Is American Democracy simply a facade?

Lucas McCartney asks - is Freedom, Liberty and Security all it's cracked up to be?

The American Dream, which has been a long standing tradition within the American mind set, is slowly being worn away from underneath the people’s noses. Essentially, the declaration that ‘all men are equal’ is no longer a paramount part of America’s history. Since the beginning of the 20th century, America has over come many boundaries, be it race, gender and political barriers. But with these accomplishments the American dream of prosperity, happiness and social mobility is now only limited to a select few people. These values are being undermined by the wealthy and the governments support for the latter, thus undermining the very foundations that American democracy was founded upon.

First and foremost it is most important to note that, social mobility is no longer a viable idea for the population of America. There is a deeper division between the rich and the poor in America than ever before. The vast amount of money earned by individuals in America is owned by the top 1% of the wealthy elite. Money in America allows many individuals to pork barrel their way into the eyes and ears of congressmen and senators, allowing for legislation to be produced and influenced. Meaning that the poorer people in essence are no longer getting their views represented.

It is a modern trend within America for the voice of the elite or a group of people to be heard (interest groups and lobbyists being a prime example) these interest groups are applying greater pressure on governments to represent the needs of the individuals. In fact in the last 3 decades, America’s population has become unionised. This positive representation has allowed many people who would not usually vote to have a voice indirectly within congress, meaning that while they may not vote, they are still being represented, ironically just not by the system and people who are elected to represent them. The “upward mobility of the few has not offset the economic disparities among the many”. APSA

The wealthy elite have set a trend for congress and even past presidents to pass legislation that would help the elite rather than the poor. For instance giving the wealthy elite greater tax breaks and passing legislation that helps big business owners to cut red tape and become even wealthier. America until very recently has not taken part or passed social policy to help poorer people in the nation. In fact its a stark historical trend that since World War 2 & Roosevelt, America has not taken part or passed many bills that are viewed as socialist, due to communism and a unexplainable phobia of socialism within the American system. However President Obama has recently passed legislation that will help at least 40 million people with health care insurance and free health care, hopefully a set trend within his terms of office to create more social policy to help the working class of America which makes up much of the population. The point worth making here is that, American government’s efforts to focus on the rich rather than poor are creating inequalities within the system, socially and economically, undermining the importantance of American democracy and equality.

These inequalities do not just spread from the division of wealth among the people. Racial inequalities have taken a new forefront in American politics in the last two decades. Black and Hispanic citizens are statistically earning less and own less than their white counter-parts. Despite America’s ability to overcome racial discrimination and racial inequality, the vast majority of people think that the gap between the different ethnic groups in America is growing larger, due to the inequalities created due to the dispersion of wealth among the people. The American education system is also suffering due to these barriers. Many schools are becoming more segregated due to this gap in racial and monetary inequalities. The very fact that during the 1960’s and 70’s racial issues were (in theory) supposed to rid America of the race problem has not fully happened. Black & Hispanic people still earn much less than the middle class white people. The ethnic minorities, who do manage to get up to the middle class line, are still earning 20% less than they’re white counterparts.

Statistical data has shown us that citizen participation has also greatly reduced in terms of class and race. It is a clear trend in social inequalities that America has sought to rid themselves of are resurfacing and creating the inequalities on a different scale. Ethnic minorities (while having a large voting turn out for Barrack Obama) have historically, rarely voted perhaps due to alienation or because of economic and social exclusion. Reports have shown that a large percent of white middle class people vote consistently and this trend would show us that wealth and voting (as well as whom you vote for) go hand in hand. This lack of voting for a vast minority of ethnic groups and economically under privileged people creates almost the sense of a democratic deficit within American political voting systems. Obviously the conclusion an academic can come to is that democracy in America is made up of the people who can afford to comfortably live within a system that kneels down and dotes over thosewho can afford to pay, creating a large unrepresented minority. Validating the claim that perhaps American democracy is a facade.

Despite the grievances that many ethnic minorities may face, the US constitution does provide them with the ability to assemble and address their problems to government. So essentially the people have the ability to have their voices heard, they just need to stand up and speak up.

However, one could argue that American democracy is the new golden standard of democracies. Its constitutions and system of checks and balances has allowed it to become a living system able to adopt and manage new changes, peoples and address issues raised that could rise in 10 years or even 100 years into the future. Barrack Obama, is by all regards the best example to show how people have used social mobility to climb the social borders faced by American citizens from all ethnic backgrounds. I believe that it is not perhaps the system in place that has affected many American people (mainly from less wealthy backgrounds) but it is the psychological effect of socialisation that some ethnic groups grow up in. For instance the African Americans & Hispanics who grow up in the projects and ‘ghettos’ are socialised into a life of poverty, while this is a vast generalisation it does make the point that it is not the system that has adversely affected their lives but a collective group of people who have been brought up into a life that is not what the American system is truly designed to represent.

To conclude, American democracy is no less a democratic facade than other democratic systems around the world. No system is perfect and certain people within society will always be unrepresented or alienated within a system that (ideally) should represent everyone. But negatively a democratic deficit is an inevitable outcome of democracy. People are well represented in the American system and protected by a concrete set of rules and regulations that protect the rights, property and liberty of the people within the system, which is paramount. The set backs that many areas of society face in the American political system and others are merely a construction of their own environment. Democracy is a process of consociational progress and inclusion. perhaps all it will take is for the unrepresented or ignored people to unite to have their voices heard within a system that negates the individual. I would be interested to know what you all think, the purpose of this topic is to show that other countries not just America offer a system of democracy that creates inequality and unrepresenation that is truly undemocratic. As Rousseau said “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”