The idea of democracy has existed since time immemorial from the days of the great Greek philosophers and has been closely associated with the notion of respect for human rights (Westbrook 2015). For the US, democracy has been a central component for a long time and has been strongly ingrained in almost every fundamental aspect of the American society. Through democracy, a significant amount of notions like religious freedom, human rights, rule of law, and active participation of the people in free and fair elections have been promoted. In the US, the idea of democracy exists mainly to advance national interests which can only be achieved when a nation is democratic.
As it continues to be a standard term in contemporary political theory in the US, over time democracy has slowly come to be associated with a significantly contradictory term; crisis. This has led to various scholars studying the US governmental form referring to the current form of democracy as a loss of the power to signify (Bednar 2012). Further, it has been asserted that the US represents the only place where the defects of democracy can be meditated well. It is this kind of description that has brought about the increased criticism against democracy. Therefore, it is evident from the presented facts thinking that no democracy has ever been subjected to such condemnation as that of the US.
The critics of contemporary democracy in the US pay significant attention to five main areas of criticism: economic, sociological, political, philosophical, and administrative criticism. Thus, just as democracy in the US touches on different aspects of life and wellbeing so does the critiques (Roper 2013). Therefore, based on the five main areas of criticism, the critiques have come to a conclusion that the US democracy in the 21st century is economically incompetent, politically ardent and morally corrupt.
Critics of Democracy
The critics of contemporary democracy in the US can be divided into a number of groups which include business, religious, and social groups (Roper 2013). Their criticism of the contemporary US democracy stems from the notion that democracy has failed the people, and there is a need for this to be highlighted so that corrective steps can be undertaken.
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Some of the critics of contemporary democracy in the US include various international movements and other non-governmental organizations. A bright example is Amnesty International. This has been one of the organizations which have been at the fore front of the criticism of democracy in the US. This criticism has touched on various areas in which the US has been found to have violated human right which are one of the most vital elements of democracy. Amnesty International has criticised the US for its use of torture and consequent abuse of prisoners (Laski 2014). The entire US criminal justice system including the police, courts, and prisons has been found to be treating prisoners in inhumane manner. Thus, in all the mentioned points the US criminal laws have been found to violate human rights. Further, the organization has also accused the US of violating democracy in its response to its immigration problem. This aspect and in particular its illegal element has been an issue that has gotten out of hand. This is because the number of illegal immigrants in the US has risen to a steady high value that has caused the government to express worry. However, the management of this situation by the federal authorities has proven to be unsatisfactory. Their response which has come to be described as repressive has resulted in the US adapting forceful measures to deter this problem (Bednar 2012). It is essential to note that the use of such approach greatly undermine democracy. In addition, the US authorities working to return these immigrants back to countries with significantly lower levels of democracy and often characterised with war and violation of basic human rights further speaks about its notion of democracy and how much they value it. Amnesty has also criticised the US’s national security policy due to its low regard for democracy. This system has included mass surveillance programs which have undermined the right to privacy. It has also provided an eroded freedom of the press and, consequently, inhibiting its role in upholding democracy (Glaude 2016). All this criticism from this global organization illustrates the extent to which the US has undermined its current democracy.
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Economists have also been identified as very strong critics of the US democracy in the 21st century. Their criticism has mainly advanced the message that American democracy is economically inefficient and morally corrupt (Bednar 2012). One such critique linked to this is the notion that the growing gap between rich and poor in America is contributing to a breakdown of democracy. In the views of these economists the notion of democracy in the US places a significant amount of emphasis on the most cherished vital value that the US is a land of opportunity. From this perspective of the nation, it is thus concluded that the potential of people’s fortune changing overnight is a possibility given that these people are willing to work hard. The truth of the matter is this is nothing but a myth. Economists have accused the US of having the largest income and wealth disparity in comparison to other leading democracies in the world (Roper 2013). This problem has been traced back to other factors of inequality in terms of educational opportunities which make the children of the disadvantaged being disregarded. Thus, the democratic element of equality, in this respect, has been done away. In their continued criticism of the current status of democracy in the US, economists have additionally made the assertion that there is a considerable decline in the amount of government investment in public purposes. Some aspects of this issue have been witnessed in such public segments as education, infrastructure, and overall development (Westbrook 2015). This has shown the failure of the government in one of its main aims which is to oversee to the distribution of wealth in order to invest in more important purposes. Therefore, as this government failure to invest in public purposes continues with the end result being a considerable decline in democracy, the US is also losing its former competitive advantage the foundation of which greatly depended on these public purposes.
