‘Democracy isn’t the objective’: Republican senator criticised for suggesting US isn’t a democracy

Griffin Connolly
·3 min read
Senator Mike Lee, right, with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House in September. (Getty Images)
Senator Mike Lee, right, with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House in September. (Getty Images)

Utah Senator Mike Lee has been criticised on Twitter for a string of recent tweets on democracy, suggesting that it “isn’t the objective” in and of itself.

“Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that,” Mr Lee wrote in a late-night tweet from Utah at 12.24am local time on Thursday.

The tweet was the subject of ample ridicule, both for its message and spelling error.

“Prospefity isn’t possible while we’re still dying of Covfefe,” Star Trek actor and liberal activist George Takei wrote on Twitter.

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and former California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill also hit out at Mr Lee for his tweets.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” Ms Tlaib wrote, quoting Maya Angelou.

“Senator, we believe you. We see you undermining our democracy as Trump refuses to agree to peaceful transition of power. We will never let you steal this election,” she added.

A former US attorney and clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr, Mr Lee has long billed himself as an expert on US constitutional law, using a narrow reading of the governing document as a guide for his political ideology and voting patterns in public life.

Earlier in the night on Wednesday, Mr Lee pushed back on the widely accepted notion that the US is a democracy, which is broadly defined as any system of government in which the people who are governed have the authority to write their own laws and legislation, either themselves or through chosen representatives.

The US, most legal scholars maintain, is a representative democracy.

Of course, some people, like Mr Lee, disagree on the semantics.

“We’re not a democracy,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

He had elaborated on his views in an earlier tweet:

“The word ‘democracy’ appears nowhere in the Constitution, perhaps because our form of government is not a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic. To me it matters. It should matter to anyone who worries about the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few,” the Utah senator wrote.

Mr Lee is one of three Republicans senators battling a Covid-19 diagnosis, which experts believe he contracted at an introductory event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the White House Rose Garden last month.

In pictures of senators and administration officials glad-handing in the Oval Office before and after the event, few were wearing masks.

Mr Lee insisted he and others had tested negative after the event.

The virus can have an incubation period of up to two weeks before it presents itself in someone for a positive test, which is why, since March, scientists and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been advising people to wear masks when in close proximity to each other.