President Carter, American Democracy is Still Alive and Well


Former President Jimmy Carter admitted that he believes "America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” This comment was provoked by the NSA scandal, which President Carter warns has undermined American democracy in practice as well as the country's global credibility.

While there are admittedly many Americans who believe that the NSA’s wiretapping does infringe upon our rights to privacy — and those who believe so indeed make credible points — America’s democratic system remains unharmed. In fact, our democratic system has functioned just as it was intended to.

There was definite cause for concern when the government was surreptitiously monitoring phone conversations, precisely because Americans were unable to judge and hold the government accountable. Once the story emerged, and once the press voraciously pounced on it (as they should have), the American people were given their rightful opportunity to analyze the policy, and determine whether or not the breaches in privacy are worth enhanced security.

Today, the American people are all aware of the NSA initiative, and they may overtly condone or condemn it to the fullest extent of their First Amendment rights — and many have. American democracy is bolstered by protesters and those who decry the policies with which they are uncomfortable. The NSA scandal has perpetuated the political alertness of many Americans and has therefore actually been a boon to democracy

If anything, the NSA scandal highlights the American tradition of questioning government, and forcing government to explain itself. President Obama was forced to answer the people when the story broke, and he and his administration were held accountable for their decisions, just as democracy promises.

There are still elections in our country and NSA surveillance will not intimidate people from voting for whomever they choose. Moreover, many Americans may use their approval or disapproval of NSA surveillance as a factor in determining for whom they ultimately intend to vote in 2014 and beyond.

It is reasonable to argue that NSA phone tapping crosses the personal privacy line. It is reasonable to argue that it is wrong for President Obama to maintain the program in light of public discontentment. America, however, still stands as the brightest and purest form of democracy that the world has known — and we maintain that standard today, especially amidst the NSA scandal.