Is Democracy in America a Failure Essay Example
Alexis de Tocqueville believed that equality was the great political and social idea of his era and America offers the best example of advance equality in action. He admires the idea of individualism in America, but he thinks individuals can easily be lost trying to fit in, resulting in their individual rights being compromised. He was truly impressed with the stability of the economy and how religion was made an important sector. America to him was an irony because it was a freedom loving country that had people as slaves and mistreated the Native Americans who were already there.
Tocqueville feels the greatest threat and downfall of democracy in America is the tyranny of the majority where the majority will always have the say of how things will go. He thinks the voices of the minorities would be suppressed and they might intimidate others to not participate politically. Even though Americans did not necessarily do public sectors they did create private associations for people to join groups they thought they belonged to.
I disagree with the argument that democracy in America is a failure. Although Tocqueville claims it would be a failure because people do not participate in public activities and government, people participate in the matters that do affect them. Even though I disagree, it is still true that democracy in practice is not what was ideally intended by the framers. For example, the framers did not count on money and power influences to sway the interests of the country. In order to argue my case, we need to understand what democracy is as a whole and how is it practiced in American society.
We also need to understand what failure means because in order to define whether or not democracy truly failed in America we have to dissect the meaning. In political terms, success might mean even though you did not get your way your voice on the issue at hand was still heard and taken into consideration. In economic terms, success means the government has allowed people to have equal opportunities to make the same amount of money and be prosperous.
Taken this into consideration, both definitions of success become hard to achieve at the same time. One argument for this model, for example, is that by allowing most decisions to be made by elected officials American democracy gives the people time to build their own economic success. However, this then limits their participation in a government which takes away the democracy which the framers had intended because now there are voices now missing in the discussion.
For me success means whether democracy did what it was intended to do initially; preserve the rights of the people including the right to publicly assemble, right to free speech, and free thought. According to this definition, I disagree with democracy in America being a failure because it achieved the three goals I stated in the previous sentence. However, the way the framers gave decision making to elected officials was not what was best for society as a whole because it leaves the power in the hands of the elite.
To participate in a democracy does not only mean to go out and elect officials into office. It can mean signing petitions, protesting for something they believe in, campaigning for a candidate, and serving as a juror. Participation is simply doing something that will affect the public. Participating in anything that has to do with bettering the community, the people in it, and the environment is what is best for society as a whole. It shows how people are striving as a whole to build democracy and equality.
I disagree with the idea that democracy has failed in America. Democracy in America has allowed for growth and expansion of the middle class. The American people are smart enough to recognize what gets decided on for the general public is something they have some interest in. The dilemma of the private sphere versus the government is solved because of the civil society occupying the middle space. As a civil society, people create associations with smaller communities who ensemble with a shared interest.
For example, a group formed around the environment will get together to do things to help the environment. If there is an outsider of the group who sees an issue, such as the water they drink is contaminated, will now join this group to help resolve said issue. This shows how everyone voice is made heard for the issues they deem important. People in this modern age constitute themselves by going out and voting as well as actively participating in their communities.
I agree with the fact that the way they intended to shape society was not what was best for society as a whole because of the paradox of the people. Democracy in America revolves around this idea of equality of condition. Tocqueville defines this as the ability for an individual to have equal opportunities at achieving success and moving up in society. This allows men to investigate the truths for themselves but then it creates this idea of individualism which destroys the idea of a true democracy.
Individualism creates a private thought life where the indication is if my opinions are as good as the next person why should I ask for another person’s opinion. Nevertheless, the essence of politics and democracy is to engage in debates and discussions, the idea of individualism takes this away. Tocqueville argues how Americans do interact with other groups according to societies but equality of condition makes them not interested in seeking out other opinions.
Due to the fact that citizenry is passive, not everyone participates resulting in many quiet voices. America has this winner takes all system which takes away from the idea in a democracy that all voices are heard. Federalists papers discuss the idea of being influenced by the majority and how the majority are bullies. The idea of being equal is to be the same but being the same creates the tyranny of the majority. The thought process of minorities is that I want to be like them and not be an outsider causing psychological insecurity. They might trust themselves and their beliefs but because the majority is powerful they become subordinate and follow through with them. They willingly trade their freedom to maintain their comforts of being with the in-crowd.
All democratic government focus on the intelligence of the elite. The constitution was written as the voice of the people by the founders but they were not present. The elected officials speak for the people and the people rarely speak unless their voting in the elected officials which further shows how the voices of the minority are hushed. Alexander Hamilton letter to George Washington supports this by saying “thinking men”, he is referring to educated elite men, should lead the republic. It is better to have a strong government because the people Hamilton talks to are in the know of politics but the convention worried that not well-informed people uneducated may ruin the idea of democracy.
This statement here is basically saying let one group of people have all the power which takes away from the democratic procedures of having everyone’s voice heard. This then is not by the people for the people creating the question who does the people include. This shows the paradox I previously mentioned above. The “people”, meaning they are not included in the “thinking men”, don’t make any decisions for themselves.
In James Madison Federalist paper number 10 he talks about majority faction which means a group of people who are united by shared ideas which lead back to individualism. Everyone sticks to what they know and refuses to challenge their opinions which leads to the question who decides the public good where everyone can be wrong. Democracy in the way the framers shaped it was a synonym for corruption politically. We need a democracy that doesn’t create factions but if we control the factions than society would not be democratic.
Factions are interminable and impractical to control because America is too big of an empire. When writing the constitution the framers could not possibly think of every possible problem that would come about in the future but he does argue the idea of having a republic form of government to help control the effects of the factions. The public interest is not identical or equated with the factional groups because they are always objective. They tend to be independent of political views of any because people in society constitute themselves in the faction. As they are shaping society, Madison further argues how true democracy is evil because you can always be politically swayed.
In conclusion, I disagree with Tocqueville on the idea that democracy did not succeed in America but I do agree with the way society was intended to pan out to be not what was best for America.