Fascinating Republic vs. Democracy Graph

Someone sent me a link to an article yesterday where someone had used a feature on Google to crunch numbers on the amount of times the words “republic” and “democracy” appear in print. The word republic is in red and democracy in blue. Note that the crossover happened during the progressive movement when the socialists were changing their line of attack on the constitution. You can read some of that history from this chapter on republics from the 5,000 Year Leap.


Democracy or republic? An n-gram

Here’s a link to the article this chart comes from.


My daughter is actually studying the progressive era in her history class right now and I didn’t realize that initiatives, referendums, and recalls came out of that movement. These 3 items were designed by progressives to bypass constitutional government and begin to introduce direct democracy to the nation (ie. the kind the Framers warned us about). Each of these items gives citizens the ability to propose law, pass law, and undo appointments and elections, completely bypassing the normal process and doing it themselves. Thus by states adopting these measures they gave up republican government guaranteed in article 4, section 4 of the constitution. However, by writing them into state law, they are now constitutional at the state level. I would suppose a valid case could be made to overturn an initiative, referendum, or recall, based on them violating the U.S. Constitution since it is the supreme law of the law and trumps state law where it specifically declares something as law such as article 4, section 4 guaranteeing republican government to the states.

6 Responses to “Fascinating Republic vs. Democracy Graph”

  • Jenita:

    I understand and agree that referendum, etc, is wrong, but in California we had to use it to make sensible law because the state gov’t was too busy telling us where to sit our children in the car and how to live our lives. This illustrates why the republic wont work unless we elect good, moral representatives.

  • Anonymous:

    James Madison’s Federalist Paper No 10 is a great political science essay, arguing against “pure” democracy by way of direct democracy.

    As a staunch conservative, I oppose “direct” democracy. Look at California, with their state constitution being a mess. No referendum, no recall, no initiative. Leave these issues to the state legislature to follow the course. Direct democracy “experiment” inevitably leads to disaster.

  • Stan:

    There is another element in the political process that is crucial to good government, regardless of its form–The Press. Those that control the press, largely control public opinion. Direct democracy is so dangerous due to the potential for the mob to trample on the rights of groups or individuals made unpopular by The Press. But a republic is not immune either, since so often people blindly rely on cable news (McNews) to form their opinion on what candidates or issues to vote for. And as we’ve seen over the years, many elected officials have been more than willing to disregard the God-given individual rights of others when it benefits those who put them in power (i.e. big campaign contributors). The great advantage of a Republic is based in the Rule of Law when those laws are just and moral (i.e. they don’t favor one group’s civil rights over another’s). Fortunately, I think we have a narrow chance to win back some of our freedoms via websites like this one, where the missing details, information and ideas can be freely presented, widely read and debated. I appreciate Oak allowing other viewpoints to be expressed in the comments section and often enjoy reading the civil debate unfold. What we need is more people to become engaged in the honest debate apart from media outlets controlled by deep pockets AND be willing to consider and vote for candidates who have not raised superfluous campaign funds by selling their soul (and our freedom) to the highest bidder.

  • The_Patriot:

    An alternative explanation to the above graph: The meaning of words change over time.

  • Yes, that’s a nice smooth transition TP. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the documented politics of the day.

  • Jon F:

    @JenZapata, that is what the courts are supposed to be as a check and balance. If the law is deemed unconstitutional by the court, then it must be invalidated. Unfortunately, it takes years to remove one of these bad laws and will only succeed if you get a good judge.

    You are absolutely correct about electing good representatives.