Reality Check: The United States is not a democracy

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Tuesday was the United States’ 59th presidential Election Day. We witnessed masses of citizens and politically motivated, armed security guards intimidating voters outside of polling locations. Claims of widespread voter suppression have been leveraged at the acting president. Voting locations became ideological and physical battlegrounds where different kinds of voters came into conflict with one another and even the police. The president and the supreme court are embroiled in a conflict over whether or not all ballots cast by mail should be accounted for in the election.  

But not all problems we saw yesterday and may see in the coming weeks are unique — voter suppression has been a constant theme of elections in the U.S. where millions of U.S. citizens are regularly discouraged from voting. Election Day is not a holiday, so struggling Americans must decide between attending work, caring for their children or perhaps finishing essential chores and voting. Voting locations are not always within walking distance, nor does public transportation often provide easy commutes, so Americans without cars are forced to decide between voting and taking precious money or time to find a ride. These difficulties are only exacerbated by the insanely long time it can take waiting in line to finally access a ballot. 

“Election Day is not a holiday, so struggling Americans must decide between attending work, caring for their children or perhaps finishing essential chores and voting.”

U.S. presidential candidates consistently oppose popular social programs which would benefit the vast majority of American voters. Due to the pervasive influence of corporate and elite donations in politics, the Democratic and Republican governments repeatedly preside over wage decreasespoverty increases and declining quality of life for the wide majority of Americans because funding them would draw money from business subsidies and tax breaks for the wealthy. This is the greatest form of voter suppression — one in which we’re made to understand that our votes cannot change our loss of life at the hands of whatever government we elect.  

But unfortunately for our country’s proponents, the absence of democracy in the U.S. is not due to voter suppression, policy trends or flaws in election administration. Vast segments of U.S. society are simply denied the right to elect their government officials. 

statue of liberty new york
In the article, Daily Campus writer Harrison Raskin reflects on the idea of “Democracy” in the United States, and challenges the concept by making note of how often minority groups are underrepresented/ misrepresented in politics. Photo by Darren Patterson on Pexels.com

Millions of undocumented Americans are denied the right to representation in a society which benefits from their labor and culture. Millions of American felons are denied from electing the government which determines their quality of life and their access to basic constitutional rights within the American penal system, even as their labor remains exploited by public and private prisons alike. Literally, the land the entire country is built upon belonged to 12 million Indigenous Americans killed in the genocide required to remove them. Indigenous Americans did not have the right to vote until the 1960s, long after their population, sovereignty and autonomy had been greatly stripped away.  

This country is not a democracy. The U.S. is an oligarchy, whose government today speaks and legislates on behalf of centuries of wealth generated from colonialism, genocide, conquest, slavery and the exploitation of “free” workers. The victor of this election will hold one of the greatest positions of power in the world but they will not have a popular mandate or the right to rule, and we will have no reason to allow their illegitimate leadership to continue.  

We need a government which is of, by and for the people. The main obstacle to this at present is the two-party duopoly on politics which has confined policy to an ideologically narrow window, marginalizing the interests of the vast majority of people living here for the benefit of the wealthiest, most powerful Americans. The time has never been more ripe for independent political institutions under the complete control of democratic majorities of working Americans.

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