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American Political Apathy And The Functioning Of Democracy


How does democracy keep on functioning in the world’s oldest representation of the institution? Granted Americans are extremely patriotic and very proud of the fact, our nation is a beacon for democratic thought, ideology and operation, yet when it comes to casting a ballot in elections, the turnout is never exceptionally high and probably will continue to decrease over the course of the next decade. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to examine why Americans seem to ignore most everything about and associated with politics and if this situation is a true measurement of the validity of democracy in this nation. With 2014 being a tremendous election year voting is a perfect circumstance to scrutinize.

At this point in time President Obama has been selected by the American people as the head of their government for two consecutive terms. Unfortunately his approval rating is under 50 percent, but it is much higher than the same statistic for Congressional representatives. Since American voters are the ones responsible for these individuals in these positions it certainly does not seem to make a lot of sense the approval ratings are so low. So could American apathy and lack of faith in the system be the major problem as to why this nation does not seem to care or know about politics? But why would they feel that way? Maybe it’s because of the system.

Before an attempt is made to answer the above questions, there is another inquiry that must be ruminated upon…how do you measure the health or validity of a democracy? Naturally there are list of factors or scenarios scholars would apply or even a formula if need be, but what makes common sense as a very formful indicator would be how involved a nations citizens are in their governing. The first indicator of participation would be through voting. If that is the case, than Americans do not take a very active role in their political mechanisms.

When the world’s major democracies are examined, the United States inevitably ranks as one of the democracies with the lowest voter turnout at around 60 percent. Various polls also demonstrate many Americans do not trust their government and most numbers for these devices usually hover around the 50-50 range. Why would Americans not exercise their option to participate in government? Voting is the opportunity to change things, to implement policies and plan for the future. If Americans really cared about their democratic rights or freedoms they would vote right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple as numerous studies have been performed on why the United States has a low voter turnout and there are various reasons why Americans are not flocking to the polls.

The structure and function of the electoral college is certainly a major reason many Americans do not exercise their right to vote and avoid politics. The system itself is archaic and its very roots stem from a very undemocratic stance by the Founding Fathers. The placed this mechanism in the Constitution for elections to preserve their own self-interests. They felt citizens were not educated well enough to select the appropriate candidate of their own volition. Since most American citizens could not be trusted enough to make their own choices and could quite possibly make the serious error of not voting for one of the landed gentry with connections that most of the Founding Fathers represented, the Framers of the Constitution took matters into their own hands. It was not a notion of benevolence but one of preservation.

In addition, many of the Founding Fathers did not believe in elections. That might sound a bit off kilter, but many of these men were from aristocratic backgrounds. Their mindset on elections was they did not need to exist. The right man should not have to campaign for an office. It should be endowed upon him by virtue of his peers thinking he possessed all of the qualifications for the position. Again, this fostered a sense of elitist thinking that was embraced by the founding members of the United States. Nearly 300 years later the system still remains unaltered although no other component of the Constitution and Bill of Rights possesses more amendment requests. Could that be because the powers that be want to preserve the system to follow in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers? That could be partially true.

Another problem the electoral college poses is the promotion of a two party system. Many Americans might not feel they have a very valid choice as they have to vote for a Republican or Democrat rather than a candidate that would represent their interests. This scenario can be depicted through the third party Presidential bids of Ralph Nader and Ross Perot. Each man steered away from the traditional party politics and did fairly well in their respective elections. Unfortunately, however, because of the way the electoral college is constructed third party candidates have a near impossible time getting elected. They do not receive the campaign funds the two main parties do or receive the kind of advantages the Republicans and Democrats do. Essentially they are fighting an uphill battle and it makes many American citizens feel like they have no real choice in what person will be representing them. If that is the case why vote? There are many citizens that do feel that way and illustrate this feeling of hopelessness with the ability for the system to change through only their vote during Presidential elections. This is when voter turnout is normally at its worst.

So without a high level of participation in government and/or politics by most Americans does this democracy still work? The answer to that is a resounding yes. Remember democracy in the United States is not like anywhere else in the world. For instance, how elections are conducted for Congress in alternating years with the Presidency. Again, this system was created by design by the Founding Fathers. Yes, it certainly has its share of problems and issues people would love to see repaired such as the electoral college, but overall how can anyone say American democracy is not a success? The United States is the oldest living version of democracy and became a world super power after World War II. It has the top rated economy on this planet and the most military might. True there are some qualities lacking in education and health care, but overall, the United States has been one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen. It’s stability as well as its prosperity is based upon the democratic foundation on which this nation was created. Scholars, international politics and the like can pick away at what is wrong with American democracy and if the system is really working in this country, but they cannot find fault with how powerful the United States is and why. That is because despite Americans lack of interest in politics it’s democracy works and works very well!

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