Is America a Democracy?
For those of you who have read my earlier blog about battling ignorance, this will be a continued discussion on how to become more informed and finding a cure for ignorance. For those who have not read my previous blog, please feel free to do so.
One of my favorite Presidents was James A. Garfield, which might prove to be surprising, as President Garfield was only in office for 200 days before being assassinated. One of the main reasons that I appreciate President Garfield is due to his very astute quotations and beliefs about government. I believe that one of the best quotations from Garfield is the following:
“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate
ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.”
I use this phrase often when I teach courses to my students and I have referenced it many times in my discussions with people regarding politics. However, there is one small change that I would make to this quotation, in that I would replace the phrase “Congress” with “Government.” It is absolutely true that we the people are responsible for our government, as they are our employees and they are supposed to be working for us. However, can we really expect much of our government when we spend our time in frivolities, foolish endeavors, and ignorance?
I have read many research studies indicating the poor education status of the United States today, especially as it pertains to laws and government. One need not look far to see that more people today can identify the members of the Simpsons family, tell you who won American Idol, and countless other pointless entertainment facts rather than tell you their God given rights that are protected under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In fact, a few years ago Newsweek asked 1,000 adult United States citizens to take America’s official citizenship test and found that 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. More critically, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6% couldn’t even circle Independence Day (the Fourth of July) on a calendar. If you would like more evidence on these abysmal results, feel free to contact the Rutherford Institute, which is an excellent legal organization that I regularly use information from in my college courses.
So, getting to my point; a few years ago there was a little bit of a hullabaloo at the Capital building in Madison, Wisconsin. If you will recall, several people decided that it was their Constitutional right to break into the building illegally, occupy the premises for many weeks, refuse to bathe, shut down school systems, and act in mannerisms that were lacking integrity. The sad part is that most of the occupants of this event did not even know why they were at the event or what it was about.
At one point, there were several individuals in the Capital building holding banners that stated that what they were doing was a “Democracy.” Now, I realize that we all have a right to peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as indicated under the First Amendment and I hope that most of the people there were looking to achieve this, but was this really what was happening? Was this really what a Democracy looked like?
I have asked many clients and students over the years if they know what type of government we are given in the United States and the one constant response that I receive is that we are a “Democracy.” But is this really true? Did the Founding Fathers state this in any of their writings? What does the Constitution state about this?
So in my constant goal to cure ignorance, I looked to the Wallbuilders organization regarding the writings of our Country’s Founding Fathers regarding a Democracy and found that most were not in favor of a Democratic government at all. As proof, here are some sample quotations and the men who stated them:
Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. James Madison
Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few. John Adams
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. John Adams
The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived. John Quincy Adams
A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils. Benjamin Rush
In democracy, there are commonly tumults and disorders. Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.
Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage. John Witherspoon
So, clearly it was not the intention or the primary goal of many of our Founding Fathers to create a Democracy in the United States. But the question remains as to what form of government are we supposed to have. A simple reading of the Constitution in Article IV, Section 4 gives us the answer as follows:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
So what does that mean? I have asked this question of many people only to get a blank stare and a general look of confusion. President James Madison provided the answer to this by stating the following:
“In a republic, it is not the people themselves who make the decisions,
but the people they themselves choose to stand in their places.”
This means that in a Republican form of government, we elect people and those people must represent us by making decisions that reflect the will of the people. If you want a law to be passed, then educate yourself and find the candidate who best represents what you believe in and vote for that person. If your candidate loses the election, then try all the harder the next time, but don’t break the law and violently invade buildings to see your face on the television.
The question remains however, of whether or not we really have a true Republican form of government. It is now reported that now, more than ever in our history, we have the most elected millionaires in our federal government. People who do not live paycheck to paycheck, who don’t worry about the skyrocketing price of gas at the pump, who get the best doctors, houses, cars, etc. In other words, people who don’t know what real work is like. Can people like that really represent our needs? To answer this, I simply need to refer back to the quote from President Garfield. When we the people are ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, our government will be the same. Perhaps we do have a Republic after all?
As always, my hope is in God. I have read the entire Bible many times and will continue to do so and the great news is that in the end, God and his people win! However, it is still my hope that the people of our great nation will follow the instructions of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Perhaps if we do, our elected officials will follow the same path?
“A lady asked Dr. Franklin ‘Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy’ — “A republic,” replied the Doctor, “if you can keep it.” ”
—Anonymous, from Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787
— President James Monroe