Monday, September 12, 2011

Elections: Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?

Democratic Elections? One thing our country prides itself on is the democratic process we use for selecting our political leaders. But just how democratic is it really? I postulate that the entire election process has been co-opted, corrupted, and controlled by the country's plutocracy and its political duopoly. When it come to being democratic, our elections are a sham. And here's why.

How Much Say Do Voters Have? Voters do select the candidates for various public offices themselves, don't they? Just stop and think about that for moment and look at how the process works. Do the people directly select candidates for office?  Or do they just get to select from among a list of candidates that each party provides? People within each party declare themselves to be candidates.  In some cases, the political parties themselves will recruit candidates to run on their party ticket.  These are the only choices available to the voters.
Political Parties Have Their Say.  At the state level. candidates seek to gain endorsements from politically powerful groups, the most powerful of which is their own political party.  By making such endorsements, political parties hope to influence voters toward the candidates they endorse and away from the other candidates.  So, there is already an attempt to control the elections by influencing voters even in the selection of candidates to be put on the ballots

Show Me The Money.  The essential element that powers America's elections is not the candidates, not the issues, and not even the will and welfare of its people.  There is an expression that "Money is the root of all evil."  Well, in this country, it is also the root of all elections.  To put it bluntly, it is impossible to get elected without money. The role of money cannot and should not be ignored.  It is the paramount force in our electoral process. And it doesn't hurt if the candidates themselves are independently wealthy as well.  
Here is a list of candidates from the 2010 Congressional elections who contributed large sums of money to their own campaigns, something the average citizen probably be able to do in the amounts indicated:

Major Self-Financed Campaigns of 2010
Candidate Amount Percent
Linda McMahon (R) $22.1 million 99.9%
Jeff Greene $5.9 million 99.9%
Carly Fiorina (R) $5.5 million 52.0%
William Binnie $3.6 million 75.0%
David Malpass $2.5 million 89.0%
Total $39.6 million
Average $7.9 million
House of Representatives
Candidate Amount Percent
Tom Ganley (R) $3.5 million 94.0%
George Flinn $2.9 million 93.0%
Randy Altschuler (R) $2 million 71.0%
Wink Hartman (R) $1.6 million 92.0%
Rudolph Moise $1.0 million 70.