We have been a country since 1776 when our forebears, in a desperate act of what some would consider treason, threw off the chains of oppression from their tyrannical government and declared independence. After a long war, they obtained independence and set about the task of figuring out what, exactly, to do with it.
With a classical education including the writings of Plato, Socrates and the Bible, our founders looked at the many governments of the past to determine what hadn’t worked. After creating the very imperfect Articles of Confederation, delegates of the thirteen states reconvened to revise it. Instead, they crafted the United States Constitution: the most brilliant governing document ever conceived by humans.
A government with three equal but separate branches, with a separation of powers but checks and balances among them; an upper legislative Senate representing the States, and a lower House chamber representing the People. It was a revolutionary system of self-government that challenged monarchies around the world: a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. What type of government is it, though?
It seems that every talking head who can find a media crew or a blog will refer to America as a democracy. Everything they don’t like is apparently “a threat to our democracy”, they say, or “our democracy is at stake”. Either they are all gravely misinformed, or deliberately lying and hoping the American people will simply believe them.
America is not now, nor has it ever been, a democracy. America is a Constitutional Republic.
In a democracy, the majority rules and there are no minority rights: only privileges granted by the majority. In our Republic, however, the rights of everyone, including those in the minority, are protected under the rule of law. A democracy is mob rule and has historically been short-lived before plunging into tyranny.
Plato wrote that the consequence of not being involved with politics is that we are eventually governed by our inferiors. Therein lies the disease of our Republic: an electorate, lulled into political apathy, who votes every couple of years, many times failing to even research the candidates. After the election, it’s back to “life as usual” until the next election.
If you haven’t read the United States Constitution, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Despite what “experts” will tell you about its being “complex and nuanced”, it’s not a long, complicated document. You can request free copies from your US Representative or either Senator (all three of whom should be on your phone’s speed dial).
Seven short Articles lay out exactly how our federal government is designed to work: including the eighteen specific, limited powers granted it by the States that created it. The Constitution has only been amended twenty-six times, and every amendment is short and concise.
The problem is that the States have allowed the federal government to stray from its original form over the past century, seizing powers from the States and the People with no authority to do so. Once you read the Constitution, you will understand exactly why our government often acts in its own interests–instead of the interests of the States and the People.
The Declaration of Independence, signed eleven years before the Constitution was drafted, states that we are endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights: meaning we are born with them, and no one can take them away from us without our first giving them up. The Constitution does not grant us our Rights: they are ours at birth. The Constitution is a written guarantee that the federal government will not take our Rights, or infringe upon them, without due process in a court of law.
The most important thing we can do as citizens, beyond enjoying the freedoms we have, is to understand that our freedoms come with civic responsibilities: to monitor what our elected officials are doing with the authority we’ve given them for their term and hold them accountable for their votes and actions. That isn’t a full-time job: there are plenty of resources to help you quickly understand the important legislation and whether your officials, at every level of government, are representing you and your best interests as a free citizen.
Start at your local level. City and County governments affect your money and quality of life far more than anything at the state and federal levels. Keep in touch with all your elected officials. If we each commit just a few minutes each week to doing that, imagine how much better our Republic would function.