You Don’t Matter

So, you think your vote counts. You’ve been one of those guys lecturing me for years about voting for the most rightward leaning viable candidate. Me voting for a third party was just voting for the bad guys, by taking a vote away from the viable alternative. Maybe you write checks to the GOP or volunteering to work for a local candidate. You really think it matters. If you just keep trying, things will turn and the pols will pass the right measures and turn the country to the better.

Well, you’re an idiot.

A startling new political science study concludes that corporate interests and mega wealthy individuals control U.S. policy to such a degree that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The startling study, titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” is slated to appear in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Politics and was authored by Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page. An early draft can be found here.

Noted American University Historian Allan J. Lichtman, who highlighted the piece in a Tuesday article published in The Hill, calls Gilens and Page’s research “shattering” and says their scholarship “should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government.”

The statistical research looked at public attitudes on nearly 1,800 policy issues and determined that government almost always ignores the opinions of average citizens and adopts the policy preferences of monied business interests when shaping the contours of U.S. laws.

The study’s findings align with recent trends, where corporate elites have aggressively pursued pro-amnesty policies despite the fact that, according to the most recent Reuters poll, 70% of Americans believe illegal immigrants “threaten traditional U.S. beliefs and customs,” and 63% believe “immigrants place a burden on the economy.”

The solution, say the scholars, is a reinvigorated and engaged electorate.

“If policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened,” conclude Gilens and Page.

I’m always amused by how the word “democracy” is tossed around these days. It is never used to mean “the people voting.” Instead, it is used to mean the people getting the result some scold thinks is the right result. When Muslims vote for Sharia, no one celebrates democracy in action. When the extremist right wing extremists of the most extreme kind win an election, we hear that democracy is under assault. These days, democracy is about the result and not the process.

But, that’s just another example of the idiocy of our age. Democracy is a process and a shabby one. One reason our government has grown increasingly corrupt over the last century is we have more democracy, not less. In 1914, Senators were still selected by their state’s legislatures. Blacks and women were barred from voting in many states. The poor and the stupid were discouraged from voting. Like or not, you had a better class of voter 100 years ago.

That’s why the average voter counted for much more than it does today. The typical Congressman knew he was being judged by a reasonably intelligent electorate. There were plenty of dopes, but the ratios made it hard to fool the majority most of the time. Today, cobbling together a majority of mental midgets is too easy.

Even if the people were geniuses, democracy is no way to run a country. It works fine in the town and village. It may even work fine in a city or county. Once you get to the state level it starts to fall apart, which is why state’s have legislatures, constitutions and governors. At the national level it becomes a beauty contest. Obama beat Clinton because young and charming beats old and cranky. Obama beat McCain because young and charming beats old and cranky. Plus, it was his team’s turn.

It’s why I’m a localist. Even a nitwit can figure out if his local school is running properly. He can see if the roads are paved and the sidewalks are in good condition. He can figure this stuff out and translate that to picking the right mayor or the right town council member. If the mayor or town council ignores the people, the people can go to their house and beat the hell out of them.

It is not perfect, nothing is, but keeping the important decisions down at the local level means you don’t have to worry about whether the rulers, 3,000 miles away, are doing what you want. When I say important decisions, I mean the bread and butter stuff. The national government has to handle foreign policy and trade, but that’s about it. Everything else can be handled at the local level.

 

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CaptDMO
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CaptDMO

Democracy.
That’s where “We the people…” vote in the majority, and “suddenly” there’s a bunch of cash available to take it to the “right” judge and have it deemed null and void, if not the exact opposite of “the way it’s gonna’ be…”.
Cali. Prop 8 comes to mind, but is CERTAINLY not alone.

fodderwing
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fodderwing

Your blatant localism is refreshing and this mini-assault on democracy is certainly very welcome. Long live the Republic.

james wilson
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james wilson

From the Testament of Tocqueville- The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens. It really is difficult to imagine how people who have entirely given up managing their own affairs could make a wise choice of those who are to do that for them. One should never expect a liberal, energetic, and wise government to originate in the votes of a people of servants. Men’s taste for freedom and equality are, in effect, two different things and I am not afraid to add that in democratic nations they are also… Read more »

gobsmacker
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gobsmacker

You say the answer is localism, I say the answer is less government—at all levels. In the television and now the global Internet age, we tend to nationalize everything, our culture, our politics, our problems. But even local politics can be corrupted by well organized self-interest groups. The antidote is to reduce the scope of government intrusion into our lives; we need to ensure there are less spoils for the political pressure groups to fight over. When a candidate proudly tells me he is running for office “to do something,” I cross him right off my list. I’ve had enough… Read more »

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