The Question of American Democracy

Democracy. We Americans hear a lot about it. We were founded on its principles, we have it, soldiers defend it, and we spread it. But are any of these four ideas, so readily taken for granted, actually true?

For starters, our land of liberty started off with only a white male minority being represented in the government. Besides this, our electoral college was made specifically to suppress the votes of the lower class and uneducated majority (their ideas were seen as potential dilution to republican ideology and, of course, the people that had the power wanted to keep it), so even poor white males were underrepresented. Today, our system continues to be republican, meaning indirect representation. The argument is that because people’s voices are represented by their elected officials in a republic, the process is still democratic in character. In truth however, representatives have their own motivations, often financial or power-related, and this will be reflected on the ballot. Individuals cannot represent communities. And yet, the government seems to think some individuals cannot represent themselves either: millions of incarcerated and paroled citizens are disenfranchised, thus usually politically voiceless. Corporate lobbyism, such as those ranging from our food diagrams to our industrial prison systems, can be arguably seen as the real authority.

Yes, we say soldiers defend our nation and liberty. Yet, killing half a million Afghans and Iraqis did not secure our nation; the idea that this much blood must be shed for an ideology reveals the violent (dare I say militant) nature of America, and how dangerous it is to justify the unjustifiable. It also puts the lives of brown people in direct opposition to American ideals; America has always perpetuated a dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, whether it be democracy and communism, or the West and Islam. Because of these ideas, we forget that our warzone is still the home of other humans that are also in possession of inalienable rights, whether or not those rights are protected by the same constitution that protects us.

As far as “spreading democracy” goes, it’s propaganda meant to obscure the truth of American imperialism to both domestic and international audiences (although this is becoming more difficult). We weaponize it as adequate justification for invading and meddling in dozens of primarily brown countries (the Middle East and Latin America, which are not coincidentally oil rich areas); we use the word democracy as we install puppet leadership, junta organized governments, monarchies, and dictators- whoever will listen to us, whatever will make other nations dependent on us, or at least reduce their threat to our regional/economic domination. Policy-makers use this vulnerable excuse even as they (often through the CIA) overthrow democratically elected governments, such as the Mossadegh government of Iran and the Arevalo government of Guatemala (both coups directed in the early 50’s). When we say “in the interest of democracy”, we don’t mean more than in the interest of ourselves. It is classic American exceptionalism- equating this value and ideology as a whole to our country and its interests. Democracy means compliance with the American empire.