"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic, we are praising it: consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning
[From “Politics and the English Language”]
For anyone with sincere intentions, defining “democracy” is a simple matter. The word was formed from a combination of the Greek words “demos”, which means “people” or “the people” and “kratos” (meaning “rule”) and/or “kratia”, which means “have power” or “authority.” A democratic government, therefore, is one in which the people rule (have power).
Working with a clear definition of democracy, judging whether a government is truly democratic is a simple matter. In a democracy the will of a majority of the people determines public policies and what laws are passed.
Democracy has a great many false friends and some true enemies. Those of us who believe in democracy must learn to identify both our allies and our opponents. We must work together to remove undemocratic elements from our Constitution, our elections, and our government.
Any provisions within a Constitution, elements within the structure of a government, or flaws in the manner in which elections are conducted that allow a minority to overrule the majority are, by definition, undemocratic.
There are numerous such undemocratic elements within the Constitution of the United States, the procedural rules in Congress, and our elections. Let's work together to elect legislators who will pass the legislation needed to make our government genuinely democratic.
It may shock many Americans to learn that the 55 men who drafted our Constitution, with few exceptions, were not fond of democracy. They did not trust we, the people, to vote wisely. They knew that they could not leave the people out of the government altogether, the Declaration of Independence had stated that governments derive their "just powers from the consent of the governed." The people had a strong role in the government of many of the 13 "free and independent states" under the Articles of Confederation.
So, they reluctantly gave the people one-half of one of the three branches of government - the House of Representatives - and then gave the rest of the government three "checks" on any legislation passed by the House. The Senate had to concur. The president could veto legislation. And the Supreme Court could declare a law to be unconstitutional.
And none of these other three branches were elected by the people. The Senate was originally elected by state legislatures. The president was (and still is) elected by the Electoral College, not by popular vote. And Supreme Court Justices were (and are) nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
As a result of the undue influence of money in our elections (including massive amounts of money from corporate interests and plutocrats), gerrymandering, the influence wielded by lobbyists, and the effects of "winner-take-all" elections combined with single-member congressional districts, the House of Representatives does a better job of representing corporate interests and tax-averse billionaires than of representing we, the people.
Within our present system of "winner take all" elections, it is possible for a candidate to win election without getting a majority of the votes. The winning candidate is the one with the most votes (a "plurality"). When there are more than two candidates, a candidate can win with significantly less than a majority of the votes. The more candidates there are, the lower the percentage of the total percentage needed to win. For example, if there are five candidates, it is mathematically possible to win with 20% (plus one vote) of the total number of votes cast. That is undemocratic.
French sociologist Maurice Duverger conducted extensive studies of political systems and found that systems with “winner-take-all” elections, combined with single-member districts for legislative bodies, tended to have two dominant political parties and countries with various forms of proportional representation (such as ranked choice voting, with at-large elections or multiple member districts) nearly always had more than two dominant parties.
Within a two-party system (a "duopoly") it is easier for special interests, especially those with a lot of money, to corrupt the electoral process and gain a controlling interest in the government.
Both winner-take-all elections, with single member districts, and the two-party systems that result, violate the primary rule of representative democracy - representation for all voters in proportion to their numbers - leaving many voters unrepresented. This is why implementing ranked choice voting is the key to getting all of the other reforms needed implemented.
Corporate interests and plutocrats have taken advantage of the undemocratic elements in our Constitution, elections, and government to gain complete control of the Republican Party and effective control of the Democratic Party.
Our political campaigns are dominated by contributions from corporate political action committees. Corporate lobbyists write much of the legislation passed by Congress and state legislatures. And the revolving door between government and Wall Street and businesses neatly fills in any gaps in the corruption.