The recent presidential election revealed a serious misconception about the nature of America’s government.

Contrary to what so many said, including Al Gore, who claimed that “What is at stake here is the integrity of our democracy, making sure that the will of the people is expressed,” — America is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic, a system where the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law and citizens elect representatives to government.

Democracy, by contrast, designates a system of government where the will of the majority rules, unrestricted by any law. The Founders of the United States of America went to great measures to ensure that our new nation was not a democracy.

The Constitution was designed to preserve individual rights and to limit the power of government to the protection of individual rights. The Founders opposed unlimited majority rule because they recognized that individual rights and liberty would be compromised by mob rule, that the will of the majority could be just as tyrannical as the will of a monarch. In short, they knew that just as monarchy did, so democracy would, lead to the infringement of individual rights.

The Founders created a system of checks and balances, such as the division of the government into three branches, to prevent government officials from acquiring too much power. If an official could acquire such power, he could become like a tyrant and violate individual rights. For a similar purpose, the Founders also created checks and balances to prevent the majority from acquiring too much power (which is one of the reasons, for example, behind the Electoral College).

Unfortunately, it appears that this knowledge of the Founding Fathers is being lost. If one asked a random citizen what type of government America has, he will most likely agree with Gore and declare “a democracy of course!”

This is an ominous sign, because it means that people no longer know what principles this country was founded upon and why. If people continue to believe America is a democracy, and so strive to in fact make it one, we will move to a form of government that, as the Founders knew, is a grave danger to our freedom.

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Jessica Nappi

Jessica Nappi is a student at George Mason University.

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