Midterms show that democracy in the US is increasingly broken
Published: Nov 02, 2022 07:24 PM

"American Democracy"

Here in the US we are often told that the next election is "the most important" of our lifetimes, or that we should "vote like your life depends on it, because it does." Days away from our next midterm elections, this month's polls show that motivation to turnout is relatively high among both Democratic and Republican voters as both sets of party leaders amp up the divisive rhetoric and claim that the opposition has a radically different vision for the nation. 

Our lives are certainly impacted by and, dare I say, endangered by American policies. Sadly, the state of affairs with what we euphemistically call "American Democracy" means that we as Americans simply cannot save ourselves through elections. 

If the goal of American elections is to fulfill democracy, then American elections are dysfunctional. A 2014 study, published by Cambridge University Press, already classified the US as closer to an oligarchy than to a democracy, saying "average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence" in American policymaking. 

Indeed, the gap between the policies Americans say they want when polled and the policies enacted by our elected representatives widens with each generation. Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise that he'd end American wars but once in office continued our imperial violence.  

Less than two years ago, Democrats got behind Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia Senate races, and promised that if Americans helped elect the two and gave Democrats control of the US Senate, they would cut $2,000 COVID relief checks. The nation pitched in, campaign contributions from all over the nation poured into Georgia on behalf of the Democratic candidates and the pair were elected. 

Nearly two years later, the main campaign promise, $2,000 COVID relief from Democrats, is still unfulfilled. Both parties campaign promise specific things if we elect them, and when they get elected and place in sufficient power to deliver on those promises, they simply refuse to do so.  

Now, we're being asked to give them more power and told that, really, this time they'll give us what they promised. They didn't do it in 2021 with the COVID relief checks. 

Neither party seems very worried about disappointing their base to the point where they get rejected and lose elections. In this venture capital-styled political system, raising private capital is more essential to the life of a politician or party than winning elections. 

American voters are being lied to as baldly as ever by politicians while the opposite of our interests are being pursued by them once in office.  

The US' proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is just the latest and perhaps the most dangerous example. A clear majority of polled Americans say they want the US to pursue direct peace negotiations with Russia.  

Despite this, both Democrats and Republicans are voting uniformly to give billions more to weapons makers to fuel the violence in Ukraine and the Biden administration's top diplomats' official policy has been pointedly and proudly not to speak with his Russian counterparts. Americans want their government to negotiate peace and all the latter has done thus far is help dissuade peace negotiations.  

If only the lone problem with American elections were that they situated politicians in power who refuse to implement policies voters want. Alas, our elections are more fundamentally fraught than that. 

Democrats say, baselessly, that Republicans are under Russian control. Republicans say, without evidence, that Democrats are stealing election victories. Meanwhile, people of color continue to get thrown off voter rolls; we have no national uniformity with voting procedures, which means, among other things, some Americans only have to cross the street to cast a quick vote on election day while others have to drive miles past police barricades and wait in lines at poorly operating polling centers.  

Our general presidential elections are literally undemocratic because our votes don't count, legally. Only those of the several hundred members of our Electoral College do.  

If Democracy is the point of American politics, American politics is dysfunctional. Democracy is not lucrative, however, don't be surprised if members of both our major parties decide not to include the voters' desires in next year's plans. The money continues to pour into members of both parties, and the big donors contributing to those coffers will continue to wield much more influence over American politics than any non-wealthy voters.  

The author is a Chicago-based columnist covering US politics & culture. He is also a university English & critical journalism instructor. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn