wE’rE a rEPuBLiC nOt A dEMoCRacY

15+ years and I believe this is the first-ever use of lowercase letters in a post title. Groundbreaking! Thank you for sharing this important moment with me.

I have a minor hit up at The Baffler about the most irritating phrase chanted by right-wingers and what it means. I don't want to spoil things for you, but it doesn't mean anything.

Even if you don't read it, I can't exhort you in strong enough terms to click through just to see the graphic. I promise you will not be disappointed. Try it right now.

See? I wasn't lying.

22 thoughts on “wE’rE a rEPuBLiC nOt A dEMoCRacY”

  • Amateur Socialist says:

    I am grateful that your transition to writer for (sometimes) dead tree media includes things I already subscribe to (the baffler, Jacobin).

    (this is partly a response to your earlier post too re: leaving academia)

  • Fair enough, but that right-wing chestnut is nonetheless far, far less stupid and dangerous than jejune left-wingers constantly intoning that we are Not A Monarchy, or that we are a Fascist State with order enforced by a new Gestapo.

  • IvanTheAlmostBearable says:

    Thanks for this post; it states in plain terms how disingenuous the argument actually is. In truth, I'm glad this rhetorical dodge exists, as it vividly points out assholes/ignos when it is used in debate or conversation.

  • @ Ivan The Almost Bearable:

    And, as if on cue, the comment just ahead of yours equates the idiocy of several thousand left wing idiots with that of 60M+ hosttile, indignorant and, all too often, violent Trumpliguturds.

    But, since the MSM seems unwilling to see and report on that issue, false equivalency (predictably) lets lying fuckbags pretend that the obvious differences between the scattered and disorganized far-left–and those are the only ones who spew such nonsense without any evidence to support their claims–with what is likely an actual order of magnitude larger populaltion.

    Both sides are exactly the same, because FuckTheNew'sCorpse and numerous useful idiots like Brian Fischer, Alec Jones and numerous KKKristStained Men-O-GOD trumpet the "accomplishments" of a petulant shithead, their Combover Lord.

  • Back when I was a club officer I got tired of fellow elects who needed to poll the membership before making any decision. I would chastise them with "we were a representative democracy, not a democracy" and had been elected to make decisions. Sometimes it worked.

  • Midway into your Baffler article I recall that the Fathers provided ingenious fine-tuning in the notion of democratic-republic-majoritarianism: that as we all agree IN PRINCIPLE that the rights of the minority should be protected from the tyranny of the majority, we have taken steps to safeguard minority rights, too. Once having affirmed the principle, we have trouble slashing the individual rights piecemeal—though God knows we've done that far too often throughout our short history.

  • Inkberrow says:


    "False equivalency" is another overused and often misunderstood political trope from leftist yahoos. (Conspiracy theory" is another). It does not mean "they are not equivalent". Duh. If it did, no comparison/contrast could ever occur. It does not mean, "I want to focus on the one, but not hear about the other". False equivalency means misleadingly or unhelpfully apposed. Your fulmination is shy on that score.

  • Well, as far as I understand the official definition of the word republic it means simply "not a monarchy". A democratic, constitutional monarchy is not a republic, but a democracy without a constitutional monarch is a republic, as are, however, a communist dictatorship or a state run by a council of aristocrats. The trait republic or not is orthogonal to the category democracy or not. One could just as well say "we are not a democracy because we have a blue, white and red flag", and it would make exactly the same amount of sense.

    Of course, what these guys really mean is "my side has the power although the majority of the people disagree with us, neener neener neener". That just does not sound as dignified.

  • Safety Man! says:

    I was expecting you to go further, we are a democratic republic because while we do elect representatives to decide matters, we also vote directly through referendums.

    To put it more bluntly, I didn’t vote on the national budget, but I did vote on whether the county park pavilion got a new coke machine.

  • It may beyond the scope of the article but I feel like it hits the 3rd example argument at the end:
    The academic debate around what democracy is has become increasingly important. The Huntington "economic reform" with authoritarian overtones transition model was so widely use and the comfortable nature that a "technical" democracy has with minimum functional institutions( elections, freedom of opinion, freedom of association) was exceedingly useful to US foreign policy for a long time but transitions theory has suffered some major setbacks since "the end of history" was declared. While the hair splitting of establishing "democracy" apart from "liberalism" seems trite given the separation was used for two decades to sanitize US relations with less savory actors, it's going to be important for maintaining institutions that are important to us both at home and abroad. While "all good things go together" seems to be true still at a certain point of development and institutionalization history has show the context of those societies was way more important that we originally thought. The diving into what democracy is can only help to establish goals and refine methods. It does have broader implication and may result in uncomfortable truths. The discussion there definitely goes beyond the common usage and argument around the phrase though.

