America is Not a Democracy





America is Not a Democracy

The United States is often seen by many other countries as a model for democracy. The country is seen to have functional and effective forms of government that other nations aspire to emulate. The US has intervened when countries face political turmoil to ensure that democracy is implemented. However, over the past few years, this perfect image of the American government has slowly been unraveling. The United States system of government has started to lean more towards the oppression of minorities rather than equality. The 2020 presidential election and the events surrounding it called into question the state of American democracy. Many have argued that the US is not really a democracy; rather, it should be described as a republic. With such a large population, it is almost impossible to subscribe to direct democracy in government. In examining the American system of government, the major areas of consideration include the definition of democracy vs. republic, the Electoral College, intentions of the founding fathers, and the country’s history with racism and discrimination.

To understand the status of American democracy, it is important first to define the term democracy. “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally -either directly or through elected representatives – in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.” On the other hand, a republic involves the people vesting their power in elected representatives who advocate for their interests in various levels of government. From these two definitions, it is clear that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. One major difference between the two is that a democracy only works over a small area while a republic can extend over a larger region. The United States works best as a democracy due to its large area and high population.

The Electoral College is another major reason why the United States cannot be described as a democracy. Most countries with democratic systems of government implement the one man, one rule system. Each individual vote counts equally in this system, meaning that the elected official with the highest votes is the obvious winner. In the US, things are quite different when it comes to presidential elections. Every state is given a specific number of electors, who then vote on who becomes president. A presidential candidate may win the majority of the people’s votes, but if they fail to garner a majority in the Electoral College, they lose. The Electoral College is a major point of contention in defining the US as a democracy.

Over the past few presidential elections, there have been strong objections to the relevance of the Electoral College. In the year 2016, President Donald Trump became president after winning the Electoral College vote but losing the popular vote. He trailed his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by almost three million votes. In the electoral vote, Trump clinched 304 votes while Clinton got 227 (Sides et al. 36). Such a scenario is quite worrying as it suggests that a less popular candidate becomes president although he or she was not the most popular candidate for the job. The definition of a democracy is that all people get equal representation. However, the Electoral College gives more weight to some people’s votes, obliterating the idea that voters have an equal say in elections.

The founding fathers never intended that the United States would be a democracy, which is why it is wrong to define the nation as one. The founding fathers created a system of government with a system of checks and balances that would protect the rights of minorities from being trampled by the majority. The Electoral College is a perfect example of this. The college gives weight to different states so that the president is chosen by all states rather than those with the highest population. However, as the country grew over the centuries, the system of government has given disproportionate power to the minority; today, minority voices use this power to overpower the majority and prevent them from governing. Although the founding fathers did not foresee this occurrence, the Republican Party has taken advantage of their intentions to cripple the government when they so wish. Minority states such as Wyoming now have more power in choosing the president than large ones like California through the Electoral College. One elector from Wyoming represents just under 200,000 people, while one from California represents more than 700,000 people (Lieberman et al. 473). This scenario shows that the people of Wyoming have more say in choosing the president than those from California. From this, it is evident that the US is not a democracy.

The founding fathers’ intention that the three branches of government be moderated by checks and balances is now a thing of the past. The legislature, executive, and judiciary are now in a constant battle of who can outdo the other, eliminating the idea of democracy. The legislature is intended to regulate the powers of the executive, but the executive arm of government has found a way to bypass this. Presidents now use executive orders to pass legislation that they know would be rejected by the legislature. Although this is not ideal, the legislature is also to blame. Congress and the Senate are sharply divided along party lines, meaning that one side rejects ideas from the ruling president based on party lines rather than the merits of the legislation. A perfect example of this tussle between the legislature and executive is the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The bill was proposed by a Democratic President and promoted greater access to healthcare, something that all Americans desire. However, all 178 House Republicans voted against the bill. Similar events have become a norm in the legislative arm of government, forcing presidents to issue executive orders, although sometimes not in the best interests of the people. This situation indicates that leaders do not care to represent the needs of the electorate; rather, they prioritize party lines.

When the founding fathers wrote the constitution in the 18th century, they never intended to make women and black slaves equal members of the new nation. This racist and discriminatory history disqualifies the United States from being a democracy. At the time, only white males were seen as the rightful citizens of the country. In the coming years, the passing of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments secured the rights of all people born in the US as citizens, allowing them the rights and privileges that came with citizenship (Perea 13). However, today, minorities in the country still face racial discrimination. Georgia’s new voting laws, the Election Integrity Act, are seen as targeting voters of color to make voting harder for them. The Republican Party lost the state in the 2020 election largely due to minority groups who voted Democrat. The Republicans seek to make voting harder with measures such as fewer drop-boxes, strict voter ID laws, and making voting more cumbersome in highly populated areas traditionally occupied by African-Americans. When the voting laws keep targeting a minority group, there is no way that the US is a democracy.

In summary, although many people would define the United States as a democracy, multiple points dispute this idea. These include the Electoral College, the intentions of the founding fathers, the discriminatory history of the country, and the definition of the terms republic vs. democracy. The US usually takes much interest in other countries’ political affairs, especially in countries it deems undemocratic. However, given the US’ history and recent events, the country is no longer a model for democracy. The country should work towards equality and fairness in government rather than the oppressive direction the country has taken in recent years.

Works Cited

Lieberman, Robert C., et al. “The Trump presidency and American democracy: a historical and comparative analysis.” Perspectives on Politics 17.2 (2019): 470-479.

Perea, Juan F. “Echoes of Slavery II: How Slavery’s Legacy Distorts Democracy.” UCDL Rev. 51 (2017): 1081.

Sides, John, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck. “The 2016 US election: How Trump lost and won.” Journal of Democracy 28.2 (2017): 34-44.