I have always been a hater of those who claim voting does not matter. Despite some voter suppression policies that are questionable, legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have undeniably resulted in institutional voting equality for all American citizens.
The U.S. has all the features of a democracy: a free press, free speech and many other liberties. However, time and time again, federal policy changes are hardly ever consistent with the will of the majority of Americans. This important aspect is what’s most important for a democracy; representative government and free press doesn’t mean much if our policy is decided by a privileged and elite few.
But this is hardly news to anyone. The average American has the sentiment that politicians do not care what they think in terms of actual policy changes that correlate with the majority. Although majority doesn’t always mean right, that is what a democracy is and we are failing to even fulfill this simple democratic principle.
Congress started out 2014 with an incredibly low 13 percent job approval rating according to gallop polls.
A recent study conducted between Princeton and Northwestern universities concluded that the U.S. resembles an oligarchy more than a democracy. An oligarchy is where power and control rests in the hands of an elite few, not democratically elected or appointed. These privileged few typically are affluent individuals or special interests groups.
The research was conducted between 1981 through 2002 and examined 1,800 different U.S. policies and found that politicians typically favored the view of the rich and powerful few rather than their constituent’s desires.
So how do we empower the middle class over special interest groups? Professor Martin Giles, who worked on the study, says it starts with how money is used. “It’s very hard to see how to empower middle-class Americans without reforming the part money plays in politics. We need meaningful campaign finance reform,” he said.
This campaign finance reform would be an ideal step toward a more democratically form of government, however, the Supreme Court recently struck down any hope for this type of reform.
The Supreme Court was politically divided between conservatives who think an elite few donating as much money as they want is “free speech,” and liberals who believe campaign limits ensure democracy. This 5 to 4 decision is undermining democracy, in my opinion, by allowing the elite few to give money to candidates to win elections who will eventually be lapdogs for these wealthy oligarchs.
First we must have meaningful campaign finance reform in order to begin to stray away from an oligarchy form of government. It is incredibly sad to me that asking for a democracy seems to be a form of rebellion considering the way government is currently handled.
Democracy is not perfect. The majority is not always right. However, the best aspect of a democracy is that our free speech and press allows for conversation to be made to persuade logical and empathetic people. Change happens incredibly slow, but we the people must ensure that change never stops moving forward.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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