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texshelters Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 09:02 AM
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Defending the Power Elite in America Against the Interests of the People: The Case of the United Sta
Defending the Power Elite in America Against the Interests of the People: The Case of the United States Government

The form of our government in the United States is one that is not conducive to change and radicalism. It is set up to prevent big sweeping changes and thus promotes the interests of those in power, the moneyed and political elite. Elections for political office do little to change the underlying body politic, changing one face for another, and are only cosmetic in nature.

There are several ways the status quo, government run by the powerful and not the people, is protected in the United States.

1. The two party monopoly
Many democracies have multiparty systems. Having more parties means more competition, but apparently the two parties in charge only like the mythical competition of the economic markets and the competition on the football pitch. When it comes to political competition, they want to limit it as much as possible.

While I believe that many Tea Party supporters are deluded and extreme if they feel the Republican Party cares about them, they are challenging the two-party monopoly. I support that even if it comes from the far right. The complaints from the left of Obamas own party makes it clear we could have a more liberal party than the Democrats. But in the United States you have two flavors of political ice cream, vanilla and vanilla bean: same basic corporate flavor with a different name. /

Another thing that the two-party monopoly does is limit the acceptable background of politicians in the United States. At the moment, it is unlikely we would have a candidate, let alone a president, from the lower classes like Lula Da Silva of Brazil. To become President in the United States you must be religious (not atheist or agnostic), Protestant (with the exception of President Kennedy thus far), you must have college degree. Being a lawyer is a major advantage and having a business degree is also helpful.

Furthermore, out of our forty-three Presidents, only one has been not all white and there have been no women. There are no blacks in the current Senate. That is not representative. There are, however, forty-four blacks in the House of Representatives, which is the appoximate percent of the population (close to 10%). This amplifies my arguments that the Senate is undemocratic. What about Hispanic representation? Two in the Senate and thirty in the House of Representatives. While the Senate is ruled by wealthy Whites, the House is much closer to what the United States actually looks like. The two political parties in the United States are richer, whiter, and more educated that the rest of the United States. How could they ever have the interest of the working classes at heart when they arent one of us?

2. The Constitution
You might be wondering why I put the Constitution on a list discussing the barriers to a more democratic society. There are several reasons, some of which I discuss throughout this article. To put it in broad terms, it is a barrier is because it codifies some of the problems with our democracy such as the Senate and the process for electing our presidents. The other is the sacred nature of the document. Like the Bible, the Constitution is taken as gospel, until you disagree with it. But its in the Constitution, or But its not in the Constitution are oft used phrases when one wants to end political debate. However, like the Bible, the Constitution accepted slavery and even made allowances for it with the 3/5s rule as well as other undemocratic policies.

The Bill of Rights, if we adhere to them, is whats best about our secular/holy document, but the plan of government needs updating and amendments protecting peoples voting rights and ending corporate personhood to improve our failing democratic institutions.

3. Winner takes all
In a winner takes all election, you can win a congressional seat by one vote. The loser gets nothing. For example, the Senate candidate in California could win a seat with 6,000,001 votes while the loser gets 6,000,000 votes. That means there are 6 million voters who have no representative of their choosing. If we had a proportional representation system in the Senate (a body I want to dismantle as you will see later), the losing party would get the number of seats in proportion to the votes they received. In the case above, they would get half of the seats, minus one. Thus the loser would have a say and those views would be represented. Some people say that the system we have works, so why change it. Take a look at Congress and tell me if its really working. (link) /

Sociologist G. William Domhoff has made a career studying elections and political systems. He discusses the advantages of a proportional representation system,

In contrast to a system based on districts and pluralities, countries with systems of proportional representation usually have four or more parties, and would have even more if there wasn't a minimum vote that has to be reached to receive any seats at all. Although the centrist parties soak up most of the votes, these countries are often governed by a coalition of two or more parties. Roughly speaking, there are left-of-center, center-left, center-right, and right-of-center coalitions. In this kind of system, everyone's vote counts, and voter turnout is therefore very high.

In Domhoffs book Who Rules America, he reviews statistics comparing winner-takes-all systems versus proportional representation. It is clear from the data that proportional representation systems have much higher voter participation while providing more choices, and they are thus more democratic. The two ruling parties in the U.S. will not allow a proportional voting system that would interfere with their two party monopoly.

The positive side to the Tea Party ideology is that is shows a split in one of the major parties that could, over time, lead to a sustainable third party in America. We could also sustain a left of center party to compete with the corporate Democrats. Until the rules on elections change to allow more third party challenges, rules from registration requirements to costs for entry and proportional representation, our democracy is doomed to vote between two inadequate parties.

4. Money Dominated and not Vote Dominated Elections
Money controls politics to a large extent in the United States. Those that defend this say that it has always been this way and that it would be undemocratic to not allow unlimited money from the wealthy to be used in elections. That means Congress is for sale. / By allowing unlimited campaign donations for corporations, the Supreme Court has moved the already corporate dominated U.S. Government even further in that direction. Until we limit this money in elections, end the lie of corporate personhood, and treat everyones money as equal, our elections will be corrupted by those that can pay the most to have their candidate elected. Read my post about this here: /

Post on the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that gives corporations unlimited donation power. /

5. Presidential Election System
Our presidential primary system starts in two less populated states, Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Iowa primary is not even a vote by the people. It has a caucus (group meetings with the party faithful) that favors party insiders and not candidates with alternative ideas. The primary in New Hampshire has very small turnout. For example, only three to four percent of voters nominated McCain in New Hampshire in 2008. So a few thousand votes in a small state decided who would represent the Republicans in 2008.

