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Distinguish Between Republic And Democracy Essay, Research Paper

Republic (government) (Latin res publica, literally “the public thing”), form

of state based on the concept that sovereignty resides in the people, who

delegate the power to rule in their behalf to elected representatives and

officials. In practice, however, this concept has been variously stretched,

distorted, and corrupted, making any precise definition of the term republic

difficult. It is important, to begin with, to distinguish between a republic and

a democracy. In the theoretical republican state, where the government

expresses the will of the people who have chosen it, republic and

democracy may be identical (there are also democratic monarchies).

Historical republics, however, have never conformed to a theoretical model,

and in the 20th century the term republic is freely used by dictatorships,

one-party states, and democracies alike. Republic has, in fact, come to

signify any form of state headed by a president or some similarly titled

figure, and not a monarch.


Much of the confusion surrounding the concept of republicanism may be

traced to the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Plato’s Republic presents an

ideal state or, more accurately, an ideal Greek polis (”city-state”). Plato

constructed his republic on what he considered the basic elements or

characteristics of the human soul: the appetitive, the spirited, and the

philosophical. Accordingly, his ideal republic consisted of three distinct

groups: a commercial class formed by those dominated by their appetites;

a spirited class, administrators and soldiers, responsible for the execution of

the laws; and the guardians or philosopher-kings, who would be the

lawmakers. Because Plato entrusted the guardians, a carefully selected few,

with the responsibility for maintaining a harmonious polis, republicanism is

frequently associated with ends or goals established by a small segment of

the community presumed to have a special insight into what constitutes the

common good.

Aristotle’s Politics provides another republican concept, one that prevails in

most of the Western world. Aristotle categorized governments on the basis

of who rules: the one, the few, or the many. Within these categories he

distinguished between good and perverted forms of government?monarchy

(good) versus tyranny, aristocracy (good) versus oligarchy?the main

difference being whether the rulers governed for the good of the state or

for their own interests.

Most relevant to republicanism in the Western world, however, is Aristotle’s

distinction between democracy, the perverted form of rule by the many,

and its opposite polity, the good form. He believed that democracies were

bound to experience turbulence and instability because the poor, who he

assumed would be the majority in democracies, would seek an economic

and social equality that would stifle individual initiative and enterprise. In

contrast, polity, with a middle class capable of justly adjudicating conflicts

between the rich and poor, would allow for rule by the many without the

problems and chaos associated with democratic regimes.

James Madison, often called the father of the U.S. Constitution, defined a

republic in terms similar to those of Aristotle’s polity. In his view, republics

were systems of government that permitted direct or indirect control by the

people over those who govern. He did, however, warn against the effects of

“majority factions” and emphasized the rights of minorities.

The Madisonian concept of republicanism parallels Aristotle’s vision of polity

in many important dimensions, and both are essentially different from

Plato’s. Madison and Aristotle were concerned with the means by which just

and stable rule by the many could be secured. To this end Aristotle relied

on a predominant middle class, Madison on an “extended” republic, in which

varied interests would check and control one another. Madison also

emphasized election of representatives by the people. These

representatives, he believed, would be less likely to sacrifice the “public

good” than the majority of the people. “Pure democracies,” in which the

people ruled directly, Madison wrote, “have ever been spectacles of

turbulence and contention.”

III REPUBLICS IN HISTORY Some scholars regard the

ancient confederation of Hebrew tribes that endured in Palestine from the

15th century BC until a monarchy was established about 1020BC as an

embryonic republic. That would make the ancient Israelite commonwealth

the earliest republic in history and one of the oldest democracies; except

for slaves and women, all members of the community had a voice in the

selection of their administrators and were eligible for political office. For

several hundred years after the early 8th century BC many of the

city-states of Greece were republican in form. Carthage was likewise a

republic for more than 300 years until its destruction by the Romans in

146BC. For nearly 500 years Rome itself was a republic in which virtually all

free males were eventually franchised.

