We the People

The Consequential Struggle to Maintain Democracy in the US

Most of you know that democracy is in real danger in the United States but don’t really don’t know why. It is important to know how this happened in order to impact policies to prevent its destruction and our slide into authoritarianism. Though the US Constitution was the first written constitution and is almost 235 years old, it is vulnerable. Democratic government has been overthrown before and replaced by dictatorships. Nazi Germany is the most obvious example. This is more likely to happen in times of crisis.

Most revolutions happen as the oppressed rise up against those who control society. The genesis of the American Revolution, however, was politically conservative. It originated among the wealthy classes; the merchants in the North together with the slave-owning plantation owners of the South. To be successful, a revolution has to have a critical mass to support it. To raise that support, the initiators used publications by Ben Franklin and later by Thomas Paine and others to extend the appeal to average colonists. Their democratic philosophy was codified by drafting a constitution that included both the democratic structural ideas from the European Enlightenment, as well as institutional checks designed to prevent one-man rule, while still maintaining the power of the wealthy. First and foremost was to limit voting to the elites, i.e. rich, white, males who owned land and/or paid taxes. They also limited the federal government as much as possible so the states in the South could maintain a system of slavery which was the basis for their wealth. This system was maintained by a police state to prevent slave revolts, as well as a system of propaganda to get the support of the vast majority of whites who were not wealthy to buy into a system based on the lie of racial superiority.