Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Democracy’

Now the USA is the dysfunctional democracy

October 18, 2013

When I studied political science in college nearly 60 years ago, we were taught to contrast the sensible, pragmatic American and British political cultures with the ideological, gridlocked French and Italians.

How a Bill Becomes Law - UpdatedIn France and Italy in the 1950s, governments fell and new governmental coalitions had to be formed every few months, or so it seemed, and the diverse political parties could never agree on policies to address their nations problems.

But I never heard of any French or Italian political party that tried to stop their governments from carrying out their lawful functions or paying their lawful bills, as happened during the past couple of weeks here in the United States.  Today it is we Americans who set an example of ideological, gridlocked government.

Our Constitution sets up a legislative process that says enactment of a law requires agreement among a President elected by the nation, a House of Representatives elected by districts on a population basis and a Senate elected by states on a state sovereignty basis.  That is a more complicated and difficult process than in most democratic governments.  But now agreement among these three bodies is required merely to allow the government to carry out responsibilities mandated by law.

U.S. democracy: The power of money

September 17, 2012

Writer Larry Beinhart, one of the panelists in this Al Jazeera English program on U.S. campaign financing, said compared American democracy to Iranian democracy.  In Iran, all political candidates have to get clearance from the Council of Guardians who certify that they conform to the tenets of Shiite Islam.  Within those limits, there are contested elections based on full and vigorous debate.  In the United States, as Beinhart said, candidates have to get clearance from financial guardians, the big contributors who pay for election campaigns, and, within the limits of acceptability to those big contributors, there are contested elections based on full and vigorous debate.

James Bopp, lawyer for the winning side in the Citizens United case, and Steven Hoersting, co-founder of the Center for Competitive Politics, who is regarded as a father of the Super-PAC system, argued that unlimited financial contributions allow for more voices to be heard in American politics, and offset the power of supposedly liberal reporters and broadcasters.  Hoersting argued further that middle-class people are not at a disadvantage, because it allows them to pool their financial resources and speak independently.

This is not how things work in practice, though.  We Americans have a wide range of choices on abortion rights, affirmative action,  church-and-state separation, gay marriage, smokers’ rights and many other issues that do not affect the financial interests of the upper 1/10th of 1 percent of income earners.  But candidates who advocate breaking up the big Wall Street banks, which is what public opinion polls say the majority of the American people want, are relegated to the fringes.