The oldest extant republic is the state of San Marino on the Italian

Peninsula, about 225 km (about 140 mi) north of Rome. According to

tradition, it was established as a republic in the second part of the 4th

century AD.

In medieval times the Icelanders established (930) a republic with a more

or less democratic form of government that lasted for more than 300 years.

The powerful and independent commercial city-states of northern Italy,

ruled by the rising bourgeoisie, also found the republican form a more

suitable political instrument than the monarchic state controlled by the

feudal nobility and the Roman Catholic church. These Italian republics were

for centuries disturbed by power struggles between the aristocracy and the

commercial bourgeoisie, in which the latter represented the cause of

democratic government and the former that of feudal conservatism. A

parallel process took place in the commercial and handicraft communes of

the Low Countries. The Hanseatic League was nominally a form of

international republican government and a limited democracy. Republican

elements were also characteristic of the league of Swiss cantons that

eventually formed the Swiss state; the founding of the Swiss republic may

be dated in 1291.

Republican sentiments were cherished by many leaders of the Reformation.

Geneva, under the rule (1541-64) of John Calvin, was republican in form,

although virtually a theocratic state. Reformist religious and antimonarchic

doctrines were also contributory factors in the establishment of the Dutch

Republic of the United Provinces (1648-1747) and the short-lived

Commonwealth (1649-60) of England, Scotland, and Ireland under Oliver


IV MODERN REPUBLICS The era of modern

republicanism began with the American Revolution of 1776 and the French

Revolution of 1789. Elements of republican government were present in the

administrative institutions of the English New World colonies, but

republicanism did not become dominant in American political thinking until

the colonists declared their independence. The establishment of the United

States as a federal republic with a government made up of three coordinate

branches, each independent of the others, created a precedent that was

subsequently widely emulated in the western hemisphere and elsewhere.

The French Revolution also created a republic based on suffrage?the first

national republican state among the powers of Europe?and like its

American predecessor it enunciated fundamental principles of liberty.

Although this first French republic was short-lived, its impact on French and

European society was virtually continuous. In the view of many historians

the Napoleonic Wars that followed were essentially a military extension of

the political assault on the remnants of the Continent’s feudal structure and

eventually resulted in a new era of republicanism.

During the 19th century republics were established in most instances where

revolutionary struggles were waged outside Europe. Thus, all the Latin

American republics were products of revolutionary struggles for national

independence; many of these governments, however, became military

dictatorships. Two African republics, the South African Republic (1852) and

the Orange Free State (1854), were finally annexed by Britain after the

Boer War (1899-1902). Both in the United States and other republics,

however, the passage of the century was generally marked by

democratization of the electoral process through the enlargement of the


Two waves of new-state formations occurred in the 20th century?the first

one after World War I, the second after World War II. Most of the newly

independent states established themselves as republics, although some of

those created in the first wave began monarchies.

A new chapter in the history of republicanism began with the Russian

Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent transformation of the Russian

Empire into the USSR. The development of the Soviet Union into a

one-party totalitarian state demonstrated once more that republic and

democracy are not synonymous, a fact that became even more obvious

after World War II, when all the republics of Eastern Europe were fashioned

in a similar mold as one-party “people’s republics” under the tutelage of the

Soviet Union.

Of the dozens of new republics that have come into being since World War

II, most have, in fact, displayed a definite trend away from democratic

ideals and instead assumed the nature of oligarchies, single-party states, or

military dictatorships. The many economically and politically developing

nations that emerged from the liquidation of European colonial empires

posed profound problems for democratic republicans. One was whether

truly representative governments could be elected by nonliterate,

ill-informed voters. Another was how to establish majority rule in a

fundamentally tribal society. The hold of ingrained traditions on the one

hand and the introduction of new doctrinaire ideologies on the other added

a further element of chaos. The result, most often, was an authoritarian

one-person, one-party, or military rule. Thus, in the last quarter of the 20th

century, although some three-fourths of the nations in the world styled

themselves republics, only a very few could be described as democracies.1

Democratic Party, one of the two main political parties of the United States.

