The U.S. is not a Democracy, It Never was

One of the most steadfast beliefs regarding the United States is that it is a democracy. Whenever this conviction waivers slightly, it is almost always to point out detrimental exceptions to core American values or foundational principles. For instance, aspiring critics frequently bemoan a “loss of democracy” due to the election of clownish autocrats, draconian measures on the part of the state, the revelation of extraordinary malfeasance or corruption, deadly foreign interventions, or other such activities that are considered undemocratic exceptions. The same is true for those whose critical framework consists in always juxtaposing the actions of the U.S. government to its founding principles, highlighting the contradiction between the two and clearly placing hope in its potential resolution.

The problem, however, is that there is no contradiction or supposed loss of democracy because the United States simply never was one. This is a difficult reality for many people to confront, and they are likely more inclined to immediately dismiss such a claim as preposterous rather than take the time to scrutinize the material historical record in order to see for themselves. Such a dismissive reaction is due in large part to what is perhaps the most successful public relations campaign in modern history. What will be seen, however, if this record is soberly and methodically inspected, is that a country founded on elite, colonial rule based on the power of wealth—a plutocratic colonial oligarchy, in short—has succeeded not only in buying the label of “democracy” to market itself to the masses, but in having its citizenry, and many others, so socially and psychologically invested in its nationalist origin myth that they refuse to hear lucid and well-documented arguments to the contrary.

To begin to peel the scales from our eyes, let us outline in the restricted space of this article, five patent reasons why the United States has never been a democracy (a more sustained and developed argument is available in my book, Counter-History of the Present). To begin with, British colonial expansion into the Americas did not occur in the name of the freedom and equality of the general population, or the conferral of power to the people. Those who settled on the shores of the “new world,” with few exceptions, did not respect the fact that it was a very old world indeed, and that a vast indigenous population had been living there for centuries. As soon as Columbus set foot, Europeans began robbing, enslaving and killing the native inhabitants. The trans-Atlantic slave trade commenced almost immediately thereafter, adding a countless number of Africans to the ongoing genocidal assault against the indigenous population. Moreover, it is estimated that over half of the colonists who came to North America from Europe during the colonial period were poor indentured servants, and women were generally trapped in roles of domestic servitude. Rather than the land of the free and equal, then, European colonial expansion to the Americas imposed a land of the colonizer and the colonized, the master and the slave, the rich and the poor, the free and the un-free. The former constituted, moreover, an infinitesimally small minority of the population, whereas the overwhelming majority, meaning “the people,” was subjected to death, slavery, servitude, and unremitting socio-economic oppression.

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

In spite of certain minor changes over time, the U.S. republic has doggedly preserved its oligarchic structure, and this is readily apparent in the two major selling points of its contemporary “democratic” publicity campaign. The Establishment and its propagandists regularly insist that a structural aristocracy is a “democracy” because the latter is defined by the guarantee of certain fundamental rights (legal definition) and the holding of regular elections (procedural definition). This is, of course, a purely formal, abstract and largely negative understanding of democracy, which says nothing whatsoever about people having real, sustained power over the governing of their lives. However, even this hollow definition dissimulates the extent to which, to begin with, the supposed equality before the law in the United States presupposes an inequality before the law by excluding major sectors of the population: those judged not to have the right to rights, and those considered to have lost their right to rights (Native Americans, African-Americans and women for most of the country’s history, and still today in certain aspects, as well as immigrants, “criminals,” minors, the “clinically insane,” political dissidents, and so forth). Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite. The general population, the majority of whom do not have the right to vote or decide not to exercise it, are given the “choice”—overseen by an undemocratic electoral college and embedded in a non-proportional representation scheme—regarding which member of the aristocratic elite they would like to have rule over and oppress them for the next four years. “Multivariate analysis indicates,” according to an important recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination […], but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.”

