Civics lesson


In your April 26 edition of "Heard Around the West," author Betsy Marston clearly enjoys poking fun at the Utah parents who want to ensure that certain schools in their counties are using the proper terminology to describe our system of government. She obviously thinks that republic is simply short for Republican, and what could be more ridiculous to an (apparently) liberal reporter than being part of the Republican political party?

There's a clear and critical distinction between "republic" and "democracy."

Democracy: "A government by the people; especially rule of the majority."

Republic: "A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president."

Since we hold elections, don't we have a democracy? No. A true democracy denotes absolute and unlimited majority rule, and its rulings cannot be appealed under its legal system. So do we have a republic? Yes, more specifically a constitutional republic. It is the United States Constitution that limits the powers of government while defining its structure –– creating checks on its power and balancing power between different branches.

The core purpose of the republic is to strictly control the majority while protecting the rights and liberties of all individuals. The people formed a Constitutional Convention by adopting the Constitution as the fundamental law, which represents the first genuine and soundly founded republic in all recorded history.

So is our constitutional republic at all similar to a democracy? Yes, in that it uses democratic processes to accomplish goals such as electing representatives and passing new laws. But where the majority vote fails, the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and individual rights work together to assure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers took the best of democracy and created a new form of government which has no equal, and that is why the United States is the land of the free and home of the brave.

Andrea Spikes
Wheat Ridge, Colorado

High Country News Classifieds