By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
We understand democracy to be government by the people (by all eligible members of a state, at least), and as a country that abides by the principle of social equality.
A plutocracy is government by the wealthy, or oligarchy. We still think of this country as a democracy, and call it that, but is it?
Three studies show our representatives already do not represent voters. Browse “Testing Theories of American Politics” for a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page showing that U.S. Congressional public policy is shaped only by corporate influence, not by the needs of constituents like you and me.
Last August, Thomas J. Hayes found in his research that Senate responsiveness toward low-income constituents from 2001 through 2011 was virtually nonexistent. Low-income constituents don’t vote, reasoning went; therefore, they don’t count.
And recently, Joshua Kalla and David Broockman, in a paper titled “Congressional Officials Grant Access Due To Campaign Contributions,” showed that access to senators depends upon whether you are a contributor or not. Only money talks.
Unsurprisingly, this Congress is the least productive in history. Members are called “elected telemarketers,” spending three-quarters of their “workday” panhandling.
In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran as Libertarian vice presidential candidate, clueing us in to what the Kochs would do to our country if their money could buy our representatives (www.sanders.senate.gov/koch-brothers).
Do you like the Post Office? Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? How about the Environmental Protection Agency? The Department of Energy? Of Education? Of Transportation? The Consumer Product Safety Commission? Usury laws, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance? The Federal Aviation Administration, for crying out loud? Would you like to kiss them, and a whole lot more, good-bye? If that Libertarian platform is any indication, when oligarchs run the country, you will.
The Koch brothers have already spent $30 million so far this year. Expect them to spend a whole lot more by November.
And, of course, it’s not just the Kochs. Members of the plutocracy have been writing op-eds calling us fascists for paying attention to the inequality gap and its influence on the political process.
So, what can we do?
In this off-year election, turnout will make all the difference. If you want influence, you must vote. No election has been more important. Choose candidates wisely, because voting for candidates on the corporate gravy train will only hasten democratic Armageddon.
If we’re going to restore democracy, we must not let the interests of plutocrats override our own needs — jobs, minimum-wage hike, the Affordable Care Act, unemployment and all the rest. Their ads will attack candidates who stand up for us; don’t listen to them.
Vote against those with the biggest money contributors, and for those who will fight for jobs, who will represent the people, who will stand up to the moneyed interests. And we can’t rest once they’re elected, but must hold their feet to the fire, forcing them to listen until campaign finance laws are changed.
Or, kiss democracy good-bye.
Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.
From the April 30-May 6, 2014