To take but a final example of the myriad ways in which the U.S. is not, and has never been, a democracy, it is worth highlighting its consistent assault on movements of people power. Since WWII, it has endeavored to overthrow some 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected. It has also, according the meticulous calculations by William Blum in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, grossly interfered in the elections of at least 30 countries, attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, dropped bombs on more than 30 countries, and attempted to suppress populist movements in 20 countries. The record on the home front is just as brutal. To take but one significant parallel example, there is ample evidence that the FBI has been invested in a covert war against democracy. Beginning at least in the 1960s, and likely continuing up to the present, the Bureau “extended its earlier clandestine operations against the Communist party, committing its resources to undermining the Puerto Rico independence movement, the Socialist Workers party, the civil rights movement, Black nationalist movements, the Ku Klux Klan, segments of the peace movement, the student movement, and the ‘New Left’ in general” (Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, p. 22-23). Consider, for instance, Judi Bari’s summary of its assault on the Socialist Workers Party: “From 1943-63, the federal civil rights case Socialist Workers Party v. Attorney General documents decades of illegal FBI break-ins and 10 million pages of surveillance records. The FBI paid an estimated 1,600 informants $1,680,592 and used 20,000 days of wiretaps to undermine legitimate political organizing.” In the case of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (AIM)—which were both important attempts to mobilize people power to dismantle the structural oppression of white supremacy and top-down class warfare—the FBI not only infiltrated them and launched hideous smear and destabilization campaigns against them, but they assassinated 27 Black Panthers and 69 members of AIM (and subjected countless others to the slow death of incarceration). If it be abroad or on the home front, the American secret police has been extremely proactive in beating down the movements of people rising up, thereby protecting and preserving the main pillars of white supremacist, capitalist aristocracy.

Rather than blindly believing in a golden age of democracy in order to remain at all costs within the gilded cage of an ideology produced specifically for us by the well-paid spin-doctors of a plutocratic oligarchy, we should unlock the gates of history and meticulously scrutinize the founding and evolution of the American imperial republic. This will not only allow us to take leave of its jingoist and self-congratulatory origin myths, but it will also provide us with the opportunity to resuscitate and reactivate so much of what they have sought to obliterate. In particular, there is a radical America just below the surface of these nationalist narratives, an America in which the population autonomously organizes itself in indigenous and ecological activism, black radical resistance, anti-capitalist mobilization, anti-patriarchal struggles, and so forth. It is this America that the corporate republic has sought to eradicate, while simultaneously investing in an expansive public relations campaign to cover over its crimes with the fig leaf of “democracy” (which has sometimes required integrating a few token individuals, who appear to be from below, into the elite ruling class in order to perpetuate the all-powerful myth of meritocracy). If we are astute and perspicacious enough to recognize that the U.S. is undemocratic today, let us not be so indolent or ill-informed that we let ourselves be lulled to sleep by lullabies praising its halcyon past. Indeed, if the United States is not a democracy today, it is in large part due to the fact that it never was one. Far from being a pessimistic conclusion, however, it is precisely by cracking open the hard shell of ideological encasement that we can tap into the radical forces that have been suppressed by it. These forces—not those that have been deployed to destroy them—should be the ultimate source of our pride in the power of the people.


Originally published on 2017-12-13

About the author: Gabriel Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and cultural critic. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and founding Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. Follow on twitter: @GabrielRockhill

