There are many partisan responses to this question. Of course, internationally, the United States is regarded by many people to be the gold standard of what constitutes a democracy (perhaps because the US was the first nation that was born out of a successful revolution against an existing dictatorship and that quickly produced a written Constitution, which endorses many democratic principles and which lasts proudly till the present day). However, that reputation is not a substantive answer to the question as to whether the United States is today a democracy. There are dictatorships that have democratic written constitutions. Furthermore, the way that a constitution is enforced or not enforced can determine whether or not the nation’s constitution is real or whether it’s instead more of a mere formality than a reality.
Internally within the US, many people respond to this question about whether America is a “democracy” on the basis of their own political party, regarding whether or not the Democratic Party happens to be in power. Many Americans confuse a party’s name with the ideology that it’s supposed to adhere to. Many Republicans therefore respond to the question of whether the US is a “democracy” by saying “America is a republic, not a democracy,” as if those two terms — the bases, respectively, for the Republican and Democratic Parties — were ideologically opposed to each other (as those two Parties always have been, but now they represent only two different factions of America’s aristocracy; neither of them represents the public, any longer). The actual question here is whether either Party does represent the public — and the answer to that is no.
However, almost every democracy is also a republic, and many republics are also democracies. A republic can be of any kind — some are democratic, but others are dictatorial. So: that response (“It’s a republic, not a democracy”) is actually even irrelevant. It begs the issue. The real question here is: Is the US a democracy, or is it instead a dictatorship? (This intentional confusion of terms is also commonly done with the word “socialism”: that, too, can be either of the democratic type, such as in Sweden, or else of the dictatorial type, such as the Soviet Union was; but, many people in America are brainwashed to think that socialism versus capitalism has something to do with dictatorship versus democracy — and that’s just a big lie on behalf of the biggest capitalists, who are the billionaires, in order to prevent the emergence of democratic socialism here, which no billionaire wants.)
The first time that a scientific answer to this question, of whether the US is a democracy, became published, was in the Fall 2014 issue of Perspectives on Politics. That article subsequently became brilliantly and accurately summarized in a six-minute video. However, even before that article was published, I summarized and described its findings even more briefly in a headline: “America is one-dollar-one-vote, not really one-person-one vote” — and the word for that type of body-politic isn’t that America is a “democracy,” but that it’s an “aristocracy,” or a country that’s ruled by its super-rich. (When it’s the aristocracy in a vassal-nation, it’s instead called an “oligarchy.”) This is what that study and subsequently others have confirmed. America is a dictatorship by its super-rich. That’s now proven as a fact.
However, international statistics also contain a great deal of useful information regarding the extent to which the United States is a democracy, or else is a dictatorship.
Any dictatorship applies a great deal of coercion. Not all of this coercion is against the body; propaganda is instead coercion against the mind — not the body. To deceive is just as much coercion as is to steal or to rob or to shackle or to imprison — the physical forms of coercion. Historically, most dictatorships have employed primarily physical coercions, but more-modern dictatorships rely mainly upon deceiving the public: they rely on lies. For example: the US Government didn’t physically force the American public to support the US military to invade and destroy Iraq, but instead lied (“deceived”) its public into false beliefs about Saddam Hussein, in order to coerce them into doing it. That’s just as much dictatorship as if the Government had physically forced Americans into invading Iraq. It did the job.
And yet the United States Government does apply more of the physical forms of coercion than does any other Government on earth.
First of all, the US Government spends around half of the entire planet’s military expenditures. Although it’s officially only around 30%, that’s being low-balled by such tricks — again deception of the public — as the accounting trick of paying for soldiers’ retirement-benefits directly out of the Treasury Department, instead of from the ‘Defense’ Department, and paying for soldiers’ medical care out of the Veterans’ Administration, instead of from the ‘Defense’ Department. Consequently, around 17% of America’s military expenditures aren’t officially ‘for the military’ — even though other nations include those costs in theirs as being “military.” So, no other nation in the entire world is as militaristic as is the US Government, which has about a thousand military bases around the world. A country like that is an international dictatorship, regardless of whether it’s internally a dictatorship; but, of course, no nation that alone spends half of the entire world’s military budget can possibly be internally democratic — no nation’s population would tolerate it, if they knew about it. This can be done only by deceiving its public.
So: the US is certainly a military dictatorship.
And, finally, no nation that has the world’s highest percentage of its population in prison can reasonably be called a “democracy.” But that country happens to be the United States. Unquestionably, therefore, the US is also a police-state — not only a military dictatorship. And, furthermore, as would be expected under a one-dollar-one-vote (instead of one-person-one-vote) Government, “in 2014 dollars, incarcerated people [in America] had a median annual income of $19,185 prior to their incarceration, which is 41% less than non-incarcerated people of similar ages.” That’s the bottom line from the first and only study which has yet been done regarding America’s “Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned”. It’s exactly what one would expect to find in any country that’s an aristocracy instead of a democracy. Moreover, wherever huge inequality of incomes exists, there is always far higher inequality of wealth (or “net worth”) than of incomes; and, so, inequality-of-income figures always vastly under-represent the actual economic inequality that exists. In other words: America’s prisoners are generally desperately poor people.
Can anyone who knows the facts call the US a “democracy”? If so, how?
Charles Dickens wrote dramatically about a similar situation during Queen Victoria’s years of England’s domestic and international (or “imperialistic”) aristocratic dictatorship. America, which had waged a Revolutionary War against England to free itself from that one-dollar-one-vote governmental system, is now repeating what England did.