American democracy faces huge problems, most of us agree. Still, as recently as last summer, Pew Research found that 85 percent of us embraced the idea that America “stands above all other countries” or that it’s “one of the greatest, along with some others.” Understandably, it’s tough for many to give up the notion that America is exceptional—exceptionally good.
Although I have a bias toward the author, I found the article pretty unconvincing.
Lappe’ talks about campaign finance reform and income inequality, but fails to connect them. 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis (I wish more famously) wrote:
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
No amount of election finance reform can counterbalance massive concentrations of wealth. Whatever you do, as long as we’ve got $100 billionaire Koch brothers and others who are obscenely rich, they will succeed in jamming their values and desires down our throats.
Another gap in the article was its failure to mention the narrowness of the “official” political spectrum. This is painfully obvious in foreign policy, where both major political parties love war even as the majority of Americans want to live in peace. Where is their representation?
As a member of the Green Party, one of whose principles in non-violence, I wish that the US had more than a “two party system.” Yet unlike virtually all other democracies in the world, here we are limited to 2. Of our 535 congresspeople and senators 0 are from 3rd parties. Of the something like 9,000 state representatives, I believe that about 10 are from parties other than Republicrat. My point is that 2 parties is insufficient to represent the wide range of legitimate opinions that exist among our 300,000,000+ citizens.
Of course, if you’re from Havad, you may prefer “managed democracy,” where us little people are herded into voting for issues and candidates selected by our betters.
I would not put too much stock into these ratings. It is obviously a hard thing to do particularly since it includes developed and undeveloped countries and homogeneous and diverse countries. But clearly the US is lower than it should be. The US is clearly not a typical country. It is far more diverse than any other country, far wealthier, far more powerful militarily, and far more influential than any other country in many ways. The US is also organized into 50 states which control their own voting process. The basic problem we face now is a minority led by the Koch brother is trying to obtain permanent control over the majority. So we are seeing voter suppression laws, extreme gerrymandering. state governments overriding the laws of local governments, and large amounts of money being poured into what are deemed critical races at various levels of government. There are efforts being made to combat these attempts to undermine democracy and if enough people get involved these efforts could be successful. It is a matter of organizing and getting enough activists to participate. This can work. It worked yesterday in Ohio where constitutional amendment that sets up a fair, bi-partisan process for drawing new districts passed with about three-fourths of the vote.
I really wish i did not agree with you, but we are in a pendulum swing to barbaric. This time it will wipe us out. Empowering the delusional, the fundamentalists, and the authoritarians during a climate crisis, well, what hope is there?
US Americans certainly could learn much from just the tiniest smidgen of humility. I really love Frances Moore Lappe, but she needs to dig a little deeper, possibly beyond the optimism she retains, to the vital question: Why can’t US Americans learn from the positive examples of others? It certainly seems impossible.
The problem with democracy, in the US at least, is quite simply capitalism. It’s the real foundation of our society and culture, and it’s in crisis. The financial sector no longer uses its store of capital to finance productive businesses. The busins become finance. Want to keep your job, CEO? Increase the value of our stocks; what yoess of finance has become finance. Indeed, the business of productive enterprises has become finance. What the business creates for sale is secondary. Jobs and wages? Way down the list of priorities. Accumulated capital is tied up in derivatives (tens of trillions, globally) and tax shelters (trillions of US personal wealth in offshore tax havens). Wages have been flat since the mid-'70s while productivity continues to grow. To maintain this kind of status quo, repressive & reactionary politics has always been the method of choice. Democracy can only get in the way of the program if the marginalized are afforded the ballot. So their political power must be neutralized somehow. A crisis without historic precedent is the onset of global warming, the long-term solution of which is decreased consumption. And capitalism cannot thrive under those conditions. How do you monetize parsimony??
“Our democracy is dead, not faltering”
It’s actually a feel good article disguised as a critique of governance. So long as we’ve what Gore Vidal called the “two wings” of the same corporate-dominated party, nothing’s going to change significantly. But then, people always like that Everly Brothers’ song “Dream, Dream, Dream.”
Nothing interferes with so called democracy as capitalism. Why? Because it makes true equality impossible. It is not that the “middle class” needs rebuilding but that everyone needs to be treated as equally valuable.
And therein lies the rub: Capitalism is not sustainable.
I agree entirely with your post. The Pew poll showing 85% continue to believe in American exceptionalism means that nothing will change. For any meaningful change to actually occur, capitalism must die, it cannot be reformed.