Assaults on the England language/"republican" v. "democracy"
RJLipkin at aol.com
RJLipkin at aol.com
Fri Jul 22 05:32:07 PDT 2005
In a message dated 7/22/2005 3:21:54 AM Eastern Standard Time,
Mark.Scarberry at pepperdine.edu writes:
Put another way, Republicans believe they have at least as good a claim as
Democrats to being committed to democratic principles; given their view that
Democrats wish to use nondemocratic courts to overturn democratic decisions
on matters such as abortion and gay marriage, Republicans see themselves as
more democratic than Democrats.
Mark is on to something that transcends this thread and probably should be
discussed on the ConlawProf List. In my view, the terms "democratic" and
"democracy" have replaced the term "republican" in popular culture, and even in
the use of pretty sophisticated statespersons, politicians,
constitutionalists, and jurists. Most of the features of republican theory--such as,
representative democracy, the common good, civic virtue, and so forth--have been
absorbed by the term "democracy." Indeed, I would venture a guess that the use of
"republican," save for occasional use on radio talk shows, is reserved, of
course only for the most part, to political philosophy. Thus, when people talk
about self-rule or self-government, they usually think of democracy not
republicanism. One continued use--a tedious one in my view--still appears in
discussions of the countermajoritarian problem or when indicting the Court for
being antidemocratic. Accusing the courts of being countermajoritarian or
antidemocratic is met with the predictable refrain "The Constitution creates a
republic not a democracy." In my view, this distinction, or shall I say this
dichotomy, is typically a conversation-stopper, and forestalls the pursuit of
the best theory of democracy. I suspect that this point, regrettably, is still
controversial; but in my view it should not be.
Strictly speaking, few commentators advocate pure majoritarianism or
even pure direct
democracy. Thus, I would think "republicanism" should be granted a
well-deserved retirement. All the distinctions and points that some think can only be
articulated by using "republican" can be made through the capacious tent of
"democracy," and that's where they should be made.
Robert Justin Lipkin
Professor of Law
Widener University School of Law
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