Democracy and the United States of America
Democracy is both a form of government and a philosophy. In a perfect world, democratic government and democratic philosophy would be self-reinforcing.
Ideally, a democratic government would be best served when its constituents are fully engaged in the social democratic process:
100% of citizens eligible to vote would do so. All means necessary, including the most modern technologies, would be used to ensure full participation in democratic governnent.
Democratic debate would be based in every case on facts and reason, with no allowance for falsehood, ignorance and prejudice. Robust social discussion would result in robust support for the society’s governmental decisions.
Democratic philosophy—based on promoting individual (human) rights, social equality and social tolerance—would be best served by a society united in support of all three principles:
Individual conduct would be limited only by a healthy social respect for all other members of the society.
Social inequality would not exist; there would be no poverty or working poor population.
Social tolerance for all non-violent lifestyles would be the universal cultural norm.
Reality proves there are no perfectly functioning democracies in human society. Such democratic imperfection does not mean, however, that world democracies cannot be measured and judged.
One of the most important measures of a well-functioning democratic government is eligible voter participation in elections. Another is a people’s respect for all eligible citizens’ right to vote.
In 2005, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance published “Turnout in the world – country by country performance 1945-98,” which provides average voter participation rates for all 140 countries that held national elections during those years.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Democracy Index 2011” lists 25 full democracies in the world.
Combining the two lists shows us the voter participation rates for those countries.
Voter Turnout 1945-1998
(International IDEA)Iceland 89.5 New Zealand 86.2 Austria 85.1 Belgium 84.9 Czech Republic 84.8 Netherlands 84.8 Australia 84.4 Denmark 83.6 Sweden 83.3 Mauritius 82.8 Germany 80.6 Norway 79.5 Finland 79.0 Malta 77.6 Spain 77.0 Ireland 74.9 United Kingdom 74.9 South Korea 74.8 Uruguay 70.3 Japan 69.0 Canada 68.4 Costa Rica 68.4 Luxembourg 64.1 Switzerland 49.3 USA 48.3
The American people’s bottom-dwelling participation rate in national elections has improved somewhat since 1998. The Center for the Study of the American Electorate claims that voter turnout rates in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 national elections were 54.2, 60.4, 62.3 and 57.5 percent, respectively.
This post-1998 estimate of 58.6% electoral participation would move the United States up one place ahead of Switzerland on the list, provided, of course, that Switzerland’s rate during the same time period has not exceeded 58.6%.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of world democracies is based on a variety of factors, including their scoring of each country’s electoral process and pluralism, political culture and civil liberties.
The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden rank the highest.
The United States of America ranks 19th out of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of 25 full democracies.
The United States is ranked next-to-last in the functionality of its government and is tied with Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom in having the least amount of support for civil liberties.
Democracy in the United States of America
In their “Democracy index 2011: Democracy under stress,” the Economist Intelligence Unit list seven key factors in making 2011 “an exceptionally turbulent year politically.” Two of the factors cited are “US democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening of the polarisation (sic) of the political scene and political brinksmanship and paralysis” and “(t)he US and the (United Kingdom) remain at the bottom of the full democracy category.”
In the United States, it is an anti-democratically minded Republican Party’s ceaseless attempts to restrict voting in elections which keeps American democracy in a state of constant destabilization. Although Republican Party officials attempt to defend their anti-democratic efforts by claiming widespread voter fraud, the reality is that it is Republican Party officials and operatives, far more often than not, who are guilty of such fraud.
The Republican Party has also maintained a political state of war against social welfare programs in the United States of America that has successfully poisoned public sentiment about the social goals of “promoting the general Welfare” and “insuring domestic tranquility.” The Republican Party’s modern-day “Conservative principles” mean fully half or more of United States citizens who participate in national elections are as likely to vote for the candidate whose political party has been at war with social welfare advances in the United States since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs in the 1930s.
As the Republican Party is one of only two dominant political parties in the United States, the presence of an inherently destabilizing antidemocratic social force at the center of government and society.
The human democratic movement is indeed under stress when the generally recognized “leader of the free world” ranks at the bottom of truly mature world democracies.
Social Democracy in the United States of America
In its online “World Factbook,” the Central Intelligence Agency publishes the Gini Index. The index “measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income in a country.” The lowest-ranked country represents the most equal distribution of family income.
Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Luxembourg enjoy the most equality of family incomes.
The United States ranks 41st, far from the “we’re number one” position many Americans claim. Other national rankings confirm the less-than-well state of social democracy in the United States.
According to the CIA, the United States life expectancy rate of 78.49 years, and its infant mortality rate of 6 deaths per 1,000 live births, rank it 51st in the world in both categories.
A 2012 U.S. Department of Justice report reveals the United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other nation.
Poverty in America 2013
According to the United States Census Bureau, 46.2 million citizens (15%) were living in poverty in 2011.
If there were a stronger social will to end poverty in the United States, our economy could have eradicated the social blight decades ago.
Restoring democracy in the United States of America
The United States’ failure to maintain a healthy government committed to democratic principles dates back to the beginning of our country, when the social allowance for human slavery first poisoned the human democratic experience. Such American conduct counter to fundamental social democratic principle continues to keep the humane spirit of democracy under attack by powerful domestic forces.
We, the people of the United States have failed to live up to the democratic promises to humanity found in the Preamble to the United States Constitution, in which we pledged “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility . . . promote the general Welfare, and insure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
It is every American’s human and national duty to improve upon our country’s low level of humane democratic conduct in the world.