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May 04, 2007

Since when are the USA a free democracy?

Posted in: U.S.A.

Preface: This post is in no way intended to insult anyone, hurt anyone’s feeling or put anyone down. I’m just asking a question out of curiosity. I’d like you to take it as it is meant - a simple, factual question for a historical date.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the election in 2008, when he asked me “Since when are the USA a democracy?”. I guess he was talking about the election in 2000, when the majority of the people elected one person and the other one was the winner.

Although I don’t quite understand that myself, I’m not gonna talk about it now. No, what came to my mind was something else.

The USA are always portrayed as a kind of “guardian of freedom and democracy in the world”. I’m German, so I tend to agree. I don’t even want to imagine what Germany would be like, without the support of the USA after WWII. Thanks to your country, I can say that ours is a free democracy. In fact I can say that we are since 1949.

Which brings me to the point of this post: What would you say - Since when are the USA a free democracy? Do you have a certain date in mind, or has it been a continuous process, that cannot be nailed down to a specific point in time?

“Free and democratic” to me means that every citizen is allowed to vote (with certain exceptions of course), and that the state does not discriminate people because of race, gender,…

1838 - The Governor of Missouri signed a military order that the Mormons be driven from the state or exterminated. It’s legal invalidity was officially recognized and the State of Missouri formally apologized - in 1976.
Go or die? Not really free, right?

1890 - 300 men, women and children of the Lakota Sioux are slaughtered at the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Uhm, no. Not free.

1920 - The 19th amendment to the US Constitution became law and women were allowed to vote throughout the USA.
Okay, no democracy without voting rights for women.

1964 - The Civil Rights Act made it illegal to force black people to use separate schools, theaters, restaurants, buses, rest rooms, and trains.

Could that really be it? 1964? That would mean that you have made us a free democracy without being one yourself. That sounds weird, and maybe I’m missing something.

What do you think? What do your textbooks say? Can you name a date?

Again - No offense meant.


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