Not really all that amazing but it does make one want to say something facile like “amazing” .
Plutocracy is alive and thriving while the great mass of citizens play at republican democracy, enjoying all the best features–like voting, a good amount of freedom of speech, a certain amount of free assembly–while having none of the power that the features imply.
Unlike many, I do not say that the root of this is caring more about television, sports, video games, and gadgets. Obviously these things are the symptoms that tell us more accurately what the majority perceive as expressions of their freedom: the plethora of choices one has to be distracted.
Rather, I see the root as resting in the American Dream: home with a white picket fence, a good job, above average education, opportunity to advance.
Now you will say, almost all of these things have disappeared. Yes. These were the things for which the World War II generation traded-up. The last time that the people had very real effect on the government was the Great Depression when the masses seemed to be a real threat. But the Depression wore off, and we armed ourselves for the Imperial War with the Japanese and the Ideological War with the Germans. We came out of that struggle and found ourselves in a world where none were as ready as us to reap the rewards of having laid waste to “civilization.” And with these factors in place, that generation traded political engagement for the American Dream.
Sure, it did not look like at it first. And their kids seemed to make attempts at grabbing it back. But the 60’s were followed closely by the Me Generation suffering the apparent economic downturn of the 70’s. And suddensly, it becomes more clear what is happening…
Americans gave up democracy for sympathetic magic: the rich would show us the way to prosperity again. They had money, they must know how the rest of us could get it. All we needed was a Can Get Rich Mentality and a Gospel of Prosperity Spirituality.
With this, the upswing of distracting choices proliferated as more folks lost not only political power but economic gains. The more they found ways to succeed–be it college or capitalism or Christ–the less impact they had on public policy.
The last trade offs to cement the Society of Control were to let the news become mere entertainment and to accept torture as needed to insure security.
And here we are.
While “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association,” the authors say the data implicate “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. 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.”
The authors of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”… [find that the] “failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect.”