There's one myth about the US government that needs to die immediately because a lot of people actually believe it: that the United States was founded to be a democracy. You hear politicians and pundits talk about it all the time when they reference, "the strength of our democracy," and "spreading democracy," and all that stirring rhetoric.
The United States was not founded to be a democracy. It's a republic (constitutional republic, to be exact), and yes, there's a gigantic difference. Whereas in a republic there is "rule of law," democracy functions through the "will of the majority."
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself." - John Adams
What's the difference? Majority rule over rule of law. Democracies put the collective will over the rights of the individual. In a democracy, 49% of the people could have any of their rights taken away just because the other 51% vote for it.
Instead, we have a republic. We believe that we have rights because we are individuals, not because we belong to the most popular group. Therefore the individual is protected against the majority.
"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." - Patrick Henry
Why? Because according to the Constitution, the Federal Government's only role is governing how the individual states relate to each other and to represent the states in foreign affairs. So you see, the public doesn't actually pick the President because the Federal Government isn't really supposed to have anything to do with our daily lives.
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill
That doesn't mean you can't have mandatory health insurance or gay marriage (health insurance and marriage aren't mentioned anywhere in the constitution, FYI), it just means that it's only constitutional when implemented at the state level.
Above: Alternate spelling of "unconstitutional."
The Federal Government wasn't even originally supposed to be able to tax Americans. The states could, and the Federal Government was supposed to ask for a certain amount of money from each state if it wanted money. Now, we are directly taxed by the Federal Government (and our state governments - yay!).
"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people can take away the rights of the other forty-nine." - Thomas Jefferson
Unfortunately, we've ignored our Constitution time and time again and the result is an out of control Federal Government, which is controlled mostly by an out of control executive branch. In the goal of establishing democracy or collective rule, the statists in our country have destroyed the checks and balances in our system meant to protect us from an overbearing government.