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Forget Democracy. We aren’t even a Republic

Posted: 7/5/23

By Vincent Scala

Republic:  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 dictionary)

Under what theory or practice is the United States a “republic” under the definition of the term?  “Supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote”.  Every US citizen over 18 theoretically and technically has the right to vote.  Theoretically of course because we all know the tremendous barriers placed in front of tens of millions of citizens over 18 which make exercising the right difficult if not impossible.   Waiting 11 hours on line to vote in the rain, while technically not disqualifying such citizens is hardly a “practical” right to vote.  Having said that, let’s imagine a nation where every citizen over 18 has the right to vote and does so.  This is objectively not the case but let’s imagine it for argument sake.  “Exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them”.  Can we honestly say that elected representatives (let’s say the 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate) are responsible to the voters writ large?  If that were the case, wouldn’t popular will exercised in multiple elections be enacted into law and policy?  Wouldn’t the “wishes” of the “people” expressed through votes lead to the elected representatives enacting that “will” and those “wishes” into the books of law?  Isn’t the difference between “democracy” and “republic” the “elected representatives” angle which doesn’t provide for direct public decision making but elected representatives who carry out the will of the people?  Assuming we can agree that is the difference, then the US cannot make a claim to be either a democracy or a republic if we’re being honest about it.  In a nation where there isn’t much debate that overwhelming majorities support gun background checks as one example or keeping Roe v Wade as another, the odds of background checks are close to zero in the US Senate.  Roe v. Wade may be overturned in a few short weeks.  While we go berserk as a society over “who” leaked the opinion, the odds of Roe v. Wade simply being codified into law by the Congress are zero.   Some two thirds of the American people support the basics of Roe v Wade.  Is there even a proposal with any chance of passage in the Senate that allows reproductive health care in the first trimester?  No.  Is there even a proposal to at least provide for abortion access for women who are raped, victims of incest or to protect the life of the mother?  Again, no.  We as a society of adults really need to see the situation for what it is.  While we wave flags and talk about “American exceptionalism”, “democracy”, “the republic for which it stands” and all the other platitudes, we need to recognize as adults that just as there is no Easter bunny or Santa Claus, there is no democracy or republic.  Majority will with minority rights sounds nice but isn’t happening.  The “people” rule certainly isn’t happening.  Instead we are living in a sclerotic, 18th century structure which above all protects wealth, property and will throw as many hurdles in front of us to deny even the semblance of popular will.   Sure, on something that is easy and cost free, the Congress will establish a national holiday for Juneteenth.   They might even improve some roads and bridges which need repair.  Yes, we’ll have more electric car charging stations going forward.  Even sclerotic and antiquated systems will provide some things to the people.  Having said that, they will NOT provide anything in the way of improving society in meaningful ways if it conflicts with the balance of economic power or if it attempts to acknowledge or improve the status of historically powerless people.  BTW, this includes fully more than half the American people otherwise known as women.  The organization of society makes matters worse because even half hearted attempts are met with tremendous resistance in the United States.  Attention is then turned to the opposition which is often loud, belligerent, angry (and often violent).  Hence, efforts to teach facts about slavery are met with accusations that white children are being taught to be self loathing.  Once this happens of course, the effort will fail and we go back to the status quo “at best”!  Often actually we go backwards a couple of steps.  Efforts to do something as easy as allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices are met by 1. The power of the pharmaceutical lobby; and 2. screams and howls of socialism.  More time tragically is spent on idiotic and insane comments by Marjorie Taylor-Greene than in doing virtually anything to make the system even a bit fairer or more just.  It is now 2022 and the US has been living under this arrangement for 235 years.   As with any other system, this one should be allowed to take its natural course.  Systems, like humans, are born, live, accomplish whatever they accomplish and then die.  It’s way past time for this system to be replaced by a newer one which will go about its natural course.  The world of the musket being the weapon and the enactment of the 2nd amendment is not the world we live in.  The world of 13 little states and a population of 4 million is not the world of 50 states and 330 million people.  It is time for the system that “we the people” supposedly preside over to become a 21st century system.   


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Vincent Scala is a former Bronx Assistant District Attorney. He is currently a criminal-defense attorney in New York City and its suburbs.