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The contemporary US democracy has also been highly criticised by the international community. This is more so within the context of the US foreign policy. The first criticism is based on the war in Iraq that was facilitated by President George W. Bush. This conflict led to the US being accused of neglecting democracy and its associated element of human rights. The war which was a way of fighting terrorism following the 9/11 terrorist attacks saw to the US undertaking significant military intervention that led this Middle East nation being thrown into disarray and misery as the war was raging (Bednar 2012). Thousands of innocent lives were lost and, despite the US affirmation that its aim was to bring peace to Iraq, the fact of the matter remains that this was done through sacrificing democracy. The international community has also accused the contemporary US democracy claiming that the US is violating fundamental human rights by supporting dictatorships through economic, military, and social assistance. Even in cases when such kinds of help are not provided, the US has been observed to be silent with regard to violators of human rights with which it has relations. For instance, the Arab Spring revolution that swept the Middle East presented a dilemma to the US government (Westbrook 2015). This is because this revolution threatened the wellbeing of one of the country’s friendly partners, Egypt. With the US long term interests at stake, President Barack Obama at the time was presented with two choices. On the one hand, he could offer more vocal support for the protestors demanding for increased democracy in the country through change in leadership. On the other hand, he could propose support to the president given that he has protected American interest in the Middle East for a long time (Roper 2013). All these demonstrate the extent to which American democracy can be stretched, especially in order to meet the needs and interests of the nation.
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Lobbyists who represent various special interest groups include some of the strongest critics of the contemporary democracy in the US. These groups can include private corporations or other forms of movements (Bednar 2012). They have become some of the strongest critics of the US democracy due to the fact that these organizations constitute to a large extent the essence of democracy in the country. The practice of lobbying has become a source of criticism for the US democracy in the 21st century as a result of the fact that the advocacy raised by lobbyists has the potential to influence decisions made by the government (Roper 2013). This is significant given that the latter is the epitome of democracy. Despite the fact that lobbying has for a long time been perceived as a highly controversial phenomenon, its influence in ensuring that democracy is upheld cannot be denied. This is because among the diverse types of lobbying activities there are groups which are committed specifically towards ensuring that different aspects of democracy are upheld. It is for this reason that their actions are directed towards bringing to light various violations of democracy. For instance, lobbying came to be recognized for its role in the political system through its influence on elections. In 2010, the Supreme Court empowered lobbyists in the election process by enabling them to make use of their unlimited sums of money to sway voters towards certain candidates perceived to support democracy (Laski 2014). Lobbyists thus criticize democracy through their high expertise in various issues of the system. In this regard, they make use of this knowledge to influence the decision making process of congress in a manner that will ensure that democracy is upheld.
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Religious organizations have also been seen as some of the harshest critics of the current form of democracy in the US. In this regard, they have accused the government which is the main enforcer of democracy as being increasingly responsive to special interests and setting aside public interests. This, according to these religious organizations, is the fundamental reason as to why the American people today are frustrated and disappointed in the nation’s current political system (Glaude 2016). This has further led to the creation of a situation whereby, instead of there being democracy which provides the people with an equal say in the governing process, the reality of the situation is a few individuals have obtained a disproportionate and unfair influence over the actions of the government. In the end, it is the power and the subsequent greed of a few who have gained control over the needs of the many. In their continued criticism of the current nature of democracy in the country, religious organizations assert that the problem is getting worse. In the end, this influence over the government by a few in pursue of special interests is limiting the extent to which the latter can be effective in the US (Glaude 2016). By ignoring the needs of the people and serving the needs of a few the government is becoming less responsive to its citizens and thus less inclined to act in public interest. Therefore, the focus of this criticism of democracy by religious organizations is aimed at bringing to light that by inhibiting the active and equal participation of citizens in the governance of the nation, the government is undermining a fundamental element of democracy (Bednar 2012). It is predicted that, in the end, the government is likely to become unable to play its role of providing the good for the country since this entails being as democratic as possible.
