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Why are we NOT a “pure democracy"

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

It is by no accident that the United States of America is not a “pure democracy.” In forming our government, the Founding Fathers, learned in the many and various governments in history, had to look no further than to the “pure democracy" (Madison’s term) of ancient Athens to understand the failing nature of such a form of government.

In Athens, democratic assembly was the form of government, where tens of thousands of men met and made laws to govern the masses. There were no checks and balances, and the decisions were final, at least until the next time the assembly met, at which time they could change whatever laws they promulgated at their last meeting. Rule was by majority, and because there was no check on their authority: they were free to act on whim.

The results of this "pure democracy" were murder of political figures, revolution, and tyranny. As described by James Madison in The Federalist No. 63, “common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been

as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Our Founding Fathers understood that for our country to survive, we must learn from the story of past democracies, and realize that a "pure democracy" -- without checks and balances -- will eventually perish under its own hand. Clearly, the intention of those who scribed our founding documents understood that a government by the people, represented by an elected body, would provide the greatest protections to ALL the people. Hence, out of their brilliance and understanding grew our Republic.

As we near the election, those stumping for Democrat Party candidates continue to decry that “democracy is on the ballot” in this election, a tactic designed to frighten the uninformed. Their deception is evident as they preach these words because NO election in our history has been about democracy; the fact that we are a republic gives us our right to vote and our representative government. These politicians show their cunning as they know fear is a great influencer. Sadly, the uninformed electorate, who hear that our “democracy” is being threatened, fall victim to those politicians who are only seeking one thing - total control – forever. Caveat Emptor!

As I stated at the beginning, it is by no accident that the United States of America is not a “pure democracy." The Founding Fathers understood that to survive when other governments had failed, a republic was the only form of government that could endure the test of time. But, when Benjamin Franklin, while leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was asked what kind of government they had formed, his brief response was simply, “A republic, if you can keep it.

I ask, “Can we?”

-Evelyn S. Cahalen (Evie)

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