Saturday, February 12, 2011

Time for a Democratic Movement in the United States

Yesterday in my post , "Freedom," I said that we needed a democracy movement in this country. Bob Herbert wrote something similar in today's New York Times, "When Democracy Weakens,"

As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.
While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.
The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.

Our politicians are corrupted by money: election campaigns and lobbyists mean our representatives' votes are bought. It's the wealthy and the corporations who have bought the politicians. The poor, especially, but also the middle-class don't exist in the politicians' calculations except when it comes time to manipulate us into voting for them.

How many times has Congress voted the opposite of what public opinion polls show the majority of Americans want? A couple of months ago a strong 65% of the population wanted the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% to expire, yet they were extended.

A couple of years ago that same percentage of Americans--two-thirds--wanted the health care reform to be some version of "Medicare for all." A study by Physicians for a National Health Program reported:

We will see that the research demonstrates that approximately two-thirds of Americans support a Medicare-for-all system despite constant attacks on Medicare and the systems of other countries by conservatives. The evidence supporting this statement is rock solid. The evidence against it - the focus group and polling "research" commissioned by the "option" movement's founders - is defective, misinterpreted, or both…The more poll respondents know about single payer, the more they like it.
We seem to have this odd idea that democracy means going to the polls every two years or so and pushing some buttons. Our political system is a major obstacle to the expression of democracy. There are only two political parties, which cannot possibly cover the political spectrum that exists in this country. I think one of the reasons voter turnout is often less than 50% is because many people do not feel like there is anyone who adequately represents their political opinions.

What about per capita representation in Congress? The number of representatives was capped at 435 in 1911, when the population of the U.S. was just over 92 million. In 2000 the population was over 291 million, with the same 435 representatives. In 1911 each Congressman represented about 211,000 Americans, today that Congressperson represents 669,000 people--more than three times as many.

Here are some basic demands for a democratic movement for the United States: completely public-financed campaigns, an end to jerrymandering of congressional districts, major reform of lobbyists--real reform not the pretend reform of the past, and change in the electoral system so more political parties have a chance to gain power.

No comments:

Post a Comment