Democracy ... US-style

November 5, 2008

Having "free" and "fair" multi-party elections is the United States' main claim to democracy. But just how democratic is US capitalism?

Well, how democratic can a system be that benefits an elite minority at the expense of the majority? And with a history of vote-fixing, many people are deeply concerned about the chances of the upcoming presidential elections being "free" and "fair".

In a challenge to then-president of Cuba Fidel Castro (who the US government portrays as a dictator despite all evidence to the contrary), in 2002, George W Bush said, "Mr Castro, once, just once, show that you're unafraid of a real election". Did he mean a "real election" like the 2000 or the 2004 US presidential elections that were effectively handed to Bush through the systematic disenfranchisement of registered US voters?

In his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, investigative journalist Greg Palast describes how Al Gore lost the 2000 elections due to the removal from the voter rolls of those unlikely to vote for the Republicans. As Michael Moore says in Fahrenheit 9/11, "you can usually tell [those unlikely to vote Republican] by the colour of their skin".

African Americans in Florida vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. They also represented 54% of the roughly 90,000 people illegally purged from the Florida voter rolls despite only making up 13% of the state's population.

In the 2004 presidential election, similar disenfranchisement methods were employed. Palast documents how three million votes, mainly in Ohio and New Mexico, suspiciously failed to be counted in the 2004 election because of the installation of malfunctioning vote-counting machines in lower socioeconomic areas.

It's unlikely that the Republicans will get away with such vote-fixing this year: anger with the Bush Administration — particularly over the "war on terror" — has become increasingly vocal, and another win for the Republican Party could easily provoke political instability that would not be in the interests of the corporate elites.

Luckily for them, the Democrats and Republicans are so similar ideologically that they are both quite capable of tending to corporate needs.

The ruling class and its corporate media mouthpiece have attempted to equate capitalism with democracy and socialism with totalitarianism. You'd think providing food, housing, education and health care for all would not be incompatible with democracy, though the US is clearly failing on this criteria.

In US democracy, there is no system of majority rule that is based on informed consent (as opposed to manufactured consent). So what exactly is it about the US that makes it a democracy?

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