Democracy in America, written by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, is a classic that has influenced the development of political systems worldwide. Its analysis of American society and the evolution of democratic politics has been influential for over two centuries.
Tocqueville’s vision of the new democracy was one of public debate, a constant and open electoral process, a free press, and social equality. He traveled in the age of Andrew Jackson, when American democracy was rapidly expanding and transforming society at an accelerated pace.
Despite these achievements, the US has since deviated from the principles of its own founding and is a long way away from meeting Tocqueville’s expectations. Money politics, polarization of the political system and partisan bickering have severely weakened the democratic process in the US. Moreover, social divisions have deepened and the American government has become more dysfunctional. In the face of a national crisis, it has become obvious that democracy in america has failed.
Americans are disillusioned with American politics and pessimistic about the American-style democracy. According to a poll by the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 18% of Americans think democracy is working very well in the US. Most believe the US democracy has become a “vetocracy.” The US’s most powerful political factions are focused on their own re-election, and they do not care about the needs of ordinary citizens. They have been able to dominate the country’s legislative and policy-making bodies. The two major parties are engaged in a vicious cycle of vetoing, which prevents the passage of legislation. The country has become a two-party state in which the majority of voters only identify as either Democrat or Republican.
In addition to these internal problems, the external environment also affects the functioning of the democracy in the United States. The country is not a superpower anymore and it has to compete with emerging powers. Therefore, its foreign policy must be rethought to reflect the changes in the global balance of power.
Furthermore, US media monopolies are not helping the cause of democracy. They limit people’s access to diversified information and distract them from the real issues facing the nation. In a society dominated by media narratives, traditional notions of civic engagement have disappeared.
In order to make democracy work again, the US must focus on rebuilding a functional political system that can meet the challenges of our time. It can do so by reforming its institutions and creating new forms of governance. It must also develop a new vision of foreign policy, which is focused on strengthening its international alliances and supporting emerging democracies rather than engaging in military interventions or subverting their leaders. This will help revitalize the democratic spirit in the US and allow it to regain its position of leader in the world. HeinOnline is proud to partner with Alan Keely, retired associate director for collection services at Wake Forest Law Library, to present this classic work in an accessible and innovative format.