The US Is Not a Democracy
Is a system working as well as possible? Inertia lulls people into believing that legacy products are great -- even that they're perfect -- without objectively considering whether it's really true. The QWERTY computer keyboard works, but the 1936 Dvorak version is superior. Skim milk makes you fatter. The U.S. may still be a shining city on a hill, but our Constitution has become so out-of-date that new nations no longer refer to it as a template for their own legal charters.
Ask yourself: if our political system were created today, by a group of intelligent people, what would it look like? If the real-world system we see now falls short of that ideal, there's room for improvement.
What if we were to scrap our centuries-old Constitution? What if we built a shiny new government from the ground up, without considering legacy or precedent?
This is a complicated question. Only one of out of four Americans would vote to repeal the Second Amendment, so the right to bear arms might make it into a new charter. Much of that support, however, derives from voters who own the hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation. An America without a legacy of individual firearms ownership would be much less likely to codify it as a fundamental right.
So what would an ideal representative democracy look like for the United States, 2023 edition?
Nothing like what we have now.
Every citizen of sufficient age to exercise sound judgment should be allowed to vote. Our society currently says 18. But there are strong arguments in favor of allowing children to vote as well as for raising the age of enfranchisement to 25. If mental acuity matters, what about the one out of ten Americans over age 65 who suffers from dementia, or those with very low IQ?
Among those permitted to cast ballots, each vote ought to count equally. The principle of one person, one vote is almost universally accepted.
Yet the current system falls dismally short of our professed ideal. Due to the Electoral College, the vote of a resident of Wyoming in a presidential election counts 3.6 times more than that of someone who lives in California. People in the District of Columbia enjoy no vote at all; nor do the 4 million Americans who reside in overseas territories. Gerrymandering through redistricting has radically reduced the weight of a vote cast by a Black citizen compared to a white one. Forty-eight out of 50 states either ban convicted felons, people in prison and/or on parole from voting; the U.S. has some of the most vicious disenfranchisement laws in the world.
If a representative democracy is healthy and vibrant, voters ought to be able to choose from a broad selection of candidates who represent a wide range of ideological viewpoints that reflect the broad diversity of opinions in our vast country.
Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.