Democracy – rule by the people – do we really live in a democracy?
• Well, we live in a representative democracy, where we elect representatives to act on our behalf; to that extent we do live in a democracy, a representative democracy.
• But fewer than 50% of Americans even vote. Do we live in a democracy only for those who vote? Only for those who make their preferences known?
• When the people do not know the issues, do not even know what the parties stand for or if they are living up to their own standards, do not know fundamental facts about our country and its political system, is that really democracy? When the people are ignorant, can they really rule themselves? Is a Talk-Show host really in charge?
• Most voters vote for the incumbent (the Devil they know) or the candidate who has spent the most money getting himself elected (typically the incumbent). Then legislation is written to satisfy that portion of the body politic, the portion that pays for it. To that extent, we live in “the best democracy that money can buy.” And where does that money come from? Who, after all, has millions, and tens of millions, of dollars to throw at a favored candidate? At five-hundred-thirty-six (435 Congressmen, 100 Senators, 1 President) favored candidates? Not me, not you.
• In theory, when our elected representatives do not represent us, we throw the bums out. But we do not. We re-elect them or we elect those from the party we threw out of office the last time. Nowhere, in our Constitution or anywhere else, does it say we have a two-party system, that we must choose the lesser of two evils. But that is what we do, and we complain about the results, and then we do nothing to change it.
It has been said, cynically, that “in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.”
We tell pollsters over and over again that we are not pleased with what our government is doing (80 – 90% of Americans are not happy with their government, are not happy with the actions of those they voted into office). Then we boast that we have the best form of government in the world. This is called a “disconnect.” We have systemic problems with our form of government, and we know what they are (too few vote, voters are ignorant, big money is really in charge, our two-party system does not work), but we do nothing to change them, and we even fight wars to export our great system of popular rule to the rest of the world.
Don’t tell me “it’s in the Constitution, there’s nothing we can do about it.” First, none of these problems is mandated by the Constitution; and even if they were, the framers were very careful to include a way to amend the sacred document. The Bill of Rights – our sacred Bill of Rights – was the first round of amendments to the original Constitution (if James Madison had not guaranteed a Bill of Rights to the so-called Anti-Federalists, the Constitution would never have been ratified). It is in your hands to change the Constitution, if that is what is needed.
And don’t tell me that you work too hard to be able to participate in your nation’s government. It is because you have not participated that we are in the hole we are in, and the hole will only get deeper as you continue to ignore your civic responsibilities.
This is democracy? Is this what you thought it meant when you were young – and wiser than you are now? This is your democracy; you have nobody to blame but yourself.