Its origins can be traced to the coalition formed behind Thomas Jefferson in

the 1790s to resist the policies of George Washington?s administration. This

coalition, originally called the Republican, and later the

Democratic-Republican Party, split into two factions during the presidential

campaign of 1828. One, the National Republican Party, was absorbed into

the Whig Party in 1834; the other became the Democratic Party.


In the 1830s, under presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, the

Democratic Party developed the characteristics it retained until the end of

the century. It was willing to use national power in foreign affairs when

American interests were threatened, but in economic and social policy it

stressed the responsibility of government to act cautiously, if at all.

Democrats argued that the national government should do nothing the

states could do for themselves, and the states nothing that localities could


The party?s supporters in this period included groups as diverse as southern

plantation owners and immigrant workers in northern cities. They all had in

common a dislike of government intervention in their lives. The Democrats?

opponents, the Whigs, on the other hand, believed in using governmental

power to promote, regulate, correct, and reform.

A major source of the party?s cohesion was its strong organization, which

enabled it to fight elections effectively, keep the party together between

elections, and shape and influence government decisions. The Democratic

organization, with its local, district, and statewide committees, conventions,

and party rallies, spread everywhere to promote the party and its principles

and candidates on election day. The organization drew up lists of voters,

got them to the polls, and provided ballots for them to cast and the

arguments to justify their decisions. Afterward, the party helped select

government officers and discipline them while in service.

In the years after 1828, party competition was very close. The Democrats

won the presidency six out of eight times through 1856 and usually

controlled Congress. Their Whig opponents, however, always waged strong

campaigns against them. Van Buren?s leadership role in the party made him

Jackson?s successor as nominee and president in 1836, but, defeated in

1840, he had to give way to younger men. These new leaders maintained

the commitment to the economic and social principles of the Jacksonian era

but added a more aggressive stance in foreign affairs. Territorial expansion

and war with Mexico followed under President James K. Polk in the 1840s.


A voter backlash severely changed the party?s fortunes in the mid-1850s.

The Democratic commitment to limited national power extended to the

question of whether or not slavery should expand into new territories. Party

leaders such as Lewis Cass and Stephen A. Douglas favored local control, or

popular sovereignty, rather than congressional regulation. This did not

satisfy some party supporters and others outside the party. Southern gains

in the territories provoked bitter anger. At the same time, the Democrats?

long-standing interrelationship with immigrant workers also caused severe

problems. Greatly increased immigration in the 1850s transformed many

areas of the country and seemed to threaten American values. The result

was an electoral disaster, as many northern Democrats, seeking to punish

their leaders and willing to throw aside their party, joined the emerging

Republicans. These defections cost the party a large part of its northern

support and enhanced the power of the southern wing within party councils

in the late 1850s.



Increased southern demands for the protection of slavery and the

resistance to it by northern Democrats (out of fear of even further party

collapse) caused a split in 1860. This enabled the Republicans under

Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency. The party?s problems were

compounded during the Civil War that followed. Remaining consistent,

Democrats refused to accept the need to increase government power in

order to fight the war. They opposed the draft, social changes, and

government encroachment into everyday life. They strongly resisted

Republican tariff and taxation policies to finance the war. All of this,

however, put them on the defensive. The Republicans charged them with

disloyalty and made it an effective campaign slogan for the rest of the 19th

century. This tactic, known as “waving the bloody shirt,” always hurt the

Democrats in close elections until powerful emotional memories faded. They

did not regain control of either house of Congress until 1874 and did not

win the presidency again until 1884.

Democrats won many local and state elections after 1860 and threatened

the Republicans in others. They made especially effective use of the race

issue in the North, taking advantage of white hostility to blacks. At the

same time, the South became an increasingly solid Democratic voting bloc.

