Chris Ware's "Last Days"cover for The New Yorker

Originally published at:


Somehow this screams of the Bradbury short-story (The Illustrated Man compendium 1951) “The Last Night of the World”. Stealing a summary from here

The main theme is the acceptance of death: everyone seems to know the end of the world is coming, and have chosen not to fight this. The reason for this worldwide death is not made clear, lending the story an air of modern-day fable. Perhaps most interesting thematically is the decision for the couple to simply spend their last night as they would every other night. There is a comfort in routine: the decision to not deviate from previous behavior may be seen as a noble choice… but it also indicates one reason why death is coming. That is, the story may also be read as the life-draining nature of too much routine, of leading a basically mechanized life of fixed schedules and expectations, a lifestyle that leaves one “dead inside”. Such neutrality has political consequences as well, allowing other nations to commit evil acts which were perhaps another reason why the world ends.


This cover and title depressed me. Not because it isn’t good, because it is good.


Was this “We don’t actually live in a democracy but a republic” a regional educational thing or maybe it was taught during specific years? I see people spouting this nonsense all the time and I wonder who was teaching it and when. It is something I see conservatives use as part of their arguments sometimes to indicate, what?, that maybe black people should still not be allowed to vote? something like that? It bugs me.


The bones of the US government are a republic; democracy exists inside those bones. It’s not a pure democracy. You might call it a democracy within a republic or a democracy ‘constrained’ by a republic.


You’re on the right track, but generally, I find that people who make this argument, especially if they’re arguing in favor of being a republic, want the right people to have their votes count, whether that’s about race, or education, or wealth, or whatever. They like outdated concepts like the Electoral College because it keeps the vote away from the poor, stupid people who don’t know what’s good for them, and would make terrible decisions if they ever got the chance to participate in a direct democracy. I’m not sure Chris Ware is one of these, mostly he just misses the point in favor of entertaining white people. Then again, The New Yorker, so…


But that makes no sense. Democracy and republic are not opposites. A republic is any state not ruled by a royal dynasty, a democracy is a state ruled by the people (usually through elected representatives).

A country can be a democracy but not a republic (the UK (-ish), Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, etc), a republic but not a democracy (any dictatorship, let’s say Belarus as an example), neither a democracy nor a republic (those are become rarer, Saudi Arabia is an example) or both a democracy and a republic (the US, as a flawed democracy, fall under that, but also many other countries).

I have never understood where this misconception came from either and why American right wingers were so insistent on it. Until one day a commenter in another forum broke it down for me: I hadn’t been thinking stupidly enough. The reason Republicans insist on it being a republic is in the name: they think it being a republic would favour Republicans as the natural ruling class and a democracy Democrats.

That’s really all there is to it. Simple, flawed pattern matching.


Well, as always if we get to define what things mean to suit our point of view, debate becomes meaningless.

I don’t believe anyone here has said the two are opposites.

The distinction usually made is that the US is not a pure democracy, but a representative one. The overall framework is that of a federal republic. This is well-summarized in this post’s bullet points.

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Yeah, made up. It’s not like those are the literal dictionary definitions or anything.

Definition of republic

1a(1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president

(2) : a political unit (such as a nation) having such a form of government

Definition of democracy

1a : government by the people especially : rule of the majority

b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

2 : a political unit that has a democratic government


I don’t get what ‘misconception’ you think I expressed. Yes, the US is a republic and a democracy. No one here has said otherwise, or that the two notions are opposed. It isn’t only Republicans who insist that the US a republic – it is a republic. There’s no dichotomy. We can debate as to the degree that the structure of our republic militates against pure democracy, but that is how the nation is constructed.

Sure, there are people who are so virulently anti-Republican that they can’t even allow the word ‘republic’ to figure in their view of the US. I hope that doesn’t color the conversation here.

Huh? I said above that the US is both a democracy and a republic.

The misconception is that the US is, your words, “not a pure democracy” because it is a republic. That makes no sense to me. As I laid out above the two concepts are entirely independent of each other. It’s like saying my kitchen table is not a pure table because it’s made from wood. Both statements are true, it’s a table and it’s made from wood but they have no correlation. There are tables that aren’t made from wood and wooden objects that aren’t tables. It just so happens that my table is both, just as it just so happens that the US is both a democracy and a republic, without the one trait influencing the other. It’s not a democracy within a republic or a democracy constrained by a republic any more than my table is a table within a wooden object or constrained by a wooden object.


Those yearning for a republic that doesn’t bother with democracy may emigrate to China, North Korea, and similar republics.


I’m a few (30?) years removed from 8th grade but I’ve always recalled it as democratic republic. We elect our politicians (directly, and indirectly through electoral college), but we don’t propose or vote on every bill or law; they generally do.


And this is why we’re in the Last Days.

Because the world is dying and the world is burning, and we’re quibbling about the difference between a republic and democracy.

Rearranging deck chairs, anyone?


Oh no I think the USA needs to have a good hard think about the difference between their system and a democracy.


So it’s an exoskeleton then? Though I suppose the marrow could be the democracy.

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In my experience, the statement that immediately follows “we’re a republic, not a democracy”, is something including the phrase “tyranny of the majority”, as if that’s something a nationalist living in a center-right quasi-authoritarian theocracy should realistically be afraid of.


It may be possible that the sentiment he expressed is getting a bit lost in the shuffle:

The small-letter versions of these words are supposed to represent everything that we constitutionally revere, right? Not spark the flames of conflict or prompt a lock-and-load.

(Also, holy cats is this is some pure, distilled Oak Park)

I’m wondering how Chris Ware captures so much melancholy in his art and yet keeps making it, as opposed to, I don’t know… Quitting, or giving up, or whatever. Anyway, I’m thankful for his perseverance in showing us that perseverance is pointless. :blush:

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But if you look at places with stronger direct democracy, like California, it is easy to understand the worry that the voters don’t know what’s good for them: special interests can buy whatever law they want via the ballot measure. On the other hand, a republic requires elites who have the best interest of the governed at heart, which seems also to not be the case in the USA right now.

Democracy is hard and requires a smart, strong society to work right. And societies under stress from rapid demographic or climate change are maybe too fragile to do it it right.

Scary thought.