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The Republic: A Representative Democracy

The United States is a republic, which is a representative, or indirect democracy.

A lot of people are confused about what type of government the United States has. In a true democracy, or a direct democracy, the people vote directly on every issue. Most democratic governments in the world today are actually some form of representative democracy, or indirect democracy, in which the people elect representatives to make laws for them. Some of these are more democratic than others, but because the officials are elected democratically, or by the people, many just think of them as democracies.

A democracy is a form of government where laws are made by the voting majority. Whatever the most people vote for becomes the law, whether it’s right or wrong, and whether it abuses the minority or not. In our constitutional republic, the people choose representatives who then meet and decide on laws, which are supposed to follow the guideline of the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers were clear in the creation of a constitutional republic for the United States. James Madison described the difference most clearly:

“It [the difference] is that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person: in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently, must be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.”

A round of letters between Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris also insisted the new nation be a republic rather than a democracy:

“But a representative democracy, where the right of election is well secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really and not nominally by the people, will in my opinion be most likely to be happy, regular and durable.”

There is no mention of the word “democracy” in the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution.


Sarah Cowgill

National Columnist at and Sarah has been a writer in the political and corporate worlds for over 25 years. As a sought-after speech writer, her clients included CEOs, U.S. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and even a Vice President. She’s worked as Contributing Editor at Scottsdale Life, a news reporter for the Journal and Courier, and guest opinion political writer for numerous publications nationwide. A born storyteller, Sarah has published a full-length book and is currently finishing a quirky, sarcastic, second novel.

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