I had an interesting conversation with a close friend recently about American Democracy, which resulted in a shift in my understanding. I have always thought, and have said so in several past blogs, that the idea that American Democracy was based on “one man, one vote”, was nonsense: American democracy, at the time of the Founding Fathers, was based on “one land-owner, one vote”. However, I now realize that I had implicitly assumed the Founding Fathers actually wanted a system of “one man, one vote” but that a fledgling education system, and therefore a lack of an educated electorate, would not permit that initially.
I have to add here that the more recent concept, which has infiltrated American thinking, that the U.S. invented democracy is, to put it bluntly, blatant arrogant nonsense.
The mental shift I made came when my friend strongly suggested that “one land-owner, one vote” was not just an historical necessity at that time, but a very deliberate decision. The Founding Fathers did not want it to be “one man, one vote” because they believed that allowing the mob to make important decisions was very dangerous. As a result, they deliberately created a republic, not a democracy, at least as we think we understand the word democracy (“one man, one vote”).
If the Founding Fathers could have witnessed the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, they would have felt fully vindicated in their belief.
I had also always thought that the origins of “one land-owner, one vote” was a ploy of the Southern governors to retain their power over the political processes of the whole country. That is true, and it matched their flagrant abuse of voting powers embodied in counting each of their slaves as 2/3rds of a vote. However, I had not crossed the mental bridge to understand that the U.S. system of democracy was not designed to be democratic across the population. It was designed to be a republic where “Those who knew better”, as my friend put it, would actually make the decisions. The will of the people would be taken into consideration, but the idea of giving them a binding vote was never considered.
Over the years since independence, the U.S. has promoted the concept of “one man, one vote” as a beacon for the way they think the whole world should conduct their governance. That campaign has convinced not only the outside world, including me, that that was what America is all about, but it has also convinced its own people. After my interesting conversation with my friend, I now believe that that campaign is based on a total lie.
Currently, the Democratic Party is pushing for the selection of the President of the United States to be decided by the popular vote. Understandable, if you think “one man-one vote” is the reality of today’s American democracy. The Republican Party, and current Supreme Court, is trying to keep the vote away from the people, which, perhaps ironically, is actually in line with the Founding Fathers belief.
Constitutionally, election of the president by popular vote would require a Constitutional Convention and that, for the foreseeable future, is impossible to imagine.
So, what do we do? The population at large thinks their individual vote should count; they have been brought up to believe that their vote is the fundamental tenet of the United States system, and their right. However, the system was actually designed to make sure their vote doesn’t count, and only those “who know best” can make such important decisions. The Democratic Party supports the first view and, in principle, the Republican Party supports the second view.
Donald Trump has introduced massive confusion into this “continental divide”. In his quest to get and retain power, he has convinced a large number of people that they have to stand up and fight for their individual rights, including having their vote count, as long as it’s for him. In an ironic way, his strategy is actually supporting the Democrats’ view of American democracy. Where his strategy has deviated from any democratic tenet, is where he has convinced his followers that if they win, the election is valid, if they lose, it must have been stolen. He is trying to/has changed American Democracy into autocracy.
Both political parties have completely lost their way. The Democratic Party’s basic tenet of “one man, one vote” is based on a lie and the basic tenet of the Republican Party, “one land-owner, one vote”, has been usurped by Donald Trump’s ego to move towards the same lie but only for his followers (Minority mob rule). Rampant confusion is inevitable.
The U.S. is still an excellent example of the benefits that result from its experiment with democracy, despite all the malicious idiocy of the current political environment. However, no-one guaranteed that their experiment would survive just because it was a good idea. It must be fought for, modified when necessary and, most importantly, understood and practiced by its people and its politicians. (My other blog this week discusses the intrinsic link between “Democracy and Responsibility”).
The alternative world system, Communism, represented by China is waiting and watching and, although history has shown that their autocratic dictatorships will implode one day, can we afford to wait long enough for that to happen. They might just envelope us before that fatal day arrives.
Time to get our act together, and decide what we actually are: a democracy or a republic. We then need to clearly define our choice so, internally, egotistical renegades like Donald Trump can’t usurp our chosen regime and turn it into “The Mob of Trump” or, externally, we can effectively stand up to China’s world domination policies. Sounds dramatic, I know, but we can’t afford to assume it is not true!