POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE GUARDIAN
Does any sensible person really believe America understands what democracy is? Hugo Chavez was elected in a supervised election that was far cleaner than Bush's pathetic performance in 2004.
George Bush was effectively court-appointed to his first term of office, and he had at least half a million votes less than his opponent.
Bush's second term in office was secured through extensive vote fraud, especially in Ohio and Florida. Vote fraud is nothing new to the country. John Kennedy was elected thanks to fraud in Illinois and Texas. And going clear back almost to the beginning, Jefferson was only elected through political wheeling and dealing, having failed to secure a lead in the Electoral College.
The Electoral College, by the way, is one of America's quite anti-democratic provisions of the Constitution. The votes of a small moneyed elite were all that mattered, the popular vote being automatically over-ridden by this institution. The College still exists and can in principle over-ride the popular vote.
Even the popular vote originally was rigged to favor the establishment. You could only vote in the general election if you were white, male, a legal adult, and, most importantly, the owner of what then was a considerable amount of property. It's been estimated that in early Virginia this amounted to about 1% of the population, the same proportion roughly that the Communist Party represents today in China.
Most of America's well-known founders - Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and others - emphatically did not believe in democracy or anything approaching it. Many other provisions of the Constitution - an appointed Senate until 1913, a Senate only elected one-third at a time to avoid taking the effects of currently unpopular policies, a Senate which had, and still has, far more voice in the shape of government than the House of Representatives, having to approve all appointments and treaties - were anti-democratic. Many remain so.
That is why America was called a republic, but in a real sense, it was no more a republic than the Great Britain of George III, a government which formed almost a model for the new American government, the British constitution being greatly admired among the revolutionary leaders in America. A number of America's founders wanted the president to be appointed for life, much like a king. The appointed Senate corresponded to the House of Lords, and the House of Representatives, with its extremely limited popular election, to the House of Commons.
About as many people voted in Britain then, and the king's powers had been declining vis-a-vis Parliament's since Elizabeth the Great. Many other republics, states without kings and with some limited form of voting, pre-dated America. The Dutch Republic, the Swiss Confederation, and the Venetian Republic to name a few.
Money has effectively displaced the College (and appointed Senate) for the power of the elite to influence elections in America. Bush entered his party's nomination race, hardly known in national polls except by his father's name and was a man quite undistinguished in his career, whatever that was, with $77 million stuffed into his pockets. He blew it quickly and it kept being topped up - all before the national election which saw record amounts squandered on meaningless television advertising.
American national elections today are little more than a marketing campaigns between two similar products representing two powerful companies, such as Coke and Pepsi, with a fair bit of fraud and character assassination thrown in.
It is interesting to note how powerful family ties represent a greater and greater influence too in American national politics, a clear sign of the long-term effects of using 18th century concepts as a constitution. The Bushes, the Gores, the Romneys, the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, and many others.
History is one thing, of course, and it is important to the understanding and attitudes of a people. We perhaps should judge American democracy by its actions which include invading pretty much any country its government chooses, violating the free elections of other countries regularly, toppling with coups democratically-elected leaders in many places, supporting the most oppressive regimes whenever it is politically opportune, assassinations, etc.
Condi Rice's disgusting words about children and others torn apart by cluster bombs in Beirut representing the birth pangs of a new Middle East pretty much speaks for itself. Democracy? Democratic values? Nonsense.