that America isn’t big enough to be both “a representative democracy and a republic.” Annabel explains:

    The whole meme that we are not a democracy but a republic is based on a distortion and diminution of the concept of democracy into a single, abstract form of it: a direct and pure democracy. Yes, we do not have THAT form of a democracy. We don’t go to the polls to make every single governmental decision.  We have a representative democracy in which elected leaders are empowered by the voters.

    A direct and pure democracy is only one form of a democracy. There are various models…

    Got that? No, it’s really not that difficult a concept, except to people who try really hard to make it difficult. As Eric Byler points out, it’s analagous to  “baseball fans eager to prove their superiorty without putting in the time to study, let alone play the actual game,” who claim that the “foul pole is in fair territory,” thus should be called the “FAIR pole.” Eric’s response? “Every time I hear that I think (1) congratulations, you heard someone else say that and remembered how to repeat it exactly, and (2) it doesn’t prove you know more about baseball than the other 50,000 fans in the park.”  

    Ha, so true. But something tells me it won’t stop people from saying it, just like the people claiming we’re not “really” a “Democracy” (or people claiming that “progressive” is the same as “socialist” or Barack Obama isn’t the “real” kind of Christian, or that global warming’s a big plot by environmentalists, or whatever other nonsense they’re spewing these days).

    • martinlomasney

      Republic comes from the Latin “res publica” meaning either “the thing done in public” (as opposed to the kings private chambrers) or “the thing belonging to the public” (and not to the Sun King.) It’s proper use is to distinguish non-monarchical governments from monarchies.

      Democracy derives from the Greek: “government of the people.” While some claim Athens was the first democracy, it was nothing of the sort as less than 15% of it’s adult resident population was allowed to participate.  Athens was more accurately an extended oligarchy.

      All democracies are also republics because they’re not monarchies.  Some republics might be oligarchies and thus not democracies.

      As many far right Republicans don’t believe in a government of the people, witness their voter suppression efforts that date back to the 1950s, they use every opportunity to denigrate democracy by claiming our government is not a democracy but rather a republic.

      The most accurate counter to this particular wingnut false dichotomy would be: “our republic is a constitutional representative democracy.”