You’ve suspected it for a while now, and a new study agrees — America is no longer a democracy. Nope, our government caters to the needs of a few, very rich people and special interest groups. So the nation is an oligarchy, and democracy is dead.
The study is from professors at Princeton and Northwestern, and covers about 1,800 U.S. policies launched between 1981 and 2002. It compares policy decisions to the opinions of average Americans, top 10-percenters and large special-interest groups.
The conclusion? Majority does not rule in America.
In fact, U.S. policies only rarely follow the will of the average American, but usually grant the wishes of rich people and special interest groups instead. And when policy does favor us commoners, it’s probably by accident — it only happens when the richest 10 percent benefit, as well.
From the study, posted on the Princeton website:
[W]e have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
It’s Gotten Worse, Too
The study only looks at policies until 2002. Just think if it had included the past decade, too, with recent debacles like Citizens United (corporations are people?!) and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (who needs limits on campaign finance?). Even the Supreme Court is helping to wipe out democracy these days.
And then there’s women’s healthcare rights, equal pay and livable minimum wage — issues still bleeding on the political chopping block, despite the wishes of a vocal majority. And even though 90 percent of the country supported (very) modest gun-control laws, the NRA quickly snuffed out any hope of expanded background checks.
Then you have food-stamp cuts, sequestration cuts to social programs and enough other kicks in the shins to the public to leave a nasty collective bruise.
It’s like the study says:
In the United States … the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias
built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy
change, they generally do not get it.
Granted, the findings may not surprise a lot of people. But it’s one thing to have a hunch that your voice doesn’t matter, and another thing entirely to see the facts laid out in a scientific study. As depressing as the research is, maybe — just maybe — it will help push more people to try to stop the inequality. Because whether you’re Democrat, Republican or independent, you ought to be pretty P.O.d that the government doesn’t care much about your vote.
And if enough people stand up and say “I’ve had enough,” maybe this time the government will finally listen.