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The Relationship Between Democracy and the US Government

Robert Dimuro

Posted on August 18, 2019 14:54

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Is democracy what makes America great?

It's not uncommon for intellectuals or politicians to talk about how important democracy is for ensuring our nation's freedom. Indeed, the right of citizens to vote is a crucial element of a free and healthy society; however, the fact that a nation is a "democracy" has little to do with how that nation is governed and where power is concentrated. More context is needed to assess not only how vital democracy is to our system of government but also whether America is, in fact, a democracy.

Even a marginal understanding of history makes clear that democracy is not very indicative of how free a nation is. If a democracy can lead to the rise of Hitler, it can lead to anything at all. This is why the neoconservative effort to establish democracies around the world is a complete waste of time. The attempt to rebrand Iraq as a democracy is a great example of this failure.

The reason for this failure is that a democracy can't function properly without a supporting value system. Before a democracy can be established, the people need to embrace the notion of self-governance and truly understand what that means in practice - it means being educated about and engaged in the nation's political process.

Without this understanding or desire, elections were established for the first time in nations, such as Belarus, that were recently freed from the clutches of the Soviet Union, only to see the election of a strongman that tacitly holds power for life and governs a totalitarian regime similar to that of the USSR.

Democracy also cannot function without formal limitations on what a democratically elected government can do and specifications on how that government should be structured. In this light, the American people need to understand the importance of our Constitution in that it establishes America as a democratic republic and not a pure democracy. 

The Constitution establishes a system in which we elect representatives who pass legislation on our behalf. In this way, no one man or entity can seize power and rule as a tyrant, even with the direct election of presidents and US senators.

However, how well are the people represented in this system today? How much power does the people's vote actually wield? Our ability to elect candidates that represent our views are funneled into two major parties, which themselves have a responsibility to their donors in upholding their interests.

It wouldn't be a stretch to view our entire election system, especially at the Federal level, as giving voters the illusion of self-governance while the "powers that be" actually pull the strings. In this sense, America is currently more of a plutocracy or an oligarchy than a democracy or a republic.

In the end, it should be clear that democracy is not what makes America the uniquely great nation envisioned by its founders. America is great because it's a constitutional republic that was created to protect individual rights and distribute power evenly through elected representatives.


 

Robert Dimuro

Posted on August 18, 2019 14:54

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Source: ABQJournal

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