According to a new political science report, U.S. policy is controlled not by the electorate but by a handful of wealthy individuals and corporations. The report makes it clear in no uncertain terms that the average American’s voice in politics has a “near-zero” impact on policy. Entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” the Princeton report has outraged many on both sides of the political spectrum.
Of course, if what the report says is true, it doesn’t really matter if people are outraged or not.
The “Downs Paradox” has been known for a long time, stating that an individual, rational, self-interested voter has almost no chance of making a difference in any individual election. Therefore, voting itself is an irrational act. When you put that together with a study such as this, what’s the point in getting worked up about politics at all? Are we all just rats in a cage, pulling the lever while our political and corporate masters laugh all the way to the bank?
The research seems to say so. In looking at almost 2,000 policy issues, the report found that the government was likely in almost all cases to ignore the interests of the U.S. populace in favor of those policies supported by special interests. In other words, the people who fund the campaigns. In their analysis, Breitbart points out the gap between overwhelming anti-amnesty sentiment in America – as judged by recent polls – and the “corporate elites” who push for pro-amnesty policies.
Why would this come as a shock to anyone who is plugged in to American politics? According to Lawrence Lessig, American elections are broken into two divides: the $$$ election and the general election. Before a candidate can play in the general election – the one that American democracy is founded upon – they must first win the $$$ election. That’s the election decided by the 0.5% of Americans that donated virtually all of the relevant funding to the 2012 political campaigns. Yes, there are odd moments here and there where a drastically out-funded candidate beats the guy with all the money, but those are mere exceptions. By and large, our candidates are vetted for us by a very, very small percentage of the population. A little over 100,000 people, to be more precise.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is some left vs right thing. If this system favored Republicans, Obama would not have occupied the White House for the last six years. Politicians on both the left and the right are beholden to corporate interests. That’s who pays their bills.
This is an American thing, and we are watching our Constitutional democracy sail down the river without so much as a passing glance. Until we can take back politics from special interests, lobbyists, and the ultra-wealthy, we’re no more than drones on a conveyor belt.