Furthermore, many state party primaries block those not registered with one of the two major parties from their primaries, and thus they promote the two party monopoly. Independents, non-aligned voters, dont have a say. It is in this way that voters are coerced to sign-up with one of the two parties or have no vote in the primaries that determine the chose for president. And by the time the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are over, most of the candidates, often those with the most interesting ideas, have been eliminated. Iowa and New Hampshire, with about 2.5% of the U.S. population, have more say about the nominees that other states. Even for a winner takes all system this is undemocratic.

New Hampshire is mostly rural. So is Iowa. They are also states that have a higher percentage of White people than most of America. So why are those the first two presidential primary states? If Brown of CA, Scott in FLA and Cuomo in NY (Governors of three populous and diverse states pushed for a change and asked their legislatures to move up their primaries, the primary system would have and outside chance of changing. Iowa compared to US demographics New Hampshire compared to the United States

Other problems with the primary process are the debates that limit participation of candidates, even those on the ballots, and the system of super delegates that allows only party insiders votes. These groups are by nature about uniformity and not rocking the boat. So while people say we have a democracy, the choice of candidates is severely restricted by party insiders, money, and the election process.

6. The Electoral College System
We should of course rid our selves of the undemocratic Electoral College system that allows candidates with fewer votes to win the presidency. The electoral college was set up because the founding fathers believed that the average citizen was too easily manipulated and couldnt be trusted with the direct election of the president, Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. We are not trusted with democracy, so we cant directly vote for president and have to rely on the college.

7. The Senate
The Senate is a representative legislative body that gives inordinate power to less populated states that skews toward a more traditionalist, conservative politics. Because they are over represented, less populated states take more resources per capita than more populous states and can block policies that would help the more urban states. It is counter to our stated ideology of one person, one vote. One vote in Montana for Senator is equal to the value of 70 votes in California. It also skews the Electoral College, based on the number of representatives in Congress, toward the less populated states. Before rejecting this unusual idea of banning the Senate, read my complete criticism here. /

We vote every fall or spring hoping that might make a difference, and some times it does. But As long as we have a two party system in the United States run by money and limited choice, we will never have a government by the people and for the people. Our presidents will also continue to be beholden to corporations such as big oil, big agra, and big pharma and Wall Street bankers and investment firms like Goldman Sachs, AIG and Bank of America. Until the rigged game changes, the United States people will always remain with inadequate representation.

(Comment my page here: / )

Tex Shelters
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 12:26 PM
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1. I agree that the govt is set up to slow change, but that could be good if the govt is "progressive."
Edited on Mon Apr-04-11 12:34 PM by Bill Bored
Think of how rapidly we might have done away with the New Deal if we didn't have the Senate or other obstacles to rapid change. Thirty years after Reagan, it's still mostly intact. This will change because of some of the things you say are obstacles to the kind of change you want, such as your #4 (Money Dominated and not Vote Dominated Elections), as well as the mainstream media and other distractions.

You seem to be anti sates' rights, but I'm not that happy about what the feds have been up to lately. Progressive states might serve as a barrier to the radical right-wing plutocratic agenda in Washington. Maybe people will vote with their feet and relocate to such states, reducing the red states' representation in Congress, but it seems the reverse may be happening because of the promise of lower taxes, sunny weather, and more jobs in the red states. I'm glad the blue ones will always have two US Senators to represent them, even as they lose seats in the House.

As far as the voting system, I think whatever system or "game" is put in place, parties will try to rig it to their advantage. That includes computerized elections, which could be the major game-changer of our time. "Progressive" types who have placed accessibility and convenience over election integrity are partially to blame for this, and so are those who oppose winner-take-all plurality elections in favor of more complex, software-dependent systems such as Instant Runoff Voting, which are very difficult to verify. Proportional representation would be very hard to verify as well, because you have to know how MANY votes each candidate got -- not just who got the MOST votes. This is an election auditor's nightmare! (In the case of plurality elections, there are solutions that could be implemented fairly easily if people would stop trusting software to count votes, as most computer scientists have suggested.)

Regarding Primaries, the problem there is lack of voter participation. Primaries shape the general election and the 2-party system that you oppose. But imagine how different things would be if moderate Republicans and truly progressive Democrats won their Primaries (perhaps due to higher voter turnout?).

In NY, and a few other states, there is Fusion Voting. In the General Election, "minor" parties can endorse major-party candidates and give them their ballot lines. This pulls the majors to the right and the left. Perhaps 20% of the vote for a Dem or Repub can come from the third parties. This system is a simple way to hold major-party candidates more accountable. They have to tow more than one "party line" when they make decisions while in office.

Unfortunately, with computerized elections, the percentage of the fusion vote will no longer be verifiable in New York. Third parties could lose access to the ballot entirely if they don't get enough votes. And the 2 major parties, along with the voting system vendors, run the elections!


But thanks for your thoughtful post.
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texshelters Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:28 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I'm not against states rights
but I don't want small rural conservative states to have an inordinate say in our national politics at the expense of the majority.

Computer voting is rife with problems as you lay out.

I certainly could have added something about the mainstream media. Thanks.

Tex Shelters
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-17-11 03:34 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Both the OP and your comment are indeed quite thoughtful.
And yes, I do think it is sometimes good to have the slowness of the Senate to guide us.

For instance, as far as instant runoff voting, initially it might help the desired progressive causes. But once the Powers that Be figure it out, they could stack the list of nominees so that we end up with the Sarah Palin-style candidate. At least, I think it could be used to do this type of thing.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-26-11 11:54 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Yes, IRV can be used to elect Palin types and other far-outers!
There is some academic research that supports this, but some of the "progressive" types don't read it, and I don't have time to cite it either. Sorry.

But if you want, google Steven J. Brams at NYU and follow some links. They should take you where you want to go.
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