Inequality and American Democracy Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


The Americans are globally famous for their relentless support for democratic governance. Jacobs et al asserts that the ideals of democratically responsive governance are highly cherished by the American people (3). Ironically, the situation is markedly different within the American government even as they actively support democracy in other countries. With the growing inequality issues in the country, the ideals of democratic governance have been highly compromised.

The major disparities existing are mostly noticeable within the public domain (Jacobs et al. 3). Primarily, the issue is about income differences, opportunities for wealth creation and equal citizenship (Jacobs et al. 3). These gaps are growing rapidly in the United States compared to any other country in the world. Yet the US still considers herself the world’s greatest advocates of democracy. The American government is making little or no progress in the efforts to realize the democratic ideals set forth by the founding fathers of the nation.

Equal rights

The American society is the most culturally diverse in the world and this comes with a number of challenges as well. There were steps made to achieve equality in the 1950s and 1960s at the height of racism. Racial segregation and exclusion became illegal and socially unacceptable hence moving a step towards equality (Jacobs et al. 4). This allowed the white and black community to access education in the same schools and get access to health services in the same health facilities.

This was a good gesture towards democratic governance. It is also worth noting that major gender based barriers started to break down during the same time and women were empowered to pursue academic, political, and economic opportunities just as men did (Jacobs et al. 4). Other marginalized groups like the Latin Americans also got access to equal rights on an equal footing with the rest of the Americans.

Notably, the previous barriers that promoted inequalities such as race, gender, ethnicity to mention but a few do not exist today. Nonetheless, new barriers that are fostering inequality in the American society have emerged and they are rapidly spreading within the government and the country at large posing a threat to the realization of democracy.

The greatest of these barriers is the gaps in income and wealth between the Americans (Jacobs et al. 4). The gap between the rich and the poor is greatly increasing owing to disparities in income especially in the private and the civil sectors. This gap is increasingly creating a major segregation in the job market as well as in schools and colleges.

Apparently, the rich and the wealthy are better positioned to cease opportunities that are out of reach for the middle and lower income classes. Consequently, the rich are in a position to get richer while limiting access to resources by the poor man. That is why the saying that the rich will continue to get rich while the poor man becomes poorer is very true.

Some element of racist treatments is also present in school among students. In America today, one has to work very hard in order to maintain his or her current economic position (Jacobs et al. 5). One would expect that through hard work, there would be an upward mobility in the economic ladder but that is not normally the case in the US.

Inequality in contributions on national matters

Voicing the needs of the American people has never been easy and only a selected few can do this. The opportunity to exercise one’s right in the US does not come easily as there are factors that influence the ear of the government. These factors include a high income, occupational or career success, and high levels of academic achievements (Jacobs et al. 4).

Members who fit in these criteria are more likely to participate in political, social, and economic decision-making process than the ordinary citizen is. Government officials are more likely to listen to the needs of such elite citizens and deliver on their demands more promptly. Unfortunately, this is the bitter truth and the reality of the American government amidst its call for democratic governance around the world.

Voting turnout has also declined since the beginning of the 21st century when the income gap began to grow rapidly. Statistics show that the majority who vote are also the elite while the low-income earners decline to exercise their democratic right to cast their votes. How does the decline of voter turnout relate to inequality? A number of decisive factors discourage or make the voting process a struggle for the electorate.

The economic inequality is a major factor that discourages the less economically privileged eligible voters from voting. There are also some laws in some states that forbid the minority from voting and a good example is the law forbidding prisoners and former prisoners from voting (Verba, Lehman, and Brady 1). In addition, the current methods of campaigns are keen on raising funds and persuading the already existing voters to vote. A more different approach is necessary to woo the non-voting yet eligible voters to get out and exercise their rights.

Through campaign contributions, the rich and wealthy folks have a leeway to express and voice their demands as the platform gives them an advantage over the poor folks. Today, one can only gain justice and political influence through money and affluence thus leaving the poor man out of the standard bar. The least contributors in the national campaigns are the poor ordinary citizens while the few political donors are in charge in the political arena due to their financial influence.

In order to exercise the rights of citizenship, one requires resources and skills. These requirements are only accessible to the wealthy hence the inequality. People with higher education and great careers such as doctors and lawyers among other professional have more confidence to speak compared to an ordinary citizen working as subordinate staff. Naturally, the nature of American politics gives no voice to the poor while the rich and affluent get enough attention at the expense of the poor man.

Jacobs et al argues that three quarters of the well-off citizens are in one way or another associated with an organization that has great influence on the political arena (10). They also noted in their research that half of the wealthiest people in America are in contact with public officials. This gives the rich double access to public resources compared to the middle and low-income earners in the US (Freeman).

Government responses

Government officials are highly influenced by the privileged citizens. The response of the government today in America no longer represents the will of the majority. A selected few wealthy men and women determine the future of the vast majority which is not a principle of democracy. Money has become the essential for government attention.

Ironically, the already wealthy and advantaged citizens who are able to take care of themselves are the most catered for by the government. Democratic rule should ensure equality and fairness with the majority influencing the political stands. Nonetheless, in America, it is a reversed role since the minorities hold the realms of power while the majorities ride under the mercies of the few wealthy citizens.

Through money, the wealthy establish relationships with government officials creating a connection that enables them to access national resources that are out of the ordinary peoples reach. This gives them a further advantage despite the fact that they already have an advantage over the poor with their wealth and money. This disparity is among the issues that are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The gap grows wider because the more one earns, the more they gain access to resources and consequently the further the resources get away from the poor man’s reach. The effect is cyclic in that one direction influences the other.

The affluent also influence government policies as well and normally, policies will always consider the needs and demands of the wealthy business communities and organized groups (Frankenberg, Orfield, and Lee). The government is always bias when responding to national issues normally bending to the side that favors the rich (Skrentny). The government is moving towards a more tragic direction by allowing a few affluent individuals to take the country hostage.

The lack of spread opportunities and the gap between the rich and the poor is a disastrous condition in any economy. What this does is that the ordinary citizen will get discouraged and be reluctant to participate in national activities. This may include voting and working, which contributes to the national financial muscles, to mention but a few.


In the United States of America, democracy is only known theoretically and not as a practical state of affair. This paper has established the facts about government inequality and bias treatment of its citizens. The striking income disparity in the country is not a good example of a democratic nation since it is in contradiction with the idea of democracy. In the above research, it is clear that democracy is not as easy to achieve as it sounds and the quality of political leaders as well as the political will to pursue democratic governance highly counts.

The financial gap between the American citizens is creating a division not only affecting social interaction but also economic and political well-being. The voter turnout for instance has been on the decline since the beginning of the 21st century just when the gap begun to build up. This clearly means that income disparities greatly influence the political structure of a country.

Democracy is a good leadership model that allows for equal social, economic, and political opportunities for all citizens without favoritism. The government under democratic principles must always work towards engaging the majority rule and open access of power and influence to the majority as opposed to a select few. That is the real essence of democratic governance.

Works Cited

Frankenberg, Erica, Chumgmei Lee, and Gary Orfield. A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream? Cambridge, MA: Harvard Civil Rights Project, 2002. Print.

Freeman, Richard. Working under Different Rules. A National Bureau of Economic Research Project Report, New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 1994. Print.

Jacobs, Lawrence, and Robert Shapiro. Politicians Don’t Pander Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Print.

Jacobs, Lawrence et al. American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality. Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy American Political Science Association. 5 Sep. 2012. Web.

Skrentny, John. The Minority Rights Revolution, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. Print.

Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman, and Henry Brady. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. Print.

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