Source: Counter Punch

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

READ MORE!
Croatian Book on Jasenovac Distorts Holocaust History
‘Radni logor Jasenovac’ (‘Jasenovac Labour Camp’), the latest work by Croatian author Igor Vukic on the Croatian World War II concentration camp Jasenovac, published by Naklada Pavicic this year, seems like it is inspired by the publications of established Holocaust deniers. Instead of studying all the available archival records, testimonies and other publications, Vukic avoids confronting the totality of known information on the Jasenovac concentration camp system, and instead cherry-picks and publishes only carefully selected data which supports his ideologically-motivated agenda – the fabrication that Jasenovac was merely a labour camp where no mass murders took place. The argumentation and evidence cited ...
READ MORE
President Trump Welcomes Egyptian Dictator – The “Butcher of Cairo”
President Donald Trump Monday, April 3, 2017, welcomed the Egyptian military dictator, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who assumed the title of  Field Marshal after arresting and deposing the democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013. After the meeting Trump told the press: “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” By “a fantastic job” Trump was apparently referring to the massacre of hundreds of innocent Egyptians in the aftermath of US-endorsed coup ...
READ MORE
Barack Obama vs. Vladimir Putin: How Bloomberg ‘News’ Lies
On December 31st, Josh Rogin of Bloomberg ‘News’ headlined “Inside Obama’s Secret Outreach to Russia,” and his opening sentence ‘reported’ on “the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in … halting his aggression in neighboring Ukraine.” That ‘reporter’ from Bloomberg ‘News’ was ‘reporting’ from only sources inside the U.S. Administration — only from individuals who are hired by and who represent Barack Obama, none who are hired by and who represent Obama’s enemy Vladimir Putin; and so the question naturally arises as to whether Rogin and Bloomberg ‘News’ are ‘reporting’ propaganda, or are they instead reporting ...
READ MORE
Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe
In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a bizarre Obama Administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will “help” Kosovo to join NATO as well as the European Union. She made the pledge after a recent Washington meeting with Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the progress of the Thaci government in its progress in “European integration and economic development.”1 Her announcement no doubt caused serious gas pains among government and military officials in the various capitals of European NATO. Few people  appreciate just how mad Clinton’s plan to push ...
READ MORE
McCain Against the World
In his militarist lust he was near lunacy; his ignorance: profound; he was, in many respects, conventional—numbingly conventional—on Washington’s global role. That was John McCain. This was a man who, post-9/11, promoted measures expected to boost foreign terrorism. “Within hours” of that morning’s carnage, he made himself “leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan,” to countries—like Iraq—with no Qaeda ties, where revenge, really, would be aggression. On CNN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on “Face the Nation” he pushed for assaulting Iraq, stressing the “need to keep telling the American people” about Saddam’s menace, to ...
READ MORE
The Shame and Tragedy of the 1938 Munich Agreement
Yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, one of the most shameful and tragic chapters in the history of the foreign policies of Britain and France and one that constituted a pivotal factor in the outbreak of the second world war, the most destructive conflict in the history of mankind, in which the Holocaust occurred. This is not to castigate the governments of Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier for wanting to avoid another world war. The traumas of the Great War were ingrained in the minds of British and French statesmen and this should not be overlooked or downplayed. Nor should the ...
READ MORE
These Horrible Chemical Weapons Were Created & Used During the First World War
Chemical weapons are an invention of the western war machine. Introduced into trench warfare by the French in 1915, over 190,000 tons of chemical weapons were produced during World War 1. There were an estimated 1.3 million casualties caused by chemicals during the war, with 90,000 fatalities. Often referred to as the “Chemists War,” World War I saw the rise of chemical weapons being used on the battlefield. It all began with the French Army, who used tear gas in the form of small grenades. These small grenades didn’t hold much gas, and were largely undetected by German forces. The French issued ...
READ MORE
A Refugee Problem in Europe
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. Save
READ MORE
Fallujah: A Symbol of US War Crimes
No city in Iraq is more symbolic of the criminal consequences of the US invasion of Iraq than Fallujah. Prior to 2003, the 300,000-strong, prosperous, predominantly Sunni Muslim community on the Euphrates River, one of humanity’s oldest continuous urban settlements, was known as the “city of mosques.” After 13 years of destruction at the hands of the US military and its client state in Baghdad, it is today a labyrinth of ruins, a city of the dead. Following weeks of air strikes by US, British and Australian bombers, a combination of Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias is reportedly on the ...
READ MORE
America’s “Humanitarian War” against the World
The following  text is a point by point thematic summary of Prof. Michel Chossudovsky‘s presentation at the Science for Peace Conference, Academy of Sciences, Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, 15-16 August 2016. Introduction Historically, science has supported the development of the weapons industry and the war economy. “Science for Peace” indelibly requires reversing the logic whereby commissioned  scientific endeavors are directed towards supporting what President Eisenhower called “The Military Industrial Complex”. What is consequently required is a massive redirection of science and technology towards the pursuit of broad societal objectives. In turn, this requires a major shift in what is euphemistically called “US Foreign Policy”, namely ...
READ MORE
Allies Raped Hundreds of Thousands of German Women after WW2
Western allies raped hundreds of thousands of German women, writes German historian Miriam Gebhardt in a book published under name “When the soldiers came” (Als die Soldaten kamen) and which received both praise and criticism in Germany. “At least 860,000 women and girls, but also men and young boys, were raped by ally soldiers after the fall of the Third Reich and in the postwar period. It happened everywhere,” writes Gebhardt, noting that US soldiers were the ones who did it the most. The book strongly echoed in Germany, where information on such crimes was known before, but was almost exclusively ascribed ...
