The Deceit About Being a ‘Republic’ versus a ‘Democracy’

Eric Zuesse

One of my recent articles at several sites, “Jimmy Carter Is Correct That the U.S. Is No Longer a Democracy” generated many reader-comments (such as here) saying things like, “The US has always been a republic. There are no true democracies in the modern world.” This will be my response to all who expressed that view:

You miss the point that Carter made, and that I there documented to be true, which is no semantic issue (“democracy” versus “republic”), but which instead concerns the basic lie about what the United States of America really is now:

Is this a representative democracy, such as its Founders intended and such as it was famous and honored throughout the world for being, until at least around 1980? Or, is it instead a nation that’s ruled by a tiny elite, an aristocracy, which in this country consists of its 500 or so billionaires, who buy the politicians whom ‘we’ ‘elect’?

Is the U.S. now, basically, a fraud? Is it a dictatorship, instead of a democracy? Is it some kind of aristocracy, which controls the government here?

That’s not a semantic issue, at all. America’s first political party was called the “Democratic Republican Party,” but could as well have been called the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, because those two terms are essentially synonymous in any nation that has a large population, in which the public elect representatives to represent them, instead of directly vote on the policies that the government is to pursue — to place into its law, and to enforce by its duly authorized police or otherwise, and to adjudicate by democratically appointed judges and/or juries.

The only democracies that can exist, except for tiny ones, are representative democracies: they are republics. Republics are the only type of democratic nations that exist, practically speaking.

Where, then, does the apparently common misconception that there is a difference between the two terms arise?

I shall here present a theory about that: This widespread misconception arises because the rulers in a dictatorship — i.e., in an elite-controlled or “aristocratic” government, as opposed to in a government that authentically does  represent the public — can thereby fool many people into misconceiving what the real issue, the real problem, there is. 

The real issue is whether the country is controlled by its aristocracy (a dictatorship), or instead by its public (its residents).

Let’s be frank and honest: an aristocratically controlled government is a dictatorship, regardless of whether that “aristocracy” is in fascist Italy, or in Nazi Germany, or in Communist USSR, or in North Korea, or in the United States of America.

That’s what Jimmy Carter was talking about, and it’s what I was documenting to be true.

To varying and rather extraordinary degrees throughout earlier U.S. history, this nation really was a democracy; that is to say, a republic. But we’re not actually like that any more (as I documented there).

If this problem is not faced — and honestly, not by means of semantic games and misdirections — then surely there will be not even a possibility to restore the democracy, the republic, the democratic republic, or whatever one prefers to call it, which our Founders had intended, and which lasted for around two centuries on these shores, and was widely admired and even (by some) envied throughout the world.

The aristocracy and its many fools might not want this enormous problem to be addressed, but Jimmy Carter clearly does. And so do I.

One of the ways to misdirect about this problem is to obsess about “good residents” (“citizens”) versus “bad residents” (“aliens”), because that nationalistic way of viewing things enables the aristocracy to split the public against itself and thereby to maintain its own grip on power against, actually, that entire public. Nazi Germany did this.

Another way they misdirect it is to buy control over all of the political parties that stand a chance of dominating the government, and so to create basically a ‘democratic’ or ‘republican’ controlled government which, in any case, is actually controlled by that aristocracy, even if, perhaps, by a different faction within it. Even if a different faction within the aristocracy takes control, it’s still the same dictatorship. Because the public is not  in control.

There are many ways to deceive the public. There are many ways to rule the public. But all of them are aristocratic; all of them are elite — and typically monied-elite — dictatorships.

In a democracy (or republic) the government does not rule, the government represents. It represents honestly, because it doesn’t need to do so by misdirection, by deceits.

In an aristocracy (or dictatorship) the government does not represent — at least not honestly — because they don’t want the people to see how their sausages are made.

Will a violent revolution be required to overthrow it? If so, then won’t the likelihood be high that it will merely replace one group who rule by force, by a different group who rule by force? For example: isn’t that what happened in the Russian Revolution and its aftermath?

Jimmy Carter challenged America to restore democracy. And he was correct to do so. But can it be done? And, if so, then how?

It’s the great issue in 2016. Because if it’s not dealt with then, the dictatorship, the aristocracy that controls it, will become so deeply lodged that it won’t be able to be dislodged without great violence. And the outcome of that would not solve the problem, at all. It would be hell. But avoiding that hell by means of accepting continuance of aristocratic control would also be hell, because aristocracy would then become even more deeply entrenched.

America needs to deal with it, not postpone solving it.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • A very good article Mr. Zuesse.

    We are none of the above listed, because we are run by a Corporate Oligarchy!

    Corporatocracy: How the Corporate Welfare State Divides and Conquers

    A small, readily-identifiable ruling oligarchy that no serious political observer denies the existence of is able to keep the public from attacking it by dividing them along ideological grounds so that the public spends all their time arguing over definitions and splitting doctrinal hairs instead of attacking the commonly acknowledged enemy. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect system of control.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez8I8VGLNUw

  • wunsacon

    People who reply (to Carter’s comment) with the statement “The US has always been a republic.” demonstrate they lack what it takes to reason their way past the simplest propaganda and consider the even-tougher problems the rest of us would like to discuss. Since many of them vote, these idiots are useful to the oligarchs’ efforts to render impotent the rest of the people.

    As Dubya jokingly said: You can fool some of the people all the time — and those are the people you want to focus on.

    • Arcanek

      ***People who reply (to Carter’s comment) with the statement “The US has
      always been a republic.” demonstrate they lack what it takes to reason
      their way past the simplest propaganda and consider the even-tougher
      problems the rest of us would like to discuss.

      The US has always been a republic. You were taught that in junior high. As for lacking ‘reason’, that is merely an ad hominem attack, which is a logical fallacy. In other words: a lack of reason.

      ***Since many of them vote, these idiots are useful to the oligarchs’ efforts to render impotent the rest of the people.

      No, the oligarchs depend on you endorsing a system in which you have no representation. As I stated above, the representation is illusory. You are ‘represented’ by the single member of the house from your congressional district. That is only representative of a populace unanimous in their support or opposition. If legislation is equally opposed or supported (50/50), one side is over represented and the other side under represented, depending on the congressional member’s vote. Abstention from voting renders all constitutents disenfranchised. If you are going to berate anyone’s ability to reason, you need to be educated in formal logic.

  • diogenes

    Thank you Eric Zuesse for laying it on the table. The key question, as you put it, is

    “If so, HOW?” (my caps).

    I want to break this “how” down into two parts:

    We need to abandon attempts to work within the “Two Party” system or within parties. Parties depend on organization of hierarchies and on leaders. History amply shows that this saps and misdirects energy from solving problems and effecting change to building power bases and organizations. And hierarchies and leaders regularly serve to sell out the interests they ostensibly serve. Samuel Gompers, for instance, was on JP Morgan’s payroll from the 1890s ($10,000 a year retainer, when that was very real money). He promised to “keep labor out of politics.” It would be easy to multiply this story hundreds of times. We need to stop going there and find other ways to make our power as voters compel our government to work in our interest. HOW?

    We need to stop preaching to our choirs and figure out how to talk to our fellow citizens in non-divisive, effectively informative and persuasive contexts and fashions. This is the KEY to creating democracy. HOW?

    • cettel

      Oh, that’s a profound statement. And I happen to agree with it entirely.

  • Arcanek

    That was me that you quoted, and I stand by it. A citizen is eligible to vite in a single congressional district. That district has a single representative. How can that be construed in any manner to be representative on any legislation where the citizens are not in entire agreement? If the populace is split 50/50, what should the representative vote? Voting either for or against disenfranchises half the populace. Abstaining from voting disenfranchises the entire populace. A vote in favor over represents those in favor by 100%, and under represents those opposed 100%. Is this your idea of representation?

    • cettel

      Arcanek, what I said in the article here is true, everything. Direct (non-representative) democracy has never existed in any nation. All democracies are, and can only be, via agents for the voters, never via the voters themselves. The questions you ask aren’t relevant. You are objecting to things that are not relevant, and some of which don’t even constitute problems. For example, you say, “If the populace is split 50/50, what should the representative vote?” A representative should always vote his conscience. But this also means that any representative who won office (was voted in) because he had lied about his values and his objectives, is committing treason — abuse of his voters, exploitation of his voters, manipulation of the people who had voted for him on the basis of those lies. That’s mental rape of them. Now, you may agree with me on that, or you may not, but, in any case, it’s not relevant to this article that I wrote. What you wrote here is not relevant to this article. Every democracy is a republic, and every republic is a democracy. But that doesn’t mean that no representatives will be rapists. All sorts of vices exist, even in a democracy. That’s just not relevant to the issue here.

      • Arcanek

        ***Arcanek, what I said in the article here is true, everything.

        Then yu should be able to cite external refernces to validate this claim. This is an editorial comment.

        *** Direct
        (non-representative) democracy has never existed in any nation.

        I never made any such statement. This is a straw man argument.

        *** All
        democracies are, and can only be, via agents for the voters, never via
        the voters themselves.

        Cite an external refernce to validate this claim.

        *** The questions you ask aren’t relevant. You are
        objecting to things that are not relevant, and some of which don’t even
        constitute problems. For example, you say, “If the populace is split
        50/50, what should the representative vote?” A representative should
        always vote his conscience.

        If the representative votes according to their conscience, how is that rerpresentative? What definition of representative expresses this notion? I find no source that mentions conscience regarding representation. and what you consider a problem is merely opinion, not fact. One person’s problem may be another person’s blessing.

        *** But this also means that any representative
        who won office (was voted in) because he had lied about his values and
        his objectives, is committing treason — abuse of his voters,
        exploitation of his voters, manipulation of the people who had voted for
        him on the basis of those lies.

        That is not representative. That is misrepresentation. That is impertinent.

        ***That’s mental rape of them. Now, you
        may agree with me on that, or you may not, but, in any case, it’s not
        relevant to this article that I wrote. What you wrote here is not
        relevant to this article.

        Repeating your statement changes neither its truth nor its validity. Your statement has nothing to do with my position, which appears to be the subject of this article..

        *** Every democracy is a republic, and every
        republic is a democracy.

        Searching on democracy vs republic results in numerous articles. None of them are very much agreement on all aspects, but all of them claim they are two distinct forms of government.

        *** But that doesn’t mean that no representatives
        will be rapists.

        Again, this is not representation, it is misrperesentation.

        *** All sorts of vices exist, even in a democracy. That’s
        just not relevant to the issue here.

        I never made any such claim. This is another straw man.