Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: The United States has never been a democracy

Good news! Despite what mainstream media says, democracy in America isn’t under attack. The bad news is democracy in America has never existed. 

My eyes never cease to roll when I read daily headlines of how our democracy is in poor shape — like it was in such great shape before!  

Forgive me if I can’t take any of this seriously. The last two Republican presidents were elected without receiving the most votes, Democrats represent around 41.5 million more people than Republicans but have a 50/50 split in the Senate. More than 3.5 million people living in U.S. territories can’t vote in presidential elections — it’s baffling anyone can utter “American democracy” without laughing hysterically. 

More baffling still is the popular delusion that the U.S. is the oldest democracy in the world. Oldest democracy?! For most of American history, women and Black people couldn’t vote in federal elections. 

And who can they vote for? The Democratic and Republican parties have a duopoly on American politics, and the difference between them seems negligible. 

“Their fight has not had any serious importance for the mass of the people,” Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in 1912 said of Democrats and Republicans. “The people have been deceived and diverted from their vital interests by means of spectacular and meaningless duels between the two bourgeois parties.” 

If that were written yesterday, it would still be true. 

Hoosiers know better than anyone the sham of American “democracy.” Our vote matters less than those from Ohio, Michigan or any number of other swing states. Indiana never decides elections. 

Why must we delude ourselves? The Founding Fathers despised democracy. Slave owner James Madison wrote of democracies “that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party; but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

Madison worried about the so-called “tyranny of the majority,” and consequently, centuries later, we live subjugated under the tyranny of the minority! 

And who are the minority if not the capitalist class, who control both the economy and the government. More than half of Congressional lawmakers are millionaires. 

What the media calls “democracy” should be called a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a government by and for the capitalist class at the majority’s expense. 

Can anyone deny it? Presently, 52 Senators are blocking policies the majority of Americans support. 

Perhaps the media and I just have different definitions of what a democracy is — let’s consult the dictionary! Democracy: “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting.” Clearly, that’s not always true — just ask Puerto Ricans, convicted felons or people who voted for Hillary Clinton. How about an organization in which everyone has equal rights? To describe America this way would be nothing short of a lie. 

Could an average American worker run for political office right now? Ordinary Americans have been locked out of our so-called democracy. Who has the time or money to run for office besides the ultra-wealthy? It’s no surprise only two percent of U.S. congressional lawmakers have a working class background. 

Reactionaries will argue working class people aren’t qualified to be in Congress. Alexander Hamilton certainly thought so — he believed workers representing themselves in Congress was  impractical and argued the wealthy would be better representatives of the workers than the workers themselves.

How easy it is to dismiss any and all progress as utopian! If it’s true most workers are unqualified to be in government, that’s only an indictment of the society that produced them. I’ve written before about how capitalism degrades workers’ intellect. 

If Americans truly care about democracy, they need to come to terms with how absent it is in their lives. The majority of Americans have no say in how their government works. 

I always try to end these with a call to action, but it’s difficult this time. The situation feels quite hopeless. But the first step in overcoming powerlessness is realizing you’re powerless — knowing is half the battle. 

Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.

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