posted on 27 April 2016
Written by Frank Li
If you seek a definition of “American democracy”, different people, Americans included, will give you different answers. Moreover, despite its popularity, Wikipedia has yet to have a specific definition for it.
In this post, I will clearly define the unique version of American democracy, starting from America’s birthday …
1. Was America founded as a democracy?
This is highly debatable for two main reasons, at least:
However, for all practical purposes, let’s settle with this: America was founded as a republic with a limited version of democracy that resembled ancient Athenian democracy more than modern democracy.
2. Athenian democracy
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia – Athenian democracy:
3. Defining American democracy
American democracy can be separated chronically into three distinct periods:
Next, let me elaborate on each.
3.1 Less than half democracy
"We the People", so begins the U.S. Constitution. But who are "the People" referenced? To the Founding Fathers, "the People", politically at least, included only certain rich white men as follows:
In short, from 1776 to 1919, American democracy was fundamentally no different from Athenian democracy of more than 2,000 years ago!
3.2 More than half democracy
On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, which gave women the right to vote.
It was an evolutionary step that set American democracy fundamentally apart from, and humanly more advanced than, Athenian democracy!
3.3 Full democracy
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting, thus ending an evil legacy of racism that was allowed on the first day of the republic and finally realizing the democratic ideal of one person, one vote! America became a full, and true, democracy, like some European countries (e.g. France), at last!
America is unique (What is America, Anyway?), but American democracy appears not so much so.
Sadly, democracy, ancient or modern, has been a proven failure throughout human history without a single example of lasting success! For example, history is repeating itself as democracy is failing in modern Greece for the same reason it failed in ancient Greece: debt!
Debt matters! Debt destroyed Athenian democracy and the Roman Empire. Debt will destroy America (i.e. both American democracy and the American Empire)! For more, read: Democratic Socialism vs. Democratic Imperialism.
American democracy may have lasted a bit longer than some other democracies for one main reason: America is unique, especially in its richness of natural resources, combined (previously) with robust capitalism!
Will American democracy ultimately succeed, thus proving to be the sole exception to human history? Highly unlikely!
For now, American democracy, the "full" version, has to prove that it can outlast Soviet communism in longevity! For more, read: Longevity: American Democracy vs. Soviet Communism.
Three factual observations about democracy:
Everything is relative, including political systems. For more, read: Towards an Ideal Form of Government.
Now, it’s time for Americans to know, and remember, what our Founding Fathers thought about democracy more than 200 years ago ...
5. What did our Founding Fathers think of democracy, really?
Below are five examples.
Still wondering why the word “democracy” never appeared in the U.S. Constitution? Wonder not!
It seems likely our Founding Fathers foresaw the huge flaws in a full democracy and never intended America to one, like it is today …
It is very important for the world to correctly understand American democracy. Now, you have a clear definition for it, at least!
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