Democracy in America ?




Remember your hight school courses or TV news’s highlights, the American democracy and the French republic. Wait a minute, a democratic regime was introduced in America ?, we just needed to wait. Let’s skip this joke, people often ask me to explain these two regimes or at least put them in opposition. I heard so many things on the first one, "American democracy is not really one", "they can’t even vote for their president." I must admit that the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George Bush has given plenty to think about, it complicated the image of American democracy in France. Compare French and American regimes seem difficult or even impossible because the concept and especially the idea of ​​power between these two peoples is radically different, even contradictory. This is explained in part by the different history of these peoples.


Most of the time, the French love to undermine American democracy to challenge the vision of the country as a model because there is indeed a link between France and the US, it is the political concept. Indeed the two people who served as an example to the world to create free and democratic regimes, and no longer depend on royalty, are the United States and France. Both countries have repeatedly claimed today their former democratic origin in a constantly changing world. Their relationships are even those of rival brothers because both nations have in turn influenced each other and this indirectly. If the founding fathers were greatly inspired by the thought of the French philosopher Montesquieu, it was the US who first took up arms to claim their freedom. In 1776, the US became the first free nation in the world and it’s currently the oldest democratic nation in the world. Certainly I hear some French people shocked and oppose me that their real fight was over once the recognition of England in 1791, and the end of the war of independence, but gentlemen, the French revolution taking place in 1789 followed a long period of war like the USA, which was long and painful. In the history books, you only find the dates of the constitutions of both states, and it is important to note that despite the fact that the French culture is older than the Americans, these Franks (old name for the french tribes), these Gauls (still, the same guys but older), it’s the inhabitants of the 13 American colonies who were first free. American democracy is older, short but still. I take the time to tell you this, not in order to provoke or frustrate France history lovers, but how often people refused me this truth, which is yet so true and well known in the largest democracies in the world.


To understand the big nuance between the two models, it’s necessary once again to go back to basics, American and French as well. Let me explain. If the creators of our nation (American for me) are our founding fathers, they have created a law of thought, not a state that is subject to the rule of law as in France. This is all complicated ! In fact it’s very simple, the people have the power, they designate a state and not the other way around. Thus, in the land of Uncle Sam, it’s written in the constitution that if at some point the government exceed up these rights, the people have the right and duty to take up arms and create a new government. Pride aside, it’s unthinkable to find such a paragraph in the French constitution. Just think it would make jealous Besancenot ( French far left political figure and trade unionist) and Laguiller (French Trotskyist politician who wants to steal from the rich to give to the poor) about applying this damn constitution? The preside ...? Don’t try. And yes you have understood, the American individualism has struck again. For gosh sakes you may say, but who ensured application of the Law?. Why do you want to give more power to the executive?. The respect for our constitution is monitored by the Supreme Court. And France in that?, Your old homeland is also the symbol of freedom, equality and Res ... uh no fraternity. The big difference with the land of Uncle Sam, is that if for the two nations, the power emanates from the people, in the USA, there is no principle of rule of law or not exactly like the french like it. Do not worry I will explain everything. Remember our founding fathers if they were erudite men, they were also very pessimistic, they were far from believing in the natural goodness of man. Contrary to the thinking that accompanied the French Revolution, the founding fathers were well aware that a democracy could lead to a tyranny. They were much suspicious of people with good intentions than a supposedly strong state, even democratic. Did Thomas Paine himself not say in his Common Sense:


"Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one…"


The power is given to the ideals and not left solely to the state. Jefferson expressed this concept so American as saying:


"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles,"


To put it in simple terms if you prefer, to us, it is not an absolute monarch ruling by divine right or a state dedicated to the people, but rather, it’s the people themselves who decided to create a state.


Ha this Yankee individualism, but why such a defiance of power?


James Madisons said:


"What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”


Again this creative vision of America is also found in texts such as the Constitution and the Bill of right. The biggest difference between our founding fathers and the French revolutionaries is that they were firstly businessmen or lawyers, our founding documents are primarily a collection of laws and not texts based on a philosophical speech by Voltaire or Montesquieu, they are realistic and not utopian, that is why the system created last until these days as the most stable institution. And yes because contrary to the spirit of the French Revolution, the goal of the American Revolution was not to revolutionize the world, it was simply to try to find a compromise between different peoples to live together. If France went through several regime changes (eleven), do not get me wrong, it’s a lot closer to a monarchy than a republic for us Yankee. The check and balances are far more important than you might think. So the president is The Commander in Chief, he can’t declare war, in America we vote war in Congress. So our president if he is the most powerful man in the world can’t dissolve the legislative chambers, that passes laws, and besides these houses can’t even overthrow the government. In fact in France if your check and balances are fighting each other, in America in order to govern it’s necessary to reach an eternal compromise because our judicial, legislative and executive systems are really separated.


So we can safely say that the US and France are both great democracies but their differences are not so much about the values of these ideals than on the place of the state in society.