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)
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.
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.