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Lightfoot: No, we don't live in a democracy

Jim Ross Lightfoot

Jim Ross Lightfoot

Is there something that someone does that sets your teeth on edge, causes the hair to stand up on the back of your neck and raises your blood pressure about 10 points?

Mine is politicians that constantly refer to our country as a democracy.

From former President Barack Obama to current members of Congress, we are constantly reminded that we are a democracy, we have to protect our democracy. Democracy, democracy, democracy, ad nauseam!

Folks, did you sleep through your American history classes?

We live in a republic, not a democracy. Wake up and smell the coffee!

How about this little reminder? “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Did you catch that part about, “to the republic for which it stands.”

So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

A democracy is total mass or mob rule by the people. Whatever the issue, the majority always wins.

A republic is a form of government and a system of laws built to protect every citizen. It is a structure supported by the election of an executive, a legislative body, a judiciary to uphold justice in the country and the recognition of individual rights.

Additionally, a republic protects equally the rights of all individuals, including those living in states with low populations.

In a pure democracy, high-population areas such as New York City would control everything in our country.

Small, rural states would never have their voices heard. They would always be outvoted by the huge metropolitan areas. I think it’s obvious that the needs in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City are vastly different from those in Farragut, Iowa, or White Oak, Texas.

Under a republic, there is representative government, not mob rule as in a pure Democracy.

Each state in the union, regardless of size has two U.S. senators. That is prescribed by law. It gives every state the same power in the U.S. Senate. It is part of the republic structure we live in.

The House of Representatives is based on population. Smaller states have fewer congressmen than larger states. Again, this is structured by law within our republic. The total number of representatives is capped, by law, at 435.

Seven of our states have only one congressman; Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. The state with the most is California with 53 representatives. Here in Texas we have 36.

Our electoral college, again prescribed by law in our republic, is designed to help give everyone a balanced vote in our government. It is part of the structure, based on the power of law, that makes our system work.

Moving new legislation through Congress is a very difficult process. It is designed that way. The process gives near equal power to all the people in the country. The system is about as fair as government gets. Again, it is all prescribed by law.

It is said that a democracy is ruled by mobocracy. There is no structure supported by law. The majority always wins, regardless how unfair a provision may be to a smaller state.

I ask our politicians to take time to learn what they should have know since high school. They need to understand the system they are working in. After all, they are making the laws that regulate the rest of us.

We live in a republic, folks. It’s important to know.

— Jim Ross Lightfoot, a resident of White Oak, is a retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives who served Iowa from 1985 to 1997. He is an occasional contributor to the News-Journal.

Today's Bible verse


“And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2

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