said by Steve B:
We're actually a constitutional republic.
That always seems like a distinction without point.
The implication of those who make the distinction is that we're a nation of laws, not pure democracy. But, laws are a result of democracy. A republic (through its constitution, which is a set of laws) makes it more difficult for the "mob" to change the law. But, that's simply the application of the will of an earlier "mob."
The more meaningful distinction of a republic comes from the political theory of Civic Republicanism (Aristotle, Cicero, Harrington, Machiavelli, Rousseau). It describes the quality of the citizen, the state, and how the two are dependent upon each other to maintain that quality through the forced (coercion) participation of citizens by the state -- and the citizens' self-sufficiency to resist unvirtuous government by returning to their lands, not needing to be dependent upon government.
Therefore, the quality of laws (and the validity of the "mob's" assent to them) was dependent upon the "virtue" of both the citizen and the state. And, perhaps more importantly, the virtue of the "mob" generations past who enacted laws binding a future generation.
Speaking less abstractly, that system which depended upon virtuous citizens was based largely upon "never ending frontiers" to supply the land to agrarian citizens who could be self sufficient. Clearly that wasn't sustainable.
Also, Civic Republicanism dependended upon self-sufficient citizens who were unspecialized and could participate in government (jury, militia and hold office). Since we've become a specialized, non-agrarian society, the vast majority of citizens spend their lives working for others in a specialized trade.
Advocates of Civic Republicanism would call such citizens "palsied." Not capable of the virtue that a republic is dependent upon.
Considering that reality, we're nothing more than a representative democracy with throwbacks to republicanism.
That may seem like a minor difference. To most it is, because they see a "republic" as nothing more than a democracy bounded by a constitution. But, that definition implies that the law is more important than the will of the majority. Which, if you dig deeper, gets into *why*. The reason the law was more important than simple majoritarianism stemmed from the origin of a republic (the political institutions and emphasis upon the citizens who were expected to animate them).
Since we've lost that origin, "republic" has been largely redefined by those who use the term today as if there's a significant difference between republic and democracy. Historically, there was a difference. Today, there's not.
Today, a "republic" is equivalent to "representative and constitutional democracy."
A system where we delegate our will to others to exercise for us. But, those representatives pander to majoritarianism in ways that true republicanism would say is contrary to a republic.
And, a system that is bound by the laws (constitution) of a previous pandered-to majority.
So, the point is, when people use the word "republic" like it signifies something, they are ignoring that in theory it means something. But, in reality it hasn't meant anything for well over 100 years. And, it couldn't because the theory didn't anticipate a modern, non-agrarian, specialized society.