Why Not Democracy?
Did you know the word “democracy” is not found in the Constitution, nor in the Bill of Rights, or even the Declaration of Independence? Yet the word “republic” is found 5 times in the Constitution, the governing document of our nation.
Why is it the Founding Fathers of our nation created so many checks and balances, yet only gave the people the power to vote directly for members of the House of Representatives? (Article I Section 2:1) All other officers of the Federal Government are chosen by the elected representatives, or appointed by them.
The Senate, originally, was appointed by the elected State Legislatures, up until the 17th Amendment. The 17th Amendment, by the way, was passed with the promise of “ending corruption in Congress.” How well has that gone over?
The President, originally, was appointed by the Electoral College. Members of the Electoral College once were elected by the people, who then in turn elected the President.
Why do this? What is the advantage of representative government? We have the technology, why not have everyone vote for the House, Senate, and President, right?
Well, why stop there. If it is better that everybody have a vote on who is nominated to represent the party in government elections, then wouldn’t it be even better if we ended Congress and the Presidency, and instead had everybody vote on every piece of legislation?
Just log into your phone every morning and decide if we are going to war with China. Right?
In fact, why have a jury trial? We could all wake up and pass a guilty/not guilty verdict on each trial in our city, county, state, or county?
Democracy (Demos-kratein) is Latin for “Rule of the People”
Republic (Res Publica) is Latin for “Rule of the Public/Law”
Why a Republic?
A government where the people can vote on every law and elect every politician has proven to do more harm than good. Take Congress in our own nation, for example, where the people directly elect every member of Congress through direct primaries. Rather than representing the people, Congress has a 15% approval rating, yet they maintain a 90% reelection rate.
Going back to the jury example, the average voter does not have the time to keep up on every issue, to meet every candidate, or to follow every jury trial. It is not that the average voter is stupid, it is that they have different priorities, and that’s okay! That is why the Founders knew to delegate the responsibility from the people to delegates/representatives. They followed the pattern of Moses with the children of Israel, assigning “captains” of 10 families, 50, 100, etc.
The Founders knew the closer representatives were to those that voted them in, the more accountable they would be. This is why they favored small, localized governments, and representative government.
Consider it this way: Let’s say your Senator is voting for things you do not support, How difficult is it for you, as a voter, to reach your Senator in Washington D.C. How well is your voice truly heard when you are but one of millions of voters?
Now consider how expensive it is for him to listen to you when he has to reach millions of other voters every term. How can he listen to millions of voices? He has to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach as many people as he can, and he can only reach them for a short time.
In contrast, how much easier is it for you to get ahold of your neighborhood delegate down the street? Or your city councilman, or state legislature?
Let’s say our nation still ran as a republic instead of being so close to pure democracy, and your Senator was making bad decisions. Rather than you trying to reach his cell phone among millions of others, you call your local representative, the ones that appointed the Senator for you, and let him or her know your opinion. Now your local representative calls D.C. as a delegate or elected government official. In states like Utah, where republics still exist, Senators take the calls of the delegates that elected them, and because there are far fewer of them, the Senators can take far more time with each neighborhood delegate, to hear their concerns.
If that Senator were no longer representing the voice of the people, they can easily be removed by the delegates who elected him/her in, because delegates tend to pay far closer attention to those they have elected than the average voter. That’s how Bob Bennett was replaced by Mike Lee, which is likely what started the war on the Neighborhood Caucus System in Utah.
The fact of the matter is that the Founders were right. The closer representatives are to those that voted them in, the better accountability.