    To address the earlier topic in other comments about what the definition of democracy is, most academic would use Dahl's definitions for democracy and polyarchy. Which would ironically means the US isn't a democracy but a polyarchy. Depending on where you stand on the definition of democracy and how tied it is to Liberalism the violation of normative horizontal accountability cause by influence market corruption could lead on to use O'Donnell's arguments about consolidation to argue the US isn't a democracy because of the way it has de-consolidated. Few academic would carry the argument that far but a large contingent would argue the direction is worrying.

  • @ Inkblot:

    Your "merits" were laughed at when they were first used in an attempt to brand your enemies as what you are–a lying fuckbag sack-o-shit.

    I actually remember seeing the same argument used around the time that John Anderson and Ross Perot were runnning.

    You have nothing to say.

    Do fuck off.

  • linus bern says:

    The "We're a Republic, not a Democracy!" argument is one that I put on the same level as, "Muslim isn't a race, so I'm not a racist for hating all Muslims". It isn't an argument based on logic, but on finding a semantic loophole which makes the imbeciles who parrot it feel like intellectual giants.

  • Linus–

    Those who humbly posit some necessary connection between "race" and "racist" may not be intellectual giants, but there must be a spectrum.

    Still, many of the same imbeciles also err when they foolishly insist that "Islam" and "Islamist terror" are any more connected than a fish and a bicycle.

    Dash those outcome-driven semantic loopholes! It's like inexplicably using "government surveillance" and "spying" in the same sentence….

  • I bookmarked this to have handy for Facebook threads, and within days I got a chance to slap it down, even considering I avoid winger threads as I would the leprosy ward.

    I'm still not over the gleeful thrill, and can't wait for the next opportunity. Obviously, I should take up sky-diving or ride horseback cross-country or something to jack up the excitement level in my life; however, the principle of never passing up a cheap thrill to get through the daily routine works, too. Also.

    Tell The Baffler you reeled in a new digital subscriber.

  • @ Mo:

    I think that with advances in medicine and housekeeping, most places where those suffering from Hanson's disease live are relatively safe.

    OTOH, those places where Troo KKKonservatives gather are never gonna be safe!

  • @ Inkberrow:

    Any more than "Christian" and "Christian Terrorist" is, I guess. And there are far more of these, than of those you mentioned, in the United States. (You'll recognize them from their vast accrual of firearms arsenals, wearing of white sheets and occasionally tall pointy hats. You know, the ones who remember to wash their hands after a cross burning.)

    Religious terrorism follows the tenets of their religion in the same distorted, fun-house mirror way as all the others. You seem to be making the assumption that lurking behind every Muslim face is a ravening, murderous beast. This is just not so. Most Muslims regard Islamic terrorism with the same disdain, horror and disgust as most Christians do the Klan or Nazis.

  • Ekim:

    1. Most of those you’d likely denominate “Christian terrorists” are not. With the exception of abortion clinic killers, for instance, most of them are not “Christian terrorists” any more than they are or were “right-handed terrorists”, because a scumbag like Tim McVeigh was not motivated or inspired by religion. Islamist terrorists on the other hand, kill and maim explicitly in the name and furtherance of Islam, and willingly acknowledge that themselves.

    2. You are barely correct when you speak of what “most Muslims” disdain. Pew Research, no conservative source, reports 25 to 40 percent of Muslims worldwide consider violence and death to be the appropriate religiously justified punishment, for individuals and nations, for various offenses against Islamic prerogatives as defined in sharia law, from apostasy to blasphemy to homosexuality. For Christians it’s a near-negligible fraction.

    3. You are relying on statistics undermined by Garbage In, Garbage Out when you claim that “far more” Christian terrorists (always post-9/11, of course), even if we were to blithely accept your overbroad definition. Thanks to semantic sleight of hand of the type this blog entry SHOULD be concerned with, Fort Hood, Orlando and other Islamist slaughters are “workplace violence” or some other hogwash federal dodge intended to placate, er, most Muslims.

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