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Democracy is a form of government where all national citizens have equal opportunities to express their opinions freely. The citizens can determine a public policy together, and they can also change the actions and laws of their nation. In a democratic nation, citizens usually express their opinions through voting for their political leaders and also crucial bills and laws in their country. This democracy is also practised in the parliamentary settings, where the members of the senate and congress pass bills via a majority vote. For a nation to be considered democratic, it has to practise some essential elements, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the media (press) and the presence of free and fair elections. A democratic nation practices equality and freedom. All the citizens, in such a nation, have equal rights, and they receive equal treatment before the law. They also have an equal access to the legislative processes (Shane 15).
In America, democracy is a central issue that the government works hard to promote both at a national level and internationally. Democracy has been inculcated as an American value to the citizens, and the government promotes values, such as religious freedom, freedom of political expression and freedom of speech. The government seeks to promote this democracy as a way of achieving stability, security and general prosperity for the whole nation. This coincides with the fact that the democratically governed nations are better situated to secure peace, expand their open markets and enhance economic development. The efforts to promote the democratic United States of America have been influenced by the integration of the internet in the daily lives of its citizens. The internet has produced both positive and negative effects on the conduction of American politics. It has also influenced the amount of information available to the public and the time taken by a politician to reach out to the citizens (voters).
The internet and internet-based technologies have enabled the American people to discuss political issues freely. It has become possible for Americans, who live in different states, to have a political discussion via the internet, especially the social sites. The social sites, such as twitter and facebook, have so many followers and users respectively. This has been used as a robust platform where the American citizens raise their ideas and opinions on the various political agendas in their country. By this virtue of being able to reach different groups of people from all parts of the country, the internet and its related technologies have improved the level of democracy in the United States. More people can participate in a political debate, meaning that public opinion has a greater impact on policies and the country’s politics, as enhanced by the internet (Rash 22).
On the contrary, the number of people reached by the internet may not truly represent of the whole nation. These political decisions are usually dominated by the few who are young and well-educated. This means that the citizens who are always involved in the political debates based on the internet do not offer representative opinions of the whole of the United States. The young people adopt and embrace new technologies quickly, while women, the elderly and the poor, lag behind. This locks them out from the online political participation. The online political discussions are also limited to citizens who have an access to the internet. If laws and public opinions are drawn from the online community, those who do not use the internet are denied their democratic right to influence their country’s decision-making process.
As another positive effect, the internet provides an easier access to political information. It opens up other additional communication channels, besides the print media and televisions. Any member of the public who has a stable internet connection and knowledge of how to access this information can get it on time. This has ensured that the American public has been constantly updated on the emerging political issues. They also have ample time to either debate on it and give their opinions, when the issues are still relevant. This online disclosure of information paves way for a democratic feeling among the citizens and increases their political participation. At another level, internet has also connected the government to the citizen. This is because information, which was previously stored only in libraries, has been made available to a larger population via internet. The American citizens are able to access all the government information which has no security issues through internet.
The availability of this political and government information faces strong credibility tests. This is due to the threat paused by hackers and other unethical internet users. A hacker is an elite internet user who can be able to gain unauthorised access to data stored in the internet. A hacker can alter and change the contents of information initially posted on a website. The distortion of this information destroys the credibility some of the information passed to people via the internet. All the information found in the internet is also not always democratic, and it may not always promote peace and equality. Some political figures in America have been targeted in this way. Any person can post outrageous information on the internet, while impersonating a public figure. This has prompted most politicians to hire experts who manage their online images by searching and deleting such information (Shane 16).
Internet has also enabled the equal political participation by all people. The American politics was previously dominated by the rich, academics and several public members. Internet has enabled everybody with any political ambition to reach the people and sell his manifestos via internet. The internet comes in handy with such people, because it is relatively cheap, compared to the other campaign methods, such as public rallies. The acquisition and dispersal of political information via internet is easy, fast, convenient and cheap. If the information is also properly encrypted, it is hard to alter or tamper with it. This has given the political minnows in America a strong political base for their careers (Lawrence 18). This mode of communication has helped less popular individuals and groups to reach out to the citizens directly, and hence, restructure the public affairs. This means that internet has considerably breached the gap separating the established and the upcoming politicians. Those, who were previously considered as the minority, have a significant influence on the way the American politics is now conducted.
Internet has also enabled the establishment of online activism and political groups. This has been particularly enhanced by the direct feedbacks that the online users give to the individuals forming the parties. They have direct online communications that enable them to formulate party policies, which suit the members. The availability of the instant polls and instant referenda in the internet has also helped the American politicians to choose their party candidates, according to their popularity levels. The activists who constantly fight for the democracy of the citizens have achieved massive positive results because of the internet. They are able to get signatures, to veto a bill, ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions within a remarkably short time span. Activists are now able to conduct online mobilisation of large numbers of people for demonstrations, especially via the social sites, such as Facebook and twitter (Lawrence 19).
The anonymity granted to the individuals in the internet enhances the American citizens’ freedom of speech and expression. Individuals are now able to openly criticize the politicians, political parties and even the government without the fear of facing discrimination. This online anonymity has allowed the American citizens to overcome their identity boundaries and communicate more openly and freely. This has promoted a more sincere and enlightened exchange of political ideas, which has promoted democracy (Arterton 23).
However, it should be noted that the anonymity granted by internet has also produced negative effects on American politics. It has contributed to the introduction of nonsensical and enraged discussions which target political careers of some established politicians. Some discussions have maliciously linked politicians to scandals, involving corruption, terrorism, and even their personal life. Some of these discussions have promoted the spread of racism which frustrates the efforts, seeking to promote democracy and equality. Though online anonymity increases the freedom of expression, it means there is the lack of a face-to-face interaction. Politicians express their opinion online, but they cannot be able to measure the effects of their message to the people. The online messages have also been shown to have a lesser impact to the people, when compared to the face-to-face messages used in public rallies.
From the above discussions, it is evident that the internet has produced a significant impact on the way the American politics is now conducted. Those people who could not reach out to their followers can now easily reach them and ask for their support. Some demographic groups that were previously inaccessible are also being reached (Shane 14). This has produced a general feeling of an increase in democracy. The non-elite American people can now face the ballot with the elite, and the poor can do the same with the rich.