The term “democracy” comes from the Greek language and means “power of the people.” The issues of democracy have been discussed for several thousand years, but people still have not found the definition of this concept, which everyone would agree with. It can be partly explained by the fact that democracy is constantly evolving and changing. The debate of whether America is a truly democratic country has been going on for a long time till today. Several political decisions from the government and an insufficient election system show that nowadays, the United States is not a democracy.
Democracy is a broad term, and it has many characteristics, such as equality of people in dignity and rights, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and press, equality before the law, and free elections. In a democratic society with fair and free elections, those who have the right to vote can poll for any party and any politicians included in the list of candidates. These parties and politicians will make decisions at the state, regional and local levels. Those, who have more polls, in other words, the majority of votes, can decide more. For example, Achen and Bartels claim that “In the conventional view, democracy begins with voters” (1). Indeed, since ancient times, the foundation of democracy was the desire of the people, in its pure form, not distorted or used in any way. The use of public ideas and desires for the purpose of one’s own political gain is not democracy but only an imitation of it.
In point of fact, some political decisions in the history of the USA authorities do not correspond to the policy of developing the democracy. However, it is difficult to disagree with the fact that the United States has been seeking democracy for many years, if not from the moment of independence of the country. Whether they succeed or not is a subtle and multifaceted question, which is hard to answer at once. The reason is that the very term “democracy” is multi-level and manifests itself in many aspects. But some political decisions contradict the basic principles of democracy as they violate its main idea – the power of the people. For example, Vieth ruling has affected the concept of democracy in a negative way, giving state authorities more possibilities to manipulate elections (McGann et al. 190). Roughly speaking, such a ruling denies that gerrymandering, in other words, electoral fraud, is unconstitutional. Such actions contributed to unfair voting, but honest elections are one of the main conditions for a country to be called democratic.
Nowadays, democracy in the United States also seems to be threatened because of the strong polarization both in society and in politics. The intense polarization has transformed voting into a stressful process for the people. To vote for an opponent sometimes means refusing many things, such as your usual social circle and beliefs. Consequently, there is some pressure on the public, which contradicts the concept of democracy. Voters divided according to geographic and ideological principles nominate more ideologized candidates, and the Republican and Democratic parties coexist in intense competition. In the past, one party could hold onto Congress for a long time, sometimes for decades, but today every election is important. With such competition and separation, while everyone is in the political struggle and the drive to win, democracy is threatened.
Certainly, it is important to understand that United States polarization does not mean opposition to the political programs of opponents. Most Americans are unanimous on such issues as abortion, immigration, and the Guns Act. The people also have a similar view on democratic governance and modern society. According to World Values Survey, 46% of the respondents want to live in a democratic society, but only 7% consider modern society to be so (Achen and Bartles 8). However, they have increasing feelings of hatred and fear towards opponents and devotion to their parties, virtually independent of their political agendas. Consequently, the desire for separation is based primarily on emotion or on so-called affective polarization. The clear majority party is willing to work with the minority to score as many victories as possible, and every election can decide who controls the Congress. Therefore, none of the parties wants another to take the credit for passing important laws. Political reasons are prioritized, country governance is no longer so important, and disaffected voters are encouraged to blame political opponents. All this leads to a strong division both in politics and in society which contradicts not only the harmonious development of the country but also the principles of democracy.
In fact, not only political decisions and the run for office show that democracy in the United States is under threat. Some data and statistics send the message that the authorities should change something in their strategies; otherwise, the power of the people will never be a priority aspect in the country’s politics. There are some barriers to voting for the people, which are provoked by difficulties with the insurance system. Thus, Asian, Non-Hispanic Black, young, and those who are from low household income backgrounds do not have a simple and fast way to be insured and, consequently, to vote (Pabayo 2). This situation is explained by the bureaucratic chains and difficulties provoked by some parts of the United States legislation. This complexity and confusion obviously are not conducive to the development and prosperity of democracy.
The electoral system in the United States is complex and confusing, moreover, even the US Constitution delegates the right to choose the electoral formation procedure that seems to the state the most acceptable. By the way, the coronavirus pandemic, because of which a huge number of people voted remotely, revealed these shortcomings. All of this leads to the complication and even impossibility of the development of democracy. As has been already mentioned, the main principle of democracy is the rule of the people. Today this is possible through fair and transparent elections, as well as by providing the people with freedom in all its manifestations. But elections are a very important component, because thanks to them, it is the people who decide certain important issues, that is, they reveal their will. It is very important to make this process as honest, open, and easily as possible, which might not be so today.
As a result, one has some pieces of evidence that the structure of the development of democracy in the United States today is not successful. Some political decisions directly contradict the foundations of democracy, and an improper election system testifies to the slow destruction of the country’s democratic foundation. Among these are also the inability to combat the polarization of the country, and contradictory political decisions, such as the Vieth ruling as well. In addition, the great problem today is the difficulties that people face to vote freely. These factors make the very system of democracy incapable of development and even call into question the fact of the country’s democracy.
Achen, Christopher, and Larry Bartels. Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. Princeton University Press, 2017.
McGann, Anthony, et al. Gerrymandering, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Revolution of 2004. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Pabayo, Roman. “Barriers to Voting and Access to Health Insurance Among US Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study”. The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, 2021. ScienceDirect. Web.