Neither was enough, however, and party leaders never found the means to

attract enough new voters or to convert enough Republicans to win national

power in the generation after the Civil War. Between then and the Great

Depression the Democrats were the minority party in the nation, able to

win only when the Republicans were badly split.


Factionalism had always existed among Democrats, as different regional,

social, and economic groups maneuvered to define the party?s stance and

candidates; sometimes, as in the realignment of the 1850s, such

factionalism cost the party dearly. Late in the 19th century, however, it got

entirely out of hand, as three groups fought for control in an increasingly

harsh atmosphere. One bloc comprised the traditional Democrats behind

New York?s Grover Cleveland, who was president from 1885 to 1889 and

from 1893 to 1897. Strong in their memories of Jackson and the Civil War,

they still espoused the conventional policies of limited government

activities. A second group consisted of the urban political machines, which

won the support of immigrants by helping them to adjust to conditions in a

new country. A third faction was made up of restive groups in the South

and West, reacting against the new industrial and centralized economy.

Angry farmers and small-town entrepreneurs, feeling badly squeezed by the

new economic forces, wanted a shift of Democratic policies toward more

vigorous government intervention in their behalf. They were strongly

resisted by the traditionalists who ignored, were complacent about, or

sometimes cooperated with the new forces the agrarians detested. The

urban political machines remained at arm?s length from both, feeling

estranged from their values and outlook. In the 1890s the storm broke. The

cautious and traditional reaction of Cleveland?s second administration to the

depression after 1893, its hostility to unions and strikes, and its harsh

attitudes toward the machines on behalf of civil service reform provoked a

revolt by Democratic voters in the South and West. They found in William

Jennings Bryan a presidential candidate who overthrew the Cleveland wing

in 1896 and dominated the party for a decade afterward. It did them little

good, however. Bryan, although supported by the dissident People?s Party,

was abandoned by many traditional and urban Democrats, who opposed his

program and stance, and he was defeated by the Republican William



the beginning of the 20th century the Democrats? minority position among

voters remained central to their existence. The Progressive split in

Republican ranks helped elect Woodrow Wilson twice, but the entry of the

United States into World War I ended that. The war, popular at first,

backfired against the Wilson administration when large numbers of

German-Americans and Irish-Americans protested with their votes against

U.S. involvement on England?s side. The result was another Republican

landslide in 1920, and for the rest of the decade the Democrats remained

beset by a new outburst of factionalism. The national convention in 1924

was raucously stalemated between the urban-ethnic wing and the older

Bryanite-southern groups. The 1928 nomination of the Irish Catholic Al

Smith broke the solid South, part of which went Republican for the first

time ever in reaction to the social and cultural values that Smith

represented in the eyes of the defecting group.


In the mid-20th century the basic character of the Democratic appeal began

to change, first slowly and then rapidly. In the 1930s and ?40s the

Democrats became a party of vigorous government intervention in the

economy and in the social realm, willing to regulate and redistribute wealth

and to protect those least able to help themselves in an increasingly

complex society. The urban political machines had brought to the party a

commitment to social welfare legislation in order to help their immigrant

constitutents. At first resisted by southern Democrats and the other

limited-government advocates of the party?s traditional wing, the new look

began to win out in the late 1920s. The depression after 1929 and the

coming to power of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his New Deal, solidified and

expanded this new commitment.

Increasingly, under Democratic leadership, the government expanded its

role in social welfare and economic regulation. Given the economic

situation, this proved to be electorally attractive. Traditional Democrats

surged to the polls, new voters joined, and the party won over groups, such

as the blacks, who had been Republicans for generations?at first haltingly,

then enthusiastically and overwhelmingly. The result was the New Deal

coalition that dominated the country for more than 30 years. More people

than ever before identified themselves as Democrats. Roosevelt became an

even more powerful symbol than Jackson had been, winning four

successive terms. In addition, Roosevelt?s New Deal coalition of southern

populists and northern liberals laid the base for the Democrats to control

Congress in all but four of the 48 years between 1933 and 1981. Despite

defections on the left and right, President Harry Truman won reelection in

1948 running on the New Deal record. Although the war hero Dwight D.