The critics of contemporary democracy in the United States have also included various scholars and researchers. To begin, this group has actively criticised the democratic process involving elections and has described it as being anything but not democratic (Westbrook 2015). In the views of these academics, the voting process, for instance, is expected to entail voters choosing representatives. However, in the current democracy, this notion has become reversed as representatives today are choosing their voters. In this regard, the election process has been transformed into a science as a result of the development of various forms of sophisticated polling data and software that is able to provide these representatives with an advantage. Further, scholars and researchers have also been quick to criticize the manner in which political compromise has been deteriorating in the US, especially over the last few years. This process is manifested in the increased number of Senate rejections of presidential nominees and the decrease in the number of laws passed by Congress (Bednar 2012). This deterioration in political compromise, in the words of many scholars and researchers, is slowly killing democracy.
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The most aggressive critics of contemporary democracy in the US are the media, which in their role as the public watchdog, have been actively criticizing democracy in a number of ways that have brought to light its failure and weaknesses. For instance, the media were significantly active in highlighting some of the democratic fails that occurred during the 2012 elections (Glaude 2016). These failures demonstrated how the nation lacks a healthy and fair political system that actively respects the will of the people. One media commentary reiterated that some of the most undemocratic aspects of the nation’s electoral process were fully presented in that electoral cycle. One concern that emerged from this is the issue of the role of money in the electoral process. In this respect, it became apparent that money played a critical role in the outcome of elections (Roper 2013). This aspect as affirmed by many media houses runs contrary to the principle that within a democracy the elected have the duty to represent the people rather than dollars as the situation stands today. Another point of concern that emerged from this election process and has been feared to still occur in the upcoming 2016 elections in the views of the media is unconscionable inconvenience that has forced a considerable number of citizens to have to endure exercising their right to vote. This inconvenience, according to various media reports, was characterised by long voter lines that proved that the voting process was and still is largely marred with inefficiency, incompetence, and misplaced resources on all levels of government (Westbrook 2015). Given that voting is one of the essential rights afforded to the people by democracy, this, as postulated by the media in its criticism of American democracy, was too much of an outrage that portrayed the nation as having reverted back to the period in time when democracy had no place in the country and its wellbeing.
Criticism of the contemporary democracy in the US continues with the critique of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Through a report which has been described as excoriating this committee has extensively criticised the US violation of democracy in various forms (Bednar 2012). Despite democracy asserting the need for all people to be treated equally, this has not been the case for the US. For instance, there has been a substantial amount of racism in the criminal justice system which has led to the minority groups being treated unfairly. This has caused the overrepresentation of minorities in prisons and jails. The committee showed a considerable amount of condemnation of the use of racial profiling by the criminal justice system which has led to the significant violation of the rights of communities such as Muslims in the US. In further criticism of the US justice system, the report by the committee denounced the ongoing use of the death penalty, especially given its racial disparity inclination that has caused the minority groups to be the most adversely affected (Glaude 2016). Additional critique of the US criminal system by the committee also explored the issue of how prisoners are treated. The report prepared by this committee touched on the closure of the prison in Guantanamo where democracy has completely lost its meaning. This is because the detainees held in this prison have not been dealt with within the ordinary criminal justice system, a factor that has due to which they were denied fair trials. The committee sheds light on another area where democracy has been violated, and it concerns dealing with the issue of the homeless (Roper 2013). Accordingly, the rights of the homeless have become one of the most disregarded issues. Instead of adapting effective and appropriate programs to help these people in manner that will ensure that their basic rights are protected, the government has instead embarked on criminalizing the homeless. This has brought about the rise of concerns that include discrimination and degrading treatment of human beings.
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In conclusion, the above discussion demonstrates that while it is critical to acknowledge all that is right with the US democracy, this should not be done in a manner that causes disregard to that which is equally wrong with it. The above critics of the US democracy in the 21st century affirm this in their various criticism of democracy in this nation. This critique has confirmed that, although democracy is good, there are also various other things that are wrong with it and these issues need to be fixed. From the above discussion, it is evident that the criticism of democracy by the various critics discussed has focused mainly on the areas where the system has been found to be inefficient. The area which has been the most pronounced is the violation of human rights. This aspect has led the US to denying its citizens the right to be treated equally under the law and to participate adequately in governance. The criminal justice system has been found to be the greatest source of this violation of human rights while the electoral process has also been identified as inefficient in upholding democracy.