Five Ways America is a Faux Democracy
The existence of elections, civil law and free speech gives the appearance of a functioning democracy, but in practice they are not acting as intended.
1. Voting is not Representative
Voting is skewed in America in many ways.
- Districts are gerrymandered to bias the vote:
“Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election.”
In the 2012 House elections, Democrats won 50.59% of the two-party vote but just 46.21% of seats, leaving the Republicans with 234 seats and Democrats with 201.
- Voting lines are up to 7 hours long in certain districts. “This is happening not because of a natural disaster or breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design.” The NYTimes reports on studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes.
- Voter ID laws are being introduced to inhibit voting. The rationale of preventing voter fraud is spurious. Prior to the 2006 election, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition for voting. A five-year investigation by the Bush administration turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.
- The number of voters represented by one senator varies by a factor of 30.
- Simple majority voting is the very worst system for electing a representative candidate, because losing votes — think Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Green Party — are not taken into account. The problems are clearly explained in this entertaining video. There are many other voting systems which produce better results.
2. Justice is Unequal
There are very visibly two standards of justice.
- No top bankers went to jail because of the mortgage crisis,
Charlie Engle got 21 months for lying on a stated income loan of $400K.
- HSBC was fined $1.92bn for money laundering, including for Mexican drug cartels; no-one went to jail,
Patricia Spottedcrow received 10 years for a $31 marijuana sale.
- James Clapper committed perjury before Congress without repercussions,
Roger Clemens was charged with six counts, including perjury.
- The Chief Justice of the Texas supreme court criticized the disparity in justice: For those who can afford legal services, we have a top-notch judicial system. Highly qualified lawyers help courts dispense justice fairly and efficiently. But…. Nearly six million Texans qualify for legal aid. Yet our state’s legal aid programs meet but 20% of the needs of indigent Texans, forcing many to go it alone in our courts.
- A du Pont heir avoided prison after raping his 3-year-old daughter.
- Shaun Goodman crashed his Ferrari after a 100mph chase, his 7th DUI. He got one year’s work release but no straight jail time.
- The Iraq war was unjustified and illegal, but the only person punished was Scooter Libby, who received 30 months for lying about the outing of a CIA agent. His sentence was later commuted.
3. Political Protest is Suppressed
- Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country were suppressed by any means necessary. A law school report concluded that “there now is a systematic effort by authorities to suppress protests, even when these are lawful and pose no threat to the public.” Even though such suppression was subsequently found illegal:
Gov. loses lawsuit for arresting Occupy Columbia protesters;
Court declares 92 Occupy Chicago arrests unconstitutional;
NYC Settles With 14 Occupy Protesters for $583K;
Occupy Boise can restore tent city;
eventual justice counts for nothing when the goal is to disband the protests.
- There has been a major crackdown on whistle-blowers. John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2½ years for identifying the U.S. government’s use of waterboarding as torture. (Special exception: when the leak is by the White House.)
The net result of these distortions can be measured, and the results show that democracy is largely an illusion:
1. Budgets do not Match How People Want the Money Spent
People from both left and right want a budget that is well to the left of present allocations. A Program for Public Consultation report found that Republicans would cut defense spending by $56bn and Democrats by $131bn for an average cut of 18%. The public would increase energy conservation and renewable energy by 110%, job training by 130% and college financial aid by 90%.
2. The Wishes of the General Public are not Carried Out
A recent study by Gilens and Page analyzed 1,779 policy outcomes and determined that when a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.
“the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
The preferences of economic elites carries 15 times the weight of ordinary citizens.
A statement like this usually ends with a call to action.
I will leave that for another day, and instead make this a call for awareness. Tell your friends. Pass this on.
When enough people understand how they are being fooled, change will happen.