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Law and Politics

Democracy vs. Republic

What is the difference and does it matter?

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WHY IT MATTERS

 

The government of the United States of America was founded as a republic and has evolved into a democratic republic. [The Atlantic]

 

CIVICS: “We The People” affirms that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. [United States Senate] But the Founding Fathers did not trust a direct democracy, therefore, created the Electoral College to protect against majority rule. [Federalist Papers: No. 10]  

Article I of the U.S. Constitution lays out the separation of power in the U.S. government, and how those in the three branches of government come to power. [The White House]

 

SOCIAL: In order to make meaningful change or understand your role in society, it is critical to know the structure government in the country you reside in. 

 

DEMOCRACY

A democracy is defined as

  • a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting,

  • an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights,

  • a government by the people, especially ruled by the majority

[Merriam-Webster]

 

Good to know

  • The majority is in charge; the minority has no voice,
  • Free elections exist where everyone can cast a vote,
  • The majority rules the government.

 

REPUBLIC

A republic is defined as

  • a country with elected representatives and elected chief of state who is not a monarch and who is usually a president,

  • a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law

[Merriam-Webster]

 

Good to know

  • The majority is in charge, the minority has a voice,
  • People vote for representatives that exercise the will of the people,
  • A constitution or governing document rules in tandem with the will of the people. That document protects the unalienable rights of the people.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Does saying the U.S. is not a true democracy challenge what you believe to be true? Why or why not?
  • Should we reform how presidents are elected in the U.S.? Learn more about the Electoral College here.
  • James Madison worried that the majority rule in a democracy would violate the rights and will of the minority. 
  • 2019 - 2020: Social studies teachers in the U.S. are reflecting on what they teach and if it is representative of what is true. Teaching that the U.S. is an example of democracy is one critical point being rethought. [The New York Times]
  • How does what you learn in school impact your reality?
Key Vocabulary