The question meaning, "What type of government does the U.S. operate under?"
As much as everyone likes to say America is a democracy
, I find this description a little hard to swallow. It is, in the broadest sense, a democratic republic
, and this is the term I prefer to use because of my classical leanings. Direct democracy
, in its purest form, is impossible for a country our size- Athenian
politics would never work here. So we elect officials to write and codify legislation on our behalf and, theoretically, with our best interests and most adamant ideas in mind as they do so. Yet we are also not exactly like the Roman Republic
, which lacked a head of state (except when a dictator
was chosen... which led to the rise of the Julio-Claudians
and the subsequent Caesars
) because we have a President. The CIA World Factbook
classifies the United States as a "constitution-based federal republic" with a "strong democratic tradition;" and note how it is not called "democracy" but described as
The U.S. may technically fit the definition of democracy up ^there^ in the link, but the pluralist system
written into our Constitution by the Founding Fathers draws it further away from the spirit
of the word "democracy" than other countries set up with different electoral processes because the "by the people" part gets muddy in the American execution of democracy. The process now called Durveger's Law
explains how a pluralist system, written and on-paper as a multi-party system, gravitates toward a two-party system
, thereby resulting in a majority rule and thus the silencing of a potentially vast amount of people. I believe the FFs had the right intentions in how they wrote the Constitution, for they wanted to give as many parties and voices the chance to get themselves heard and as much opportunity as possible to be represented; and they had just come from a revolution to get away from Big Government, so they felt "less is more" and thus tried to avoid as much meticulous detail as possible in a lot of ways. Thus, the Constitution only describes the process for adding new Amendments and talks vaguely of "majority" a lot when elections are discussed. Unfortunately, they did not foresee how leaving the actual electoral process out of the picture would lead to a two-party system.
The problem with a two-party electoral process system is that all it takes is a simple majority to win, since it's winner-take-all. As such, the "winners" may win with a 51% v. 49% victory, which means an entire FORTY-NINE PERCENT
of the people voted differently. So allow me to set aside the high-browed political jargon and just come out and say it: that's fucked up. It means nearly half of the country isn't happy with the election's results. If our Constitution had the terms for proportional representation
written into it via new Amendments, as well as specifying voting methods like IRV
, it would "feel" much more democratic to me. After all, proportionally distributed representation means that if you're there, you get something; and IRV makes it more likely that the winner is someone you can at least tolerate, even if you didn't rank them as your first preference for the office in question.
And I must mention, too, that our Legislative branch is in itself a democratic body but not direct democracy in practice. We elect the people in this branch of government in free elections, but again, in majority-take-all ones, wherein any candidate not part of one of the top two parties has little to no chance of success. Further, these elected officials are representatives. In order for us to be a TRUE democracy, the Legislative branch would actually consist of the entire electorate
, every single voting citizen of the country- not even a constituency
, unless that was defined as every eligible voter in the entire country and not just a political base or the members of a designated geographic region that is part of a group making up a whole.
The Electoral College
is a perfect example of a very democratic principle within our government that upsets people. In theory, it should work just fine: the representatives casting Electoral votes should vote along the lines of the people they are selected by. But even when they do this, since it's set up as winner-take-all in most states, this actually comes in conflict with the overall popular vote. A state with a strong enough presence of the second party may give its Electoral votes to that candidate, but its number of Electoral votes may not be significant enough to tip the scale for them; yet if this happens enough, the number of individual citizens voting for that second-place candidate may exceed the number of those voting for the ultimate winner. In other words, the candidate wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College; and since it's winner-take-all in the Electoral College, the candidate that took more EC votes wins the election. Yet for all of the anger it has caused in very recent history because this is exactly how Bush won in 2004
, this is actually why a number of candidates history has smiled upon won without actually taking a majority of the popular vote, making them plurality presidents
. Now, changing the EC into a proportional distribution within each state wouldn't fix the problem for similar reasons as to why it creates problems in the first place: since different states have different populations, if they are giving EC votes separately, it still wouldn't really work out right. So you may as well just eliminate the EC and only count the popular vote, since the only way to get rid of that discrepancy is by distributing EC votes proportionally based on the entire country and not by state. So again, I emphasize how IRV or something similar would eliminate this issue, and it should be applied everywhere in the U.S., at every level, from local to federal elections. Dog Catcher to President.
So, bottom line? I'm not sure what the "official" name for our government type is, for there is a difference between theory and practice. In theory, we are most definitely a democracy, but in practice, while we're certainly not, say, a totalitarian
government, some of the democratically intended aspects of the theory of our Constitution result in very un