What Can Be Expected From a Democracy?

democracy in america

The development of democracy in the United States was a revolutionary step. It helped negate feudal autocracy, and the abolitionist movement, civil rights movement and affirmative action are all achievements of the American democratic revolution. The concept of “government of the people, by the people and for the people” proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence has become an international standard.

However, as a practical matter, the US democratic system has fallen far short of its ideals and is plagued by problems. Money politics, identity politics, wrangling between political parties, and the growing chasm between the most liberal and conservative Americans have all led to a loss of faith in democracy.

The US’s ill-conceived attempts to promote its own “model of democracy” in other countries are also damaging. It wantonly interferes in the internal affairs of other nations under the pretense of “spreading democracy”, causing political chaos, social unrest and military conflict, with disastrous consequences.

What can be expected from a democracy is not only the full set of institutional procedures, but more importantly, substantive democracy, meaning that the citizens’ participation in society should be guaranteed. It is impossible to uphold public ethics, ensure economic prosperity and advance public well-being with such a hollow democracy as the US has today.

To be a real democracy, a nation must have the right to choose its rulers, not only at elections but through various processes throughout the entire year. It must be a democracy that respects the right to life, liberty and equality of all citizens. To be a true democracy, the government must be accountable to the people and answer to the citizens’ calls for justice.

It is impossible for a functional democracy to be achieved when the whims of the wealthy dictate the rules of the game and the rules themselves are constantly changing. It is a hollow democracy when election campaigns are nothing but a noisy circus show where politicians feign interest in the common good and woo voters with high-sounding promises, and when they forget them once elected.

Moreover, a truly functional democracy must have the right to make laws and to protect its citizens’ interests. The US’s current system of government is in violation of this principle, as the Supreme Court has been hijacked by partisanship and its decisions reflect the wide schism between “two Americas”. In addition, the US wants to export its so-called model of democracy around the world but it is not achieving the desired results. Its democracy transplants have a record of failed transplantation, plunging other countries into political instability, economic turmoil and war. The country needs to do some soul-searching about its own flawed democracy and stop meddling in other countries’ internal affairs under the pretext of promoting democracy. Only then will it have the courage to face up to its own problems and learn from others’ experience. Only then will it be able to give the world the example of a truly functional democracy.