The democracy that the forefathers created was a democracy intended for white landed men, but the end of the Civil War catalyzed a series of changes that created a society which better represented its diversity. While civil rights and suffrage have been legally extended to new groups, many of these groups continue to experience discrimination culturally, especially in areas like immigration, and many have lost faith in democracy due to détente.
McPherson calls Reconstruction the “Second American Revolution,” because it achieves several objectives of the first American Revolution. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments gave African Americans political representation, and in theory elevated them to the social status of fellow whites. However, the prevalence of black codes among former Confederate states and paramilitary violence highlight the white resistance to these amendments, and a desire to segregate and control these former-slaves politically and culturally. Moreover, McPherson described Lincoln as a “conservative revolutionary” because emancipation wasn’t one of Lincoln’s original war aims, but became essential to winning the Civil War. Hence, union conservation, not emancipation, was the main aim of the war, and the social status and safety of freed slaves wasn’t politicians’ first priority. Further, African Americans at this time couldn’t mobilize due to lack of education, lack of proximity to one another, and fear of vigilante violence. While black schools and churches aimed to remove some of these disadvantages, with the exception of a few years after the Civil War, black voter turnout remained low. Moreover, poor white farmers and laborers felt threatened by the elevated status of the blacks, g...
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...d cultural and social discrimination, and many Americans became disillusioned with democracy, and viewed their leaders as distant from them.
In conclusion, the idea of democracy has evolved over time, and now projects an image of equality and liberty. This is often true in the case of negative liberties, but resistance to policies like Affirmative Action shows that many are still uncomfortable giving minorities positive liberties, like an education in the case of African Americans, or the right to marry in the case of same sex couples. Furthermore, the public, especially the youth, has become pessimistic towards government, which can be evidenced by low voter turnouts. Social change is necessary to further expand democracy by removing the prejudices Americans still hold towards certain minorities, and to inspire the youth to participate, and have faith in democracy.
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