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Opinion: Is the U.S. truly a Democracy?

Democracy. It was a novel idea in 1776. However, the system existed about 2,500 years ago in Athens. At the time, the Athenian leader called the system of government “demokratia.” When the founders of our country decided to remove the thirteen New World colonies from the reign of King George, they chose “democracy” to describe the kind of political system by which the new nation would operate. It was a truly “revolutionary” idea, stemming from the Greek nouns “demos” (people) and “kratos” (rule).

But ours was an imperfect system. Initially, only white male property owners had a say in selecting which specific people would fill the various leadership roles and act on behalf of the “will of the people.” Also, it wasn’t a “true” democracy. From the inception, it was (at best) a “representative democracy.” That is, a relatively few people would be elected to represent both the individuals who voted for them and the people who voted against them.

Then, there was the problem of apportionment. Each former colony would be represented by two “senators,” a word borrowed from the Roman system. However, some states had a lot of former colonists, but others had relatively few. For example, according to our first census, Virginia was the most populous of the new states with close to 748,000 people, and New York was fifth with about 340,000. The least populous state was Delaware, with slightly more than 59,000 people. At the time, Georgia (which included the territories now known as Alabama and Mississippi) had about 82,000 people.


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