22/02/2024 strategic-culture.su  5 min 🇬🇧 #243403

Democracy (Not) in America

Some thoughts on the U.S. political system


Early in the 19th century, Alexis De Tocqueville famously wrote "Democracy in America." Early in the 21st century, that title is more appropriate for a fictional or even fantasy work on America.

How so? A BV reader sent along  an article from the American Prospect: "America is not a democracy," by David Dayen. Based on that article and a few reflections of my own, here's how and why democracy is dead in the USA:

  1. Big money in politics. Members of Congress chase the money and are obedient to it. So are presidents. So too are even SCOTUS justices. Indeed, SCOTUS basically said corporations are citizens and that money is speech in the infamous  Citizens United decision. Those with the most money have the most speech in America. Those with no money are essentially mute and powerless.
  2. Gerrymandering. Both Democrats and Republicans draw district lines to inhibit real electoral competition. Thus most seats in Congress are "safe," dominated by a single party.
  3. Voter Suppression. There are all sorts of tactics to depress voter turnout among the "unwashed." Unnecessary voter ID laws. The closing of polling stations. Dropping people from the polling lists. Holding the vote on a work day. Even the presence of police officers and "voting monitors" at the polls.
  4. Corporate Ownership of the Mainstream Media: The MSM touts corporate-friendly candidates from the two major parties. Third-party candidates are almost entirely ignored when not openly vilified and condemned as "spoilers."
  5. For the presidency, the electoral college. Presidents aren't elected by popular vote; what matters is winning the electoral college. As a result, this year's election will likely come down to roughly 500,000 voters in six "swing" states.
  6. For the senate, the persistence of the filibuster. Both parties conveniently use the filibuster as an excuse for why they can't get things done for workers and the middle class.
  7. The decline of unions. Workers only have power when they organize and stand together as one, flexing their muscles with strikes and other actions. The decline of unions has largely neutered the working classes.
  8. Constant wars overseas. As James Madison noted, constant warfare is the enemy of democracy and the friend of authoritarianism and corruption.
  9. Obstacles to third-party challengers. Republicans and Democrats share a contempt for third-party challengers, erecting obstacles via lawsuits and similar activities. Just ask Ralph Nader or RFK Jr.
  10. Sham primaries. The RNC and DNC are private institutions. The DNC is controlled by so-called superdelegates. Neither party is interested in the will of voters; they serve the whims of the owners and donors.

There are several words you can use to describe America's system of government. Oligarchy, rule by the few, applies. Plutocracy, rule by the rich, applies. Kleptocracy, rule by the greedy and corrupted, applies. Even kakistocracy, rule by the worst, has some applicability. The word that doesn't apply is democracy.

This is not news to my readers, of course. Consider the  Princeton Study from 2014, which reached the following conclusions:

When a majority of citizens [in the USA] disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

The study concludes:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Sure, we have regular elections, but who's excited by this year's likely choice of Biden/Trump for the presidency? And do we really have freedom of speech? Try protesting in DC against genocide in Gaza, especially in the hearing rooms of Congress.

America is an oligarchy ruled by powerful interests such as the military-industrial-congressional complex, Wall Street, Big Pharma, the banks, health insurers, the billionaire class, and indeed any entity with deep pockets that can transmute its gold into political reach and speech. All legal, of course!

We'd like to think America is a land of decent George Baileys and small-town egalitarianism like Bedford Falls, but America's owners and donors much prefer  Pottersville USA, where the rich and powerful call the shots. And so Pottersville it is.

P.S. People ask me, OK, smartypants, how do we change this? As they say, power concedes nothing without a demand. A demand backed up by the power of the masses. Specific steps are easy to state, difficult to achieve. Get big money out of politics. End the filibuster. Eliminate the electoral college. End gerrymandering and voter suppression. Revive unions. End wars. And so on. In a word, fight.

Original article:  bracingviews.com