The State of American Democracy

Caine Blake, Sean Hall, Writers

Democracy is a word used to describe a system of government in which the citizens of a country participate in government through voting. By casting a vote for a political candidate, citizens are able to contribute to their communities not through direct action, but rather by placing the powers of government in the hands of leaders they feel represent themselves the best. But every time the election cycle comes around, it feels like both the candidates and results become more and more divisive. Presidential approval ratings average around 45~55%, and this most recent election was won by Biden, who only had a 4.5% lead in the popular vote. If the goal of democracy is to represent the will of the people, then how can ours be considered a success? If at any given point roughly half of the voting population will be dissatisfied with the person elected, then that’s a huge portion of our voting base left unrepresented and bitter. 


So what are the problems with our current system? Well for starters, one of the biggest problems with representation in America is the electoral college. The electoral college is essentially a collection of “electors” who are responsible for making the final decision on who becomes president. Electors all have one vote for a candidate, with more or less electors being designated to a state based on population size. Electors cast their votes based on how the citizens of their state voted, in a winner takes all fashion if a candidate wins the majority of their state, then every vote for that state goes to the majority. Because of this system, great disparidges can arise within the actual votes cast, and the results of an election. Take for example the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the presidency because of the electoral college. The electoral college diminishes the power of individual votes because its winner takes all format. In states with high partisanship such as Texas or California, who almost always vote democratic or republican all the way, a difference of 11,000 voters for example over the minority becomes as determinant in an election as a difference of 200 votes because electoral votes are not given out proportional to the voting spread. 


This problem with the electoral college is further accentuated by the fact that our election process is a duopoly. Every 4 years people are forced to vote between essentially two polar opposite options for president, and as a result our country is divided into two each cycle. While on paper having opposites run against each other seems to be the best way to determine which approach voters prefer, the problem is that voters are often more complicated and diverse than the options given each few years. Voters often feel themselves voting for “the lesser of two evils” rather than voting for a candidate which accurately represents themselves.


So what do you think about our democracy? What are the possible changes that you would like to see in our government? And as a citizen, how would you advocate for that change?