READ MORE
Israel’s Attack on the USS Liberty (June 8th, 1967): A Half Century Later, Still no Justice
In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel’s attack on the Arab states. The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship. Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military. The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship. They made eight trips over a period of three hours. The Liberty was flying a large US flag and was easily recognizable as an American vessel. Soon more planes came. These ...
READ MORE
British Parliament Confirms: Libya War was Based on Lies
The UK Parliament just confirmed what the alternative media has been saying for years. Specifically, a new report from the bipartisan House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – based on interviews with all of the key British decision-makers, review of documents, and on-the-ground investigations in Africa – found that the Libyan war was based on lies, that it destroyed the country, and that it spread terrorism far and wide. The War Based On Bogus Intelligence … Like the Iraq War Initially, the report finds that the threat to civilians from Libyan  government forces was dramatically overstated: Former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, who introduced ...
READ MORE
Is Slavery Still Exist?
A good tradition of the British and the West European colonialism Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
America’s War Аgainst the People of Korea: The Historical Record of US War Crimes
The following text by Michel Chossudovsky was presented in Seoul, South Korea in the context of the Korea Armistice Day Commemoration, 27 July 2013 A Message for Peace. Towards a Peace Agreement and the Withdrawal of US Troops from Korea Introduction Armistice Day, 27 July 1953 is day of Remembrance for the People of Korea. It is a landmark date in the historical struggle for national reunification and sovereignty. I am privileged to have this opportunity of participating in the 60th anniversary commemoration of Armistice Day on July 27, 2013. I am much indebted to the “Anti-War, Peace Actualized, People Action” movement for this opportunity ...
READ MORE
Russophobia – Symptom of US Implosion
There was a time when Russophobia served as an effective form of population control – used by the American ruling class in particular to command the general US population into patriotic loyalty. Not any longer. Now, Russophobia is a sign of weakness, of desperate implosion among the US ruling class from their own rotten, internal decay. This propaganda technique worked adequately well during the Cold War decades when the former Soviet Union could be easily demonized as «godless communism» and an «evil empire». Such stereotypes, no matter how false, could be sustained largely because of the monopoly control of Western media ...
READ MORE
Have You been Brainwashed about Gaza?
It’s frightening. Unprincipled psychologists, in the service of a malignant regime, use sophisticated techniques in order to control the mind of a person from afar. The term “brainwashing” was born in 1950. It is a Chinese word (“xinao”, literally wash brain). Originally it served to describe a technique used – so it was claimed – by Chinese masterminds to manipulate the minds of American prisoners in the Korean War. They changed their unconscious mental processes and turned them into agents of sinister forces. Many books and movies purported to show how this works. For example, the classic film “The Manchurian Candidate” shows ...
READ MORE
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
The prophets and forecasters for the coming year have already set out their global vision ranging from rising economies to catastrophic global wars. I want to argue from a different perspective, focusing on the increasing subdivision of markets, the deepening autonomy of political action from economic development, the greater threat of military interventions and increasing political accommodation.  I believe that we will experience a radical making and remaking of political and economic integration, East and West, within and without nations states.  ‘States Rights’ will re-emerge as an antidote to globalization.  Big countries will compete in regional wars with limited commitments but ...
READ MORE
What is the Best Solution To the Ukrainian Crisis?
The current Ukrainian crisis and, in fact, a civil war which started at the very end of 2013 are grounded in for decades lasting internal interregional antagonisms between the western and the eastern regions of Ukraine. The crisis is fully fueled by the Western governments which armed far-right “European” Kiev regime giving to it a comprehensive political, financial and diplomatic support for the policy of brutal Ukrainization and even Nazification of the whole country but primarily at the expense of the Russian-speaking population at Ukraine’s East. A similar example we experienced in “European” Croatia in the 1990s when the same ...
READ MORE
Syria, the United Nations, and the  Slobodan Milosevic Treatment
It’s long been obvious the United Nations is a rubber stamp lapdog of the United States. It set the stage for a decade of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and piled sanctions of Libya that resulted in the US and NATO (another lapdog) taking military action that killed around 30,000 Libyans. Now that supposedly august body has signaled it will investigate war crimes in Syria. The Associated Press reports the “resolution adopted by the assembly said the body, known as the ‘International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism,’ would help collect and analyze evidence of violations of human rights and international ...
READ MORE
Croatian Book on Jasenovac Distorts Holocaust History
President Trump Welcomes Egyptian Dictator – The “Butcher of Cairo”
Barack Obama vs. Vladimir Putin: How Bloomberg ‘News’ Lies
Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe
McCain Against the World
The Shame and Tragedy of the 1938 Munich Agreement
These Horrible Chemical Weapons Were Created & Used During the First World War
A Refugee Problem in Europe
Fallujah: A Symbol of US War Crimes
America’s “Humanitarian War” against the World
Allies Raped Hundreds of Thousands of German Women after WW2
Israel’s Attack on the USS Liberty (June 8th, 1967): A Half Century Later, Still no Justice
British Parliament Confirms: Libya War was Based on Lies
Is Slavery Still Exist?
America’s War Аgainst the People of Korea: The Historical Record of US War Crimes
Russophobia – Symptom of US Implosion
Have You been Brainwashed about Gaza?
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
What is the Best Solution To the Ukrainian Crisis?
Syria, the United Nations, and the Slobodan Milosevic Treatment
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu