The fundamental question of democracy is the identity of the demos. Who are the people? In other words, who votes? And are those votes of equal value? Who speaks? And are they speaking at equal volume?
We pay little consideration to the fact that most people who have served time cannot vote. Yet the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, a disproportionately high rate of imprisoning black and brown people, and a dubious criminal “justice” system, making felon disenfranchisement a dramatic distortion of democracy that perpetuates the history of oppression against African, Hispanic, poor, and other Other people. Add to that: the millions of residents of Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. and other territories who cannot vote; the electoral college favoring rural interests; prejudice to the many people who would lose a paycheck or job were they to miss work to vote; unnecessary voter ID restrictions; women only voting for 97 of our country’s 241 years; demographic disparities in the donor classes. Voting power in America is white and male.
Speech is harder to measure, but consider the factors in its capability and effectiveness: education, money, status. The same groups tend to have less of these factors. “We the people” are white men.