Fresia's Contention That the United States Failed Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Fresia's contention that the United States failed to live up to its revolutionary democratic promise and instead was captured by the powerful plutocratic elite has appeal, it oversimplifies the process by which the elite take and retain control over resources and governmental power. In reality, at the time of the American Revolution, there was little dispute that the outcome of the Revolution would be to give greater power and freedom to those leading the Revolution; the founding fathers. While the promise of democracy was offered to common men, it was members of the ruling elite of the colonial Americas that made the decisions to declare America independent from England and drafted both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the Constitution does not engage in the type of re-distribution of wealth that Fresia appears to believe is necessary in order to establish a true democracy. For example, had the Constitution not prohibited interference with contracts, States would have had the power to erase obligations from debtor to creditor, thereby redistributing resources among Americans.

However compelling Fresia's argument appears on the surface, the fact remains that it fails to make the necessary connection between the disproportionate concentration of wealth in the United States and the failure of the common man to have a real voice in national politics. Fresia concentrates on issues such as voter registration requirements to prove his thesis that the poor majority are actively discouraged from voting. There is historical truth to those statements, as demonstrated by the poll taxes and literacy requirements used to hamper black voter registration in the Jim Crow south. However, the fact is that the history of the world, not simply the United States, demonstrates a history of racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual bias. The problem did not begin with the United States Constitution, nor was the Constitution drafted in order to remedy the problem. In fact, the issues of sexual and racial discrimination, which appear so obvious and despicable in modern light, were not viewed in the same manner during Revolutionary times. To prove that point, one need only look to the fact that during Revolutionary times, Africans actively participated in the slave trade to the same extent as Europeans and Americans. Neither indentured servitude nor slavery were viewed with the same level of contempt they receive in the modern world. Fresia ignores the fact that the Constitution, regardless of the intentions of the founding fathers, has evolved along with the world's changing conception of human rights. Initially, the Constitutional protection that no citizen be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law protected slaveholders from losing their human chattel. Today those same words protect the descendants of slaves from being unlawfully deprived of their life, liberty, or property. The fact that the founding fathers never intended for the Constitution to protect certain groups of people does not deprive the instrument of its power to do so.

Likewise, the Constitution does provide the means for the majority to participate meaningfully in the political process. At this point in time, all non-felon adult citizens are permitted to vote in elections. If people actually seized that opportunity, the common man could have a much more meaningful voice in American politics. Interestingly enough, this is easier to see on the local level, even though local elections generally have lower voter turnout than national elections. Several cities in the American south, where the power elite continue to rely on the racial oppression of blacks in order to obtain cheap labor, have black mayors and city councilmen. Fresia would argue that local leadership by members of minority groups does not contradict his argument, because local governments have always been more representative of the common man than national government. However, the fact that minorities are more represented at the local level indicates a problem with party politics, not with the electoral process. American voters are not locked into a two-party system, as demonstrated by the presidential campaigns of Perot or Nader. Instead, the American people, especially the "common man" appear to be wedded to the idea of the two-party system. It is not simply that United States presidents have come from the two-party system, but that people in the states consistently elect their national representatives from those same two parties, which are controlled by the financial elite. Especially in this day and age of constant media accessibility, there is no reason for the American people to be locked into the two-party system. However, the fear that voting for a third-party candidate is tantamount to throwing away a vote hampers the majority of the American people from voting for candidates outside of the power elite. This fear is not a function of the Constitution; it is a function of a misguided belief that people lack the power to control their own government. The Constitution does provide the tools for an actual democracy, but it cannot force the American people to use it to achieve an actual democracy.

In addition, Fresia makes the argument that America's sense of Empire and American Imperialism have hindered the common American and ensured that poorer Americans will never have a meaningful political voice. Fresia is absolutely incorrect. Although the effect of American Imperialism abroad is undoubtedly negative, it is naive of Fresia to suggest that America's poor have been unduly hampered by America's sense of Empire. The fact that American government has consistently acted with a sense of entitlement towards the natural resources present in America and the rest of the world has created a group of poor in America that is vastly wealthier than the poor of other nations. While there is no denying that there are people in America who are homeless and hungry, there is also no denying the fact that the vast majority of the poor in the United States have shelter, food, running water, and electricity; which is certainly not the situation in much of the rest of the world. America's poor are unique among the world's impoverished in that they can consider things thought luxurious in the rest of the world as necessities. Therefore, America's imperialism actually places America's poor in a better position to challenge the existing power structure than the poor in many other countries.

Finally, Fresia argues that activists need to work outside of the framework of the Constitution in order to effect meaningful change in America. What is interesting is the fact that the type of wealth-redistribution and the surrounding politics suggested by Fresia have not resulted in greater democracy or actual freedom for the people in those countries. Communism, while appealing in theory, has historically shifted wealth and power from one group to another group, but has not effected a meaningful change in the small percentage of people in control of such wealth and power. The fact that America is an Empire is not incompatible with the concept of personal liberty for the majority of Americans.


By claiming that Empire is freedom, Fresia is trying to say that the founding fathers' concept of freedom was their freedom to obtain and retain political and financial control of the United States. This claim is rooted in Fresia's assumption that America was an empire from its inception. Fresia backs up these claims by providing proof of America's imperialistic tendencies, which began prior to the American Revolution.

Prior to the American Revolution, America's imperialism was demonstrated by the callous disregard for Native American life and property. This disregard began as soon as European colonists arrived in America; they came to take property and begin colonies, with absolutely no regard for the fact that Native Americans already used that property. This conquest was not done peacefully, and Fresia points to the systemic elimination of Native Americans as proof of America as an Empire. Of course, this elimination did not end with the American Revolution; in contrast, the Revolution gave Americans more incentive to eliminate the native population, because white Americans were going to reap the benefits of any deprivation of property suffered by the Native Americans.

Of course, the imperialistic attitude was not confined to the treatment of Native Americans. Due to lack of resistance to disease, Native Americans did not provide the same type of workforce that European colonists had found when taking over other lands. Instead, Native Americans died in large numbers. Therefore, colonists looked outside of America for a suitable workforce, which they could rule over in the same way that native populations were subjugated in other colonies. The solution was to increase the slave trade to America. The mere existence of any type of slavery is a facet of an imperialistic government. However, Fresia does not rely on the mere existence of slavery to demonstrate America as an empire, but details the sheer enormity of slavery in the United States to show how America transformed an institution that was in use in other parts of the British Empire into something even…

Sources Used in Document:


Fresia, Jerry. 1988. Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and other

Illusions. Boston: South End Press.

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