Eisenhower easily won the presidency in 1952 and 1956, the Democrats ran

Congress for six of his eight years in office.


The Democrats regained the White House with the election of John F.

Kennedy in 1960 and passed much vigorous legislation, culminating in the

Great Society policies of President Lyndon Johnson. These continued and

expanded New Deal social commitments, this time to encompass civil rights

and to aid minorities and the unorganized. As the party solidified its support

among blacks, however, it lost southern whites and northern labor and

ethnic voters. The country prospered, but conflicts over social and military

policy intensified.

The Vietnam War (1959-1975) provoked many within the party to challenge

it on its anti-Communist foreign policy, which had directly led to

involvement in Vietnam. At the same time, the revolt of the young against

the draft and on matters of personal behavior and discipline contributed to

a strong challenge to party norms and regular patterns of doing business.

The clumsy reactions of party leaders and the Chicago police culminated in

street battles between groups of protesters and police units during the

Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. People within the party

who tried to come to terms with the new forces of peace and individual

liberty lost in 1968 but were able to seize control of the party in 1972. New

nominating rules, inspired by the restlessness within the party, and the

weakening power of its leaders after 1968 led to the nomination of George

McGovern. His campaign ended in overwhelming defeat, but the party

bounced back after the excesses of Watergate and the tapering off of the

fervor induced by the war.

The nomination of a southerner, Jimmy Carter, in 1976 brought the solid

South back into the Democratic camp for the first time since 1944, but only

temporarily. The clash of social values, on one hand, and changing

economic issues, on the other, shifted the center of gravity within the party

and continued to drive many away. Issues such as inflation divided the

party badly. Political parties in general were in decline, as fewer voters

remained loyal to them or accepted their dictates.

Landslide victories by Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan over

Carter in 1980 and Walter Mondale in 1984 further wounded the

Democrats, but the party rebounded in 1986 to take control of the U.S.

Senate, which had been in Republican hands for six years. The Democrats

entered the fall 1988 presidential campaign more unified than at any time

since 1976 but were unable to overcome the portrayal of their nominee,

Michael Dukakis, as “out of the mainstream” on social, economic, and

defense issues; Republican George Bush won the election. However, the

Democrats did increase their Senate, House, gubernatorial, and state

legislative majorities in the 1988 elections.

In 1992 the Democratic Party recaptured the presidency after 12 years

when Bill Clinton won the election. Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore,

pledged to improve the economy, which had been depressed during much

of Bush?s presidency. Although Clinton was successful in revitalizing the

economy, the Democrats lost their majority in Congress in the 1994


Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time in

over 40 years after the 1994 elections. The Democratic president and the

Republican Congress often had trouble agreeing on legislation. The

Republican Congress passed bills for welfare reform and tax cuts which

were both vetoed by President Clinton. In addition, the federal government

had two partial shutdowns when the Republicans and Democrats could not

agree on a federal budget for the 1996 fiscal year.

In 1996 President Clinton and Vice President Gore were reelected. However,

Republicans retained their control of Congress. In the spring of 1997 Clinton

and Congress announced that they had agreed on a federal budget plan to

eliminate the deficit in five years. However, disagreements about the details

of the plan arose between Congress and the president, raising questions

about whether it would be passed.

In 1997 the Democratic Party came under scrutiny for illegal campaign

contributions and fundraising practices. At issue were allegations that the

Democratic Party had collected contributions from foreign companies and

individuals, who under campaign finance rules are not allowed to contribute

money to political campaigns. There were also questions about whether

Clinton tried to raise funds by holding coffee groups and allowing donors to

spend the night in the White House. Committees formed by both houses of

Congress began to investigate if the Democratic Party had accepted illegal

campaign contributions and whether these contributions were used as a

way for people to gain access to the president. In addition, the Department

of Justice began an investigation but refused to appoint an independent

council, claiming no conflict of interest.

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