The Reason Why Everyone Hates the Establishment and Want to Shakeup Washington D.C.
Between gerrymandering, a broken campaign finance system, the Electoral College, the inability for third parties to rise, to the most basic rules of election law, the U.S. should rank among the most undemocratic Western governments, and is the underlying reason for why there is so much anger at Washington D.C./the establishment.
In the U.S. there is no longer a representative democracy, and the resulting anger at Washington’s failures to do anything with popular support (Congress has an approval rating of a solid 16% as of September 6th) has nearly cemented in this anger — to the degree that people were willing to elect even someone like Donald Trump in an attempt to shake things up. This is the fundamental roots of nearly all of our problems, as no matter how much popular support there is for an particular policy, Washington does its own thing. Even amidst these times of division, almost everyone can agree Congress’ ideas are, essentially, a catastrophic failure of the human mind. So why can we not unite to change things and vote in the right people?
Many things stand in the way of change in Washington, and for democracy in the U.S. First and foremost, campaign financing is totally ineffective and is today all but garnish on the plate of shit they present to voters to deceive them into believing we have even a semblance of a system that prevents legal bribes. This is especially the case since corporations were given more rights than people (yet somehow are conveniently exempted from the laws governing us mortals on campaign finance) in the Supreme Court case Citizens United in 2010.
Since then, companies can give unlimited sums of money to groups set up for a candidate, enabling them to buy votes in Congress in ways contrary to popular opinion. These corporations with their pocketed lawmakers also add provisions for tax breaks or other carve-outs for themselves or their industries. How can you hope for Congress to vote according to the will of voters if a business can just bribe a Congressman to vote a certain way? These “donations” have insane returns for the large corporations able to afford to play ball nationally (which hurts smaller businesses and kills competition), and with the Supreme Court engaged against this, only a constitutional amendment is likely to permanently fix the situation.
Second, partisan gerrymandering is a particularly egregious flaw that renders the U.S. undemocratic. Gerrymandering is when electoral districts are drawn to favor one party or class, usually when one party has control of Congress and the Executive branch. This picture explains it quickly, and its inherent undemocratic nature is instantly apparent to all:
This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the foremost problems in becoming a representative democracy in America. If anyone can make it so the country can not only ignore the majority of votes for a candidate/party, but actually reverse the outcome and make the minority win, that is the literal definition of what is undemocratic. In this age of data, is easier than ever to tell where partisans live, and undermining their votes is simply a choice now available to most Legislatures. Not only is that wrong, but it assigns even more value to certain voters while invalidating the votes of others.
The Supreme Court is once again set to decide the next major test of this issue next month, but so far has said for centuries that it’s fine to invalidate the votes of the majority, as they so often have. So I’m not too optimisitic, but Justice Kennedy has left the door open to striking down hyper-partisan electoral maps if a good standard can be found, which he does not believe currently is available. Our chances rely pretty much rely on if he can be swayed during arguments, which is possible but unlikely. Time will tell though.
This brings me to the last issue, which is the fact that some people in the U.S. have exponentially greater voting power than others, which utterly violates the fundamental rule in democracy of one person one vote. There are many mechanisms for this, some of which I’ve touched on, but this also includes the Electoral College. First of all, basically unless you are in a swing state, your vote for President isn’t counted, because you either contribute to the overwhelming victory in the state that’s always a granted (and thus candidates pay little to no attention to your state) or you are too few to change the outcome.
In real terms, it means little to either party if you’re in one of these states, but if you’re in a swing state, your vote has outsize importance. This is why millions more go into swing elections and states, resulting not only in the ignoring of your fellow voters but also granting more generous benefits to swing states as votes are bought. This was most recently demonstrated in the last healthcare bill the GOP tried to pass (The Graham-Cassidy bill) where GOP leaders tried to incentive Republican moderates Susan Collins of Maine and her colleague from Alaska to vote for the bill by adding more benefits in it for their home states. Corruption at its finest.
Of course, we also saw the Electoral College overturn a handful of elections in which the majority of people voted for one candidate (i.e. Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, etc.) but got another. This again, is the opposite of democracy. Why do we have rules that can overturn the outcomes of elections? In sum, even if you can best corporations with billions more than you at their disposal and get a good candidate on the ballot against their advertising, you then run up against a gerrymandered district that puts your candidate at a further disadvantage.
If you somehow still succeed, you must best the Electoral College and win emphatically in order to secure even a razor thin victory. Hillary Clinton won with millions more votes but lost the election. Can you do better than that if you don’t have her billion dollar machine at your disposal? Let’s assume you do and against all odds your guy gets in office. Your fellow partisans call it a win and watch as your candidate reneges on numerous promises, flips on many positions, and engages in the now standard corruption as all the special interests/business groups now pay to flip them on all of their ideas.
In short, it’s extremely hard to get elected, and even if you do legal bribery will likely see to the demise of their popular ideas (never mind trying to even get a popular candidate on the ballot, as most people these days vote against someone rather than for them). Even if they are true leaders and rise above the corruption, Congress isn’t so heroic, and little can be done without them. The U.S. has sadly become a dead or dying democracy, until these fundamental issues are fixed, it’s likely to remain that way. This, all while we pretend to champion democracy across the globe.
Wake up people. The United States is no longer a democracy.