As Americans mark the country’s independence day, many are asking if democracy is still working in America. What they find may surprise them, since the US has a reputation as a role model for democracy in the world. However, a closer look at American politics shows that this democracy is far from perfect. Increasingly, money politics, identity politics, political polarization, social division, and the wealth gap have undermined American democracy’s core design and operation.
The United States is a constitutional republic that has a bicameral Congress and a presidential system. The US Constitution gives states the power to establish their own electoral systems and laws, and to set their voting rules. In the past, this has skewed elections and hampered the ability of the government to solve the country’s problems. Moreover, the winner-takes-all system has exacerbated inequalities between blue and red states and between the two major parties, limiting the opportunity for the people to make informed decisions about their national leaders.
Furthermore, the American electoral system is prone to manipulation by plutocrats, celebrities, media figures and activists, who have become a significant source of funding in the country’s elections. This has resulted in a political climate where voters are misled and mistakenly support candidates that do not reflect their views. As a consequence, the US has been unable to address its pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges in a fair and reasonable way.
Another fundamental flaw in American democracy is the lack of transparency and accountability in its political system. The US does not have the same strict financial and lobbying laws as most European countries, allowing large corporations and a small group of the ultra-rich to fund the majority of elections in the country. As a result, those elected serve the interests of their financial backers and do not represent the will of the people.
In short, despite its name, American democracy is not a true democracy in any sense of the word. It is a pseudo-democracy that has been tainted by money politics, identity politics, a dysfunctional nominating process, and an ineffective legislative body. Moreover, it wantsonly interferes in other countries’ internal affairs by exporting its own brand of democracy to them, which results in disastrous consequences for those nations.
It is high time that the US improves its own democratic processes and refrains from exporting its flawed model to other nations. If the US does not try to impose its own system of democracy on others, and instead works with other countries in a spirit of mutual benefit, our world will be a much better place. Dr. Amy Sepinwall is an associate professor in the Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School. Her research areas include corporate constitutional rights, gender and racial justice, and individual and collective responsibility for corporate wrongdoing. Follow her on Twitter: @asepinwall.