American democracy in its final death throes
Published: Nov 17, 2021 11:48 AM
Last-ditch attempt to save US' dying democracy. Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times
Last-ditch attempt to save US' dying democracy. Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

As the US Presidency convenes a "Leaders' Summit for Democracy" next month, let's say now: farewell to Democracy in the United States. For the bell is now tolling for the disintegrated American democracy.

Governmental dysfunction, congressional paralysis, voter suppression, and political polarization all suggest that American democracy is a poor advertisement. Or rather, the health of the US system is even worse than it looks.

In the US, the "beacon of democracy" only shines for a self-serving class uniting wealth and power. The 0.1 percent richest Americans possesses roughly the same amount of fortune as the bottom 90 percent. The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own about 89 percent of stocks and mutual funds held in the US as of the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent of US households hold around 0.5 percent, according to Fed data. During the COVID-19 pandemic, countless patients have waited anxiously for a hospital bed. More than 760,000 innocent Americans have died of despair. 

Nearly a century ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

Brandeis' warning proved prophetic. 

The representative system of American democracy, designed as a guarantee for people to utter their voice, now has had very little to do with the people—whom are the real substance of democracy. American democracy has degenerated into democracy only in form. The American people are "cherished" during voting season, but left out in the cold afterwards with no substantial access to national political affairs. Their interests are covered in a film of dust as politicians fight each other like in the House of Cards show.

The multi-party system of American democracy, designed as a guarantee for supervision that restricts political power and reduces corruption, now devastatingly hinders the government's efficiency and effectiveness. John Adams once worried that "a division of the republic into two great parties … is to be dreaded as the great political evil". Today, the two parties are so divided that they often disagree for the sake of disagreement. What is on display in the US Capitol proves that the result can be extremely devastating when polarization confronts America's Madisonian checks-and-balances political system. 

The US voting system, designed as a guarantee for every adult citizen's right to vote regardless of his/her ethnicity, sex and property, now is the protective umbrella and disguise of the privileged. Various elections in the US have degenerated into "PK between Internet celebrities"; meaning that whoever can put more identity labels on themselves and attract more public attention will have a greater chance to make their political propositions heard. Behind this rat race, is capital support paying for the candidates' campaign bill. The politicians who get elected will repay their check-signers. "One person, one vote" eventually falls into "no money, no votes".

History repeats itself, often in a strikingly similar way. Democracy lasted 250 years in ancient Athens until privilege, corruption and mismanagement took hold. American democracy, seen by many as the second democratic experiment, is now approaching 250 years, and it is desperately ill. Its spine is deformed as it no longer speaks for the people. Nerves are destroyed as it fails to solve the real problems. Bones are cracked as the poor have no say in the political process. 

In fact, Washington's coming "Summit on Democracy" has nothing to do with democracy. It is a democratic segregation, dividing the world between "the US and them". It is part of the new Cold War, primarily waged against Russia and China. It pursues nothing but US geopolitical interests and global hegemony.  

It is ridiculous that a democracy in its death throes hopes to revitalize world democracy. It would be truer to say that Biden's "Democracy Summit" is the last ditch attempt to save the US' dying Democracy, just like an unpopular man waiting for people to give him the last praise—or a dying patient dying for a shot in the arm.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, CGTN, etc.. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.