Wednesday, March 06, 2019

America's unrepresentative "democracy"

The idea behind representative democracy is that the people get what they vote for, and hold their representatives accountable at the ballot box if they don't. But in America - land of guns, low wages, and unaffordable healthcare - that system appears to have broken down completely:

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.

The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these. Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants — as much as demagogy and political divisiveness — is what is making the public so angry.

The problem is that running for public office costs so much that the candidates are all owned by billionaires, and so reflect their values rather than those of the people who elect them. Anyone who refuses to play ball gets de-funded, or primaried by a well-funded and more compliant candidate. And so Americans, who overwhelmingly want progressive taxation, universal healthcare, and decent public services, get tax cuts for the rich and a starvation state which funds only war instead - no matter who they vote for.

This isn't democratic. It's just a plutocracy in disguise.