Is the United States a Democracy?
Democracy is an in-progress process. Historical practices do not show patented forms of democracy applicable to all polities. The popular conception of and discourse on democracy as rule of people – a conception descending from Ancient Greek – is becoming less of an applicable principle and more of an ideal. This principle, moreover, gains more credibility in less diverse countries in which vested interests are less complicated and overlapping than in more diverse – particularly immigrant – ones. More pragmatic benchmark principles could, instead, be adopted in order to judge whether a polity is a democracy or not. The United States emerge as exemplary of a diverse country whose sub-polities appear to require as broad benchmark principles as possible in order to judge for her democracy. Three benchmark, characteristic principles of democracy emerge in modern political practices across diverse polities: Political equality, majority rule and human rights protections. This paper, hence, aims to respond to whether the US is a democracy or not based on principles of political equality, majority rule and human rights protections.
The political equality principle refers, ideally, to equal authority to vote on every legislation and policy of concerned polity. This is a broad principle which been adopted by countries of all polity formations. The principle enjoys greater flexibilities in applications in polities of more homogeneous formations and less minority groups. The case for democracy based on political equality in more diverse polities, however, is controversial. The United States epitomizes an ideal analysis model.
The question of power sharing and/or distribution in a specific polity in order to attain political equality is further complicated in the United States context. Not only is equal authority for all citizens to vote on every legislation and policy of a polity fully attainable but also not fully explicable across all sub-polities in a diverse polity such as the United States. Economic and social – and hence political – developments in the Unites States in last decades have ushered in unprecedented questions of political equality in modern history. From a semi-hierarchical, manufacturing-based polity into a service-based economy, emerging new sub-polity formations subvert older ones. Concentration of wealth – and hence power – based on very dynamic, economic forces in a service-based – and, further into wealth's inner circle, knowledge-based – economy has shifted gears from equal political, semi-qualifiable and quantifiable rights into a state of political practices by which political equality has become unscalable. This has been further exacerbated by cross-border corporations whose political campaign funding, for example, does not only set broad political interests by proxy via funded delegates and not by actual representation via elections based on free will for state and federal stakeholders. The economic brand and political influence are intertwined. The overarching United States polity is re-organized in order to subsume – not embrace – working sub-polities. The expression of "working people" is, further, becoming hardly indicative of a sub-polity represented by actual groups and/or lobbies when power concentrations exist and political decisions are increasingly made in C-suites. Political equality is not equity in the United States.
As well, majority rule is brought into question in the United States in light of demographic changes and immigration policies. Traditionally, majority rule refers to a decision made by a sub-polity and/or a group of sub-polities who form a 50- percent-plus- vote majority in a voting process. This is, of course, a straightforward designation which only fades away in a multiethnic, minority-based polity such as the United States. Given demographic changes in recent decades in the United States, a conventional white majority barely represents an actual majority against increasing populations of non-white minorities. The growing number of home-born and foreign born minorities is brining majority rule into question.
The case for majority rule has legal implications as well. For, not only are growing minorities changing demographic realties each in different states, but state legislature is facing increasing pressures as to how strike a balance between local, state and federal majorities in local, state and national elections. The typical Red-Blue duality at state and national levels is becoming more of an elitist race of political power exercise than for a majority representation in state and national chambers. The United States political landscape is, hence, one of a myriad of fragmented sub-polities without a representative majority body against increasingly fewer, consolidated sub-polities representing corporate interests and elitist political lobbies each with a representative majority.
The majority rule principle is, moreover, not limited to national borders. Given the United States expanding interests beyond borders and rapidly changing demographics, majority rule is becoming an internationalized principle by which few national sub-polities – particularly ones associated with cross-border corporations – are exercising political powers in domains outside direct constituency and hence makes national interests a question wide opened.
Finally, human rights protections is one cardinal, benchmark principle which should be applied in order to judge on whether the United States is a democracy or not.
The United States Declaration of Independence refers to "inalienable rights" as basic human rights derived from equality of all humans. Therefore, according to the United States Law, human rights are natural rights that are protected by law. Politically, however, racial discrimination against specific minorities and foreign-born citizens in campus admission cases and at workplace is one example of how human rights principle is applicable in the United States.
The gender pay gap is another example of power politics at play at workplace. Not only are women of different educational and social backgrounds discriminated against, notwithstanding same duties and working hours, at workplace, but also continue to incur imbalances in pay and workplace rights for reasons based on sex. The gender pay gap is, in fact, exemplary of both unmet human rights and political equality (manifested in corporate executive power) principles.
The changing demographics in the United States further complicate human rights protections principle in the United States. The present cultural fault lines across the United States, in fact, bring into question human rights protections whose basic frames were drawn more than two centuries ago and hence increasingly drifting away from present understandings of human rights among diverse cultural groups in the United States.