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Democracy and Suffrage:

April 22, 2015

Historically a democracy was and always has been government by a more or less large group with an equal say in limited aspects of governance of their society. It almost never meant universal suffrage. For example, in the Athens of Pericles, it meant, at best, male property owners with a much smaller group composed of the largest property owners exercising the most power. In the United States, it generally meant, at the beginning, white male Protestant property owners.

The history of the US can be seen as a constant battle over the years to expand suffrage culminating in the mid 1960’s and receding since then. The first limitation to go was “Protestant”, then “property owners”, then ensued a 150 year un-concluded war over “white” interspersed with the removal of “male” as a limitation on suffrage.

The recent reaction against expanding suffrage seeks to give those possessing significant wealth greater weight in both suffrage and power than those lacking it and to restrict by several means the exercise of the franchise by non-white Americans, the poor or recently naturalized citizens without wealth.

Despite the overall expansion of suffrage, real power in the US has almost always been exercised by a smaller group of men owning or heading immense economic entities. Usually these entities have been big industrial, natural resource or financial concerns and for a brief period large centrally controlled labor organizations. There has never been in America a power entity organized to represent the middle class, the intellectual and professional class or the consumer. Those are generally perceived as the prey of the other power groups and the potential unwitting supporters of whichever group defrauds them into believing they have a real unity of interest.

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