We like to think that we live in a democracy, but the sad reality is that the US is a democracy in much the same way that the UK is a monarchy. The American voter has become a figurehead who controls very little, if anything.
Remember how a democracy is supposed to work? We vote for congress members and governors and presidents and such, and they all understand that if they do a lousy job and fail to represent the interests of their constituents, they will get voted out and replaced by someone who promises to be more responsive and competent.
And how does our so-called democracy actually work? Corporations, industry groups and gazillionaires donate billions of dollars in campaign money to politicians to persuade them to protect their interests. The politicians all understand that if they fail to represent those interests they will have to scramble for campaign funding and favorable media coverage, and probably get voted out and replaced by someone more willing to play ball.
On the other hand, as long as they represent those corporate interests, the money will keep flowing and they can spend lots of money on campaign ads bragging about what a great job they’ve done for their constituents. And if their corporatism is too obvious or their opponent too strong, they will get voted out and make millions of dollars as a lobbyist, speaker or pundit while their benefactors go to work on winning over their replacement.
In other words, our elected officials have an incentive to favor the people who help them buy votes over the ones who actually cast them. The majority may decide who enacts policy, but a very small minority dictates what that policy ultimately is.
True, not all politicians are corrupt, and some of the honest ones are able to win elections. But not enough of them. The governing majority in both houses of Congress is a combination of rabidly pro-corporate Republicans, conservative Democrats, and squishy Democrats (many of them, like Reid and Baucus, in positions of power) who repeatedly cave and compromise with the Republicans. The President himself appears to be a conservative Democrat masquerading as a squishy one.
The end result of this corporate governing majority is that truly progressive legislation on healthcare, climate change, union organizing, financial reform and not-disemboweling-Social-Security is all but unthinkable, and we get stalling, fig leaves, excuses and spin instead of positive change.
Would things be worse if the Republicans were in charge again? Absolutely. Does that mean that what Obama and the Democrats have done is good enough to make America functional again? Absolutely not.
This is why we need to do everything we can to support the Fair Elections Now Act. It may not be perfect and it may not have a majority yet, but it’s got lots of co-sponsors in both houses, and if real campaign finance reform is going to pass Congress anytime soon this is the form it’s going to take. Please do whatever you can to help make America a democracy again.