Democracy In America: A Fundamental Problem

In Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” he states “in America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion.” In my opinion, his point still holds credibility to this day. The democratic system that we live in has separated the country into “majorities.” In the United States, it is widely accepted that these “majorities” are dominated by two political viewpoints: Liberal and Conservative. In fact, according to a study done by Gallup in early 2015, over 60% of the United States population adheres to one of those two political viewpoints. (Click here to read more about the poll)Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 10.43.20 PM

As Tocqueville continues, he explains that citizens, and leaders specifically, fear to break barriers due to potential onset of slights and persecutions from the masses. It is this point that I believe has created a problem within our political system. Every four years when it comes time to vote for a new President, it is a race to satisfy these majorities.Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 10.48.45 PM.png

Tocqueville states that “there can be no literary genius without freedom of opinion, and freedom of opinion does not exist in America.” In relation to our political system, I translate that quote by altering “literarily genius” with political genius. Accordingly, candidates and politicians alike, whether they want to or not, tailor their campaigns and decisions to the likeness of the majorities due to the barriers they must carefully avoid crossing; thus blocking them from true political creativity. These candidates and politicians are under such a fine microscope, not only by citizens deciding who they should vote for, but also by organizations funding their respective presidential campaigns. While the topic of campaign finance reform has been an issue for years, it is easily identifiable that campaign-financing groups are idealistic (usually dominated by one of the two leading political viewpoints) and have a significant impact on the candidate themselves.

These majority parties, whether it be the financing organizations or the citizens who identify themselves with their respective majority, have caused an American Democracy without freedom. The “authority of the majority is so absolute and so irritable that a [leader] must give up his rights as a citizen, and almost abjure his quality as a human being.” The authority of the majority completely strips candidates and politicians from truly expressing their thoughts and solutions to political issues. Rather they alter their campaign to please the people. In my personal opinion, it is this impact of the majority that has placed lesser and lesser impactful men in the Oval Office.

While the election of President Barrack Obama was a momentous leap in regards to race relations in the US, I believe that he, among the past Presidents I have observed during my (admittedly) short time lifetime, will be somewhat forgettable in the sands of time. Additionally, I believe that the leadership qualities and abilities of these men are nowhere near the capabilities of those who formed this great country. In Tocqueville’s words, there “very few men who display any of that manly candor and that masculine independence of opinion which frequently distinguish the Americans of former times, and which constitutes the leading feature in distinguished characters.”

This authority of the majority is the underlying issue with American Democracy and as Tocqueville points out, there is no true way around it. Once accepting that there is no true way around the overwhelming power of the majority, one must ask: What is the solution? What possible solution would allow new “political genius” and ignite political creativity that could solve the countless problems that face American society today? These are questions that have yet to be answered by anyone and consistently spark my imagination.

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4 Responses to Democracy In America: A Fundamental Problem

  1. jcpartida says:

    Interesting read and nice points but I would argue in some circumstances against your “politicians tailor their campaigns and decisions to the likeness of the majorities due to the barriers they must carefully avoid crossing; thus blocking them from true political creativity” due to the idea that some politicians may stand out because they use their creativity within the framework. Creativity isn’t defined by what you can and can’t do, but by what you have and how you make it interesting or new or how you redefine within that framework, and your thought that it will be forgettable in the sands of time is correct as everything is circumstantial. Things ultimately don’t matter if you frame it correctly, as this is just a tiny speck in the history of not just mankind but of the universe.

    But this is where I don’t really agree when you speak of “Tocqueville’s words, there “very few men who display any of that manly candor and that masculine independence of opinion which frequently distinguish the Americans of former times, and which constitutes the leading feature in distinguished characters.” The men who formed this country had ultimately 2 ways of thinking, the new age of distancing to become what would be American or staying British and following British rule. American identities within the agendas of liberal and conservative hadn’t really been formed, and if they did it would certainly be those two. America was way smaller, leading to an easier time to be a greater leader because there are less people to scrutinize and only those that could have an education and maybe rich had the best “voice” and so they could reach more people, and also those men followed an unset path while people like Obama have to follow the framework that they set forth. So I don’t think it’s a problem of creativity but a problem of thinking that those men are better, because when you think that, obviously you would want them to follow their path, and in their lies the problem. Its self-contradictory, but otherwise I really enjoyed this.

  2. jtoombs51 says:

    While I agree with you that the two parties have an unbelievable, and overbearing, influence upon the electoral process, I do not believe their existence is an overwhelming threat to American democracy. I say this because of the very nature of electoral politics, and how difficult it is for the majority of citizens to understand most of the prominent issues discussed in any given campaign cycle. This is, typically, not at any fault of the voter, there is simply too much information to consume for individuals not working within a field dedicated to politics in general. So, where do voters go in order to make more “informed” decisions? The answer lies within the major parties themselves. The Democratic and Republican parties both offer a symbol to voters, a neat package of beliefs that allow a voter to have a general idea regarding what their candidates stand for. It allows for easy organization of a person’s beliefs, without having to apply a complete ideology to the fast moving world of politics, where details are typically incredibly complex.

    So, essentially, although it seems as if the parties are building barriers to the liberty of opinion, they are truly offering an easier method for voters to make decisions they will be comfortable with. The overwhelming problem with the electoral system, though, may be found in the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns by corporations and individuals, in order to shift public opinion through fear an intimidation. That, really, is the threat to our democracy.

  3. jfavila says:

    This was an interesting read. I would like to add my own thoughts. While I realize not many will agree with me I believe having these two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, as the majority is harmful. As we have witnessed the two parties have little which they agree on and what little they agree on they refuse to act upon simply because they both want their party to look better than the other. What we end up with is a democratic system that moves along rather slowly, rather than helping the country the two parties are stuck in a popularity contest that runs the span of several years and it is simply irritating to me. Yet I think at this point if the two parties were done away with people wouldn’t take it very lightly it has become an irreplaceable part of our politics.

  4. J.M.Delgado says:

    Reblogged this on Politics Uncensored and commented:

    With such disagreement in America, have we lost focus on what America is? Great post that brings up great questions.

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