Democracy is a system of government that allows for the free and full expression of the people’s wishes. It was developed in the United States to counter the autocracy that existed at the time. The US’s founding documents, Bill of Rights, abolitionist movement, civil rights movement and affirmative action were all aimed at promoting and strengthening American democracy.
However, many Americans have lost faith in the democratic process due to a combination of money politics, elite rule and a dysfunctional system that does not work for everyone. The resulting political polarization, which is often at a fever pitch and growing, has led to a deterioration of the country’s core values, a growing distrust of government, and a feeling that democracy has devolved into mob rule.
Money Politics & Elite Rule
A large share of Congress is funded by corporations, a small group of wealthy Americans, and favored interest groups. This financial support makes it more likely that candidates will be able to gain office and speak for the interests of their financial backers. In turn, those Congressional representatives may be more likely to enact legislation that benefits their businesses and families or to vote against laws that protect the environment, public health, or other social issues they care about.
This is a problem because many Americans have seen their jobs, homes, and lives destroyed by this kind of money politics. In addition, many people feel resentment toward the system of money politics and are unable to see how they can change it.
Partisan Polarization & Corruption
The electoral system in the United States is increasingly susceptible to manipulation by plutocrats and celebrities, and many presidential primary voters are supporting candidates who do not reflect their views. This is a serious, immediate threat to the health of democracy that should be addressed by a step-change in focus.
In the United States, money politics has impacted elections at all levels of government, from the presidency to the state legislatures, and has undermined the tenets of American democracy by allowing for a system of government that favors vested interests over the people. This has caused a deepening of partisan polarization and has become the foundation for political corruption.
Another significant problem has been the influence of corporate monopolies in America’s media sector, which have shaped narratives that turn citizens into passive viewers and have reduced their interest in civic engagement. In his book Rich Media, Poor Democracy, Robert McChesney explains how these monopolies have narrowed the public’s range of information and made it difficult to distinguish between truth and falsehood in public affairs.
This has also undermined the ability of the public to engage with their elected officials and the government’s policies. The majority of Americans, from both the left and right, do not trust their political representatives or are not sure that they care enough to speak up if they are unhappy with their leadership.
While a step-change in focus is necessary to address the deterioration of democracy, it should be done with a future-centered vision of what a more inclusive America could look like that allows for the fullest expression of people’s identities. This vision will need to be disseminated through artistic, literary and cultural endeavors, advertising and other mass media efforts, and other outlets that shape the public’s image of how society should be.