Voter Vocab: Is the US a republic or democracy? Yes!

The US Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. That is, we have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign states.

It is also a democracy because people govern themselves. It is representative because people choose elected officials by free and secret ballot.

A democracy is a government by the people, who may rule either directly or indirectly, through elected representatives. A republic is a form of government in which the people’s elected representatives make decisions.

Some of the country’s political processes, like ballot referendums, are more democratic than others, like the Electoral College. Grappling with that complexity is key to understanding American government, according to social studies experts.

To be sure, in addition to being a representative democracy, the US is also a constitutional democracy, in which courts restrain in some measure the democratic will. Therefore, the US is also a constitutional republic.

Indeed, the US might be labeled a constitutional federal representative democracy. But where one descriptive word is being used, with all the oversimplification this entails, “democracy” and “republic” both work.

Sources: NYT/WP/other


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