Democratically elected presidents?

Commentators on the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela describe him as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Presumably, all the elections, governments, politics, and presidents that South Africa had before majority rule did not count as democratic because distinct proportions of the population were disenfranchised. When, Americans should then ask, was the first democratically elected president of their nation? After the 15th amendment in 1870, the 19th in 1920, or the civil rights act of 1964? In any case, with Republican voter restrictions and gerrymandering sanctioned by the Supreme court, when, Americans might also ask, will U.S. again have democratically elected presidents?

A meta-question, relevant to anyone wanting to foster critical thinking, is why Americans take is as given that their nation has counted as—even served as a model of—a democracy, even by Americans who laud the leadership of Mandela beyond the years of apartheid?

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

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