Constitutional FAQ Answer #76
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Q76. "Is the United States a constitutional
republic? Is one of the purposes of a constitutional republic to protect the
rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority?"
A. The United States is a federal republic and a constitutional
The "federal" part is one of three basic types of organization of power
— unitary, confederal, and federal. Most nations are unitary in nature
(local government with a powerful national government). There are no
confederacies that I know of at this time (the U.S., under the Articles of
Confederation was one; Germany and Switzerland have also had confederate
systems in the past). Federal systems are common among large nations where
several levels of government are needed. Australia, Canada, and Brazil are
federal as well. Federations do not always work, such as in the case of the
United Arab Republic.
The "republic" implies that we have a strong head of state (the President)
and elected officials representing the people.
The "constitutional" part means that we have a constitution, which is pretty
obvious, considering this site. Finally, the "representative democracy" part
means that the people elect representatives to take care of legislative
matters. Originally, the only part of the government that fit this description
was the House of Representatives. Today, the Senate does, too, and in current
practice, so does the Electoral College.
The mere fact that a nation has a constitution, is a federation, or is a
republic, does not imply that minorities are fairly treated. It is the content
of that constitution, and the values of that federation and/or republic that
protects the rights of minorities.
Note that a democracy, in the true sense of the word, does not protect the
minority — majority rules.