Major Values of American Democracy
Major Values of American Democracy
At a time of global stress on democracy, the Americans agree on the democratic values that are important for the country. The United States political culture has numerous core ideas which reflect people’s needs within a socially constructed system of meaning. These values mirror individual needs in society and, at the same time, reflect people’s stance on what they need to think. In essence, values reflect the relationship between a group and entire society or an individual. Most Americans agree with or share common values of democracy. The fundamental principles and values of American democracy form a common ground for citizens to work together to boost the attainment of community, individual, and national goals. These values are expressed in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and other significant speeches and writings. This essay discusses equality, liberty and truth as core values of the American Democracy.
As a core democratic value, equality ensures everyone receives equal treatment regardless of race, religion, economic status, or where their parents are. American citizens are entitled to social, economic, and political equality. As depicted in the US Declaration of Independence, all individuals are equal and as such, they should be given equal treatment. Equality is often linked with fairness which is another pillar of the American life. The term “equality” never appeared in the Bill of Rights of 1789 or the Constitution of 1787. While the Constitution of 1789 assured security of liberty and guaranteed all its citizens the rule of law, the existence of inequalities and slavery in women’s status contradicted the notion of equal rights (Harrison, 2018). Equality was intentionally incorporated into the Constitution only after the Civil War came to an end. This was achieved through a series of amendments. The 15th Constitutional Amendment of 1870 gave all citizens voting rights. The 14th Constitutional Amendment of 1868 has all Americans equal citizenship rights. This amendment had the special intention to shield the rights of former slaves. The 13th Constitutional Amendment of 1865 fights for equality through banning slavery. As noted in the Constitution, equality reinforces the principle that no citizen is superior to the other. However, in the real world, maintaining equality is hard because of the legal powers accorded to specific individuals especially holders of public office. Even so, equality is demonstrated in various forms, such as the equality in Americans’ voices when electing leaders. All American citizens are entitled to a single equal vote regardless of stature.
Liberty is another major value upon which American democracy is based. Liberty protects people’s freedom of thought, speech, and expression. As a value, liberty incorporates the freedom of choosing friends, believing what a person wants, expressing ideas publicly, and having opinions and ideas, the right to lawful businesses and jobs, and the right for people to convene in groups. Freedom of expression and speech are some of the most important rights for any democratic nation. The freedom of the press grants journalists the right to report on issues and facts as they are, regardless of the repercussions or what they might reveal (Janda, Berry, Goldman, Deborah, & Manna, 2021). The only instance when journalists are not allowed to report on a specific issue is when the information affects national security. Liberty makes sure that people are able to speak their minds and take necessary action without fearing retaliation. For instance, employees that are subjected to hostile work environments can act by informing the Employee Rights Commission of their grievances. When the freedom of speech is taken away, people get tortured, imprisoned, or even killed for expressing what they believe in. Liberty is impactful in law-making as it ensures society does not end up as a political prison camp.
Truth is another common value that defines American democracy. Simplified, governments and citizens should not lie to one another. The government and the people expect the same from each other. The governments should be open with their people by sharing information. Democracy and truth go hand in hand. Conventional wisdom shows that people have to agree about what reality should look like for democracy to function well (Michelman, 2017). Leaders and governments tend to lie when facts are not in their favor and they do not want the people to know the truth. Untruths hurt democracy because it becomes increasingly hard for members of the public to know about the facts. This makes it even more difficult for people to give meaningful input, undermining citizens’ role in making policies. As a result, the policies that get adopted are flawed as decisions that are formed from falsehoods turn out to be wrong.
In closing, while the American people experience life differently, they agree that equality, liberty, and truth are some of the core values that define American democracy. As a form of government, democracy is where people govern themselves and political leaders act according to the people’s opinion. The American political life resets on fundamental principles and shared values. Moving forward, rather than emphasizing procedural democracy, the United States needs to get to the real work of ensuring people get their democratic rights and improving the system of democracy.
Harrison, L. E. (2018). The Pan-American dream: do Latin America’s cultural values discourage true partnership with the United States and Canada? Routledge.
Janda, K., Berry, J. M., Goldman, J., Deborah, D., & Manna, P. (2021). The challenge of democracy: American government in global politics. Cengage Learning.
Michelman, F. (2017). Democracy and positive liberty. In Constitutionalism and Democracy (pp. 287-302). Routledge.