What is Democracy?
Democracy is a method of governance where the basis of power from one or more branches of government stems from eligible citizens who regularly cast votes, equal to all others, to affect the outcome of decisions by majority or plurality.
Methods of Democracy
When only representative democracy is used to govern, we call that government a republic. When only direct democracy is used to govern, we call that government a pure democracy. Even though it’s not often taught this way, the two most accurate terms to describe a government that uses both methods to govern are either a democratic government or a full democracy.
Why I Consider Myself to be a Democrat
Using these terms above, it is easy to see how those who favor a republic form of government could describe themselves as republicans, those who favor a pure democracy form of government could describe themselves as pure democrats, and those who favor a democratic government or a full democracy could describe themselves as democrats. This is why I consider myself to be a democrat. I believe both methods of democracy (representative democracy and all common forms of direct democracy) should be used to govern in all state and most local levels of government. Although I am not in favor of implementing all common forms of direct democracy at the federal level, there are a few I would support.
The five common forms of direct democracy are citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, citizen-initiated statutes, legislatively referred constitutional amendments, legislatively referred statutes, and veto referendums. Among these five, citizen-initiated statutes/constitutional amendments are the two prominent forms as citizens decide both the language of an initiative and whether it passes or fails. Within the last 25 years, citizen-initiated statutes/constitutional amendments that have passed in various states have included the legalizations of medical and recreational marijuana, increases to minimum wage, voter ID requirements, prohibition of eminent domain by the state, independent redistricting, improved voting policies, and term limits for elected officials.
Significance in Understanding the Difference Between a Democrat and Republican
The only real significance I see in understanding the difference between a democrat and a republican involves the justification for those who run for office as a Democrat but who don’t entirely believe in the party’s current ideology. These candidates may be accused of not being real ‘democrats’ by the Democratic Party establishment, but unless the party changes its name to more accurately reflect what it stands for, there isn’t a better party for those who believe in democratic governments than the Democratic Party.
Is the Democratic Party Misnamed?
Of the three main factions within the Democratic Party (liberals, progressives, and left-leaning moderates) none seem all that interested in advancing forms of direct democracy across this country. Instead, they seem quite content with the method that gets them into power, which is representative democracy. It seems more appropriate then to describe these three factions as liberal republicans, progressive republicans, and left-leaning moderate republicans. Liberal, progressive, and moderate based on their ideology, and republican based on the method of governance they seem to prefer. With this in mind, names such as the Left-Leaning Republican Party, the Left-Wing Republican Party, or the Liberal, Progressive, and Left-Leaning Moderate Party all more accurately describe the Democratic Party today.
How I Label Republic States vs. Democratic States
I categorize the type of government each state has similar to how pollsters predict the way states will vote during presidential elections, using the terms strong, lean, and tilt. A representation is as follows:
I consider a state to be democratic if it allows for at least one prominent form of direct democracy. The more forms a state has, the more democratic it is. Conversely, the fewer forms of direct democracy a state has, the closer it is to a true republic. I find it a little ironic that a number of republic states tend to vote for the Democratic Party while many democratic states tend to vote for the Republican Party. How a state governs is one of the few things that isn’t separated along party lines.
Restriction to Direct Democracy
In many states, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment or citizen-initiated statute can only be amended or overturned through the same process. Elected officials often do not have the power to amend or overturn these laws. While I’m not in favor of elected officials immediately overturning an initiative passed by voters, I believe it is too extreme to never allow them to amend or overturn one. Because of this, I am in favor of the following: (1) Giving legislators the power to amend a citizen-initiated statute/ constitutional amendment within the first two years of it passing only if it does not change the intent of the initiative, (2) between the 2nd and 6th year of it passing, give legislators the power to overturn or amend any part of the initiative with a supermajority of 80%, (3) between the 6th and 10th year of it passing, give legislators the power to amend or overturn with a supermajority of 70%, (4) between the 10th and 20th year of it passing, give legislators the power to amend or overturn with a supermajority of 60%, and (5) after the 20th year of it passing, allow legislators to amend or overturn with just a simple majority. At any time though, an initiative could still be amended or overturned if it were to be placed back on the ballot by citizens or legislators.