Why are the United States the longest standing democracy?

Since 1776 the democracy of the United States exists and proved itself as the longest standing democracy of the world. On 4th July the thirteen british colonies declared indepence from the British Kingdom. Thats when the whole story started. Regarding my central and leading question it is inevitable to know how long this democracy already exists.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of democracy:

definition of democracy on wikipedia

The people have the sovereignty of the state. The form of government is legitimated by the people. In addition basic human rights are mentioned in the definition as well. This shows how constitution and democracy go along. In my opinion the seperation of powers should furthermore be mentioned. During the corona crisis it becomes apparent how important the seperation of powers is. The government wants to secure the safety of the people by restricting their freedom rights. It’s the classical consideration of freedom and safety and how to weighten them. But while the government restricts freedom rights people have the opportunity to charge the state and the court will decide whether the restrictions are commensurate and if not the government has to withdraw their decisions. The restrictions of the right to meet and demonstrate were withdrawen by our government as they were not commensurate for example. These processes are absolutely essential for the well-being of our democracy.

By now thankfully most states are democratic. Especially those in Europe. But obviously there are differences between different democractic states. Looking at Russia or turkey for example they once were democracys but their systems were abused and turned into an autocracy.

definition of autocracy

Regarding our leading question we look at the democracy only from one perspective: Does the system prevent abuse? Some countrys may be labeled as more democratic than other countrys because they focus more on freedom rights or whatever. But this is not important for this essay.

The most known critics of the system of the United States is how they elect their president. Their electoral system has one big problem: A president can win the election with less overall votes. This is what happened back in 2016 when Trump won against Hillary Clinton with 2% less overall votes. The reason for this is a compromis which makes the United States amongst other things the safest democratic system in the world. Their federalism.

Just an example for federalism beeing extremely important to guarantee democracy:
When Germany lost the second World War the Soviet Union, the United States, the British Kingdom and France made up a plan to prevent fascism in Germany. One of their main points was Decentralisation. Back in the 19th century when Germany was divided into many small states with their own sovereignty there was a revolution. And one reason for this revolution to not work out was federalism. If you compare France and Germany. In France revolutionists needed to take over one government but in Germany there were several powerful states. And in the end Prussia overturned the revolution. It’s just an example to illustrate how hard it is to overturn several governments instead of one centralized. This example can also be transfered to anti-democratic political movements in history. They have to take over more than just one government.

Imagine taking over 51 States, that’s ridicilous. In order to get all these states to participate in a general election they needed a compromis between a system which advances small states and a system which advances big states. First of all the basic federalism character of the electoral college is essential to give these states decent rights to control the central government. That’s why they needed this compromis. There are two extreme scenarios:

  1. Every state has the same amount of votes which would advance states with a small population as their vote per person would count more.
  2. Every state has as much votes as people living there which would be a disadvantage with a small population as the vote of the states is almost negligible.

This often mentioned critics that the overall vote doesnt decide is actually really important to keep the States together. Now the vote per person in small states counts a little more which seems unfair but at least all states are happy and willing to attend a general election. Changing this rule would attack the federalism character and the unity of the States.

Another reason for the long existence of the U.S. democracy, which should be mention to complete this essay, is the overall wealth of the United States. The United States never had to live through such a big social crisis as other countrys had to. And a lack of freedom in the United States also seems like a joke. As Hannah Arendt emphasized, social and freedom crisis are the most likely to cause political disaffection. The American Dream served this satisfaction by creating a myth to shift focus from the administration to the individual person.

Furthermore, the two party system is as far as I am concerned also an advantage. In the U.S. a Big Coalition like in Germany is not possible. There is always one party governing and one party being the opposition. What a missing opposition can lead to was shown in the 70s in Germany when the APO became big and people radicalized which served the following phase of left-extremist theorism. A big opposition is essential to prevent political abuse. In Germany the periods of the Big Coalition caused a spread of extrem political thoughts and resulted into a weakening of the two big German partys, CDU and SPD. In the end the power to act of the government will be more in doubt than ever as many partys with different political ideas have to work together in a coalition. And this will also result in mistrust of the political system. Given this information a two-party-system seems definitely more stable. So the United States of America dont need to fear that.

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