(2) "One person one vote" in name, "rule of the minority elite" in reality
The US is a typical country dominated by an elite class. Political pluralism is only a facade. A small number of elites dominate the political, economic and military affairs. They control the state apparatus and policy-making process, manipulate public opinion, dominate the business community and enjoy all kinds of privileges. Since the 1960s in particular, the Democrats and Republicans have taken turns to exercise power, making the "multiparty system" dead in all but name. For ordinary voters, casting their votes to a third party or an independent candidate is nothing more than wasting the ballot. In effect, they can only choose either the Democratic candidate or the Republican one.
In the context of Democratic-Republican rivalry, the general public's participation in politics is restricted to a very narrow scope. For ordinary voters, they are only called upon to vote and are forgotten once they have cast their ballots. Most people are just "walk-ons" in the theater of election. This makes "government by the people" hardly possible in US political practice.
Noam Chomsky, a political commentator and social activist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that the US is a "really existing capitalist democracy", where there is a positive correlation between people's wealth and their influence on policy-making. For the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale, they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They are effectively disenfranchised.
Ray La Raja, Professor at the University of Massachusetts, notes in an article for The Atlantic that America's current system is democratic only in form, not in substance. The nominating process is vulnerable to manipulation by plutocrats, celebrities, media figures and activists. Many presidential primary voters mistakenly back candidates who do not reflect their views.
(3) The checks and balances have resulted in a "vetocracy"
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama points out in his book Political Order and Political Decay that there is an entrenched political paralysis in the US. The US political system has far too many checks and balances, raising the cost of collective action and in some cases making it impossible altogether. Fukuyama calls the system a "vetocracy". Since the 1980s, the "vetocracy" of the US has become a formula for gridlock.
The US democratic process is fragmented and lengthy, with a lot of veto points where individual veto players can block action by the whole body. The function of "checks and balances", which was purportedly designed to prevent abuse of power, has been distorted in American political practice. Political polarization continues to grow as the two parties drift further apart in political agenda and their areas of consensus have reduced significantly. An extreme case is the fact that "the most liberal Republican now remains significantly to the right of the most conservative Democrat". Antagonism and mutual inhibition have become commonplace, "vetocracy" has defined American political culture, and a vindictive "if I can't, you can't either" mentality has grown prevalent.
Politicians in Washington, D.C. are preoccupied with securing their own partisan interests and don't care at all about national development. Vetoing makes one identify more strongly with their peers in the same camp, who may in turn give them greater and quicker support. Consequently, the two parties are caught in a vicious circle, addicted to vetoing. Worse still, the government efficacy is inevitably weakened, law and justice trampled upon, development and progress stalled, and social division widened. In the US today, people are increasingly identifying themselves as a Republican or a Democrat instead of as an American. The negative impacts of identity politics and tribal politics have also spilled over into other sectors of American society, further exacerbating "vetocracy".
According to a Pew Research Center report in October 2021 based on a survey of 17 advanced economies (including the US, Germany and the Republic of Korea), the US is more politically divided than the other economies surveyed. Nine in ten US respondents believe there are conflicts between people who support different political parties, and nearly 60% of Americans surveyed think their fellow citizens no longer disagree simply over policies, but also over basic facts.
Jungkun Seo, Professor of Political Science at Kyung Hee University, observes that as political polarization intensifies in the US, the self-cleaning process of American democracy, which aims to drive reform through elections, will no longer be able to function properly. With the Senate trapped in a filibuster, the US Congress no longer serves as a representative body for addressing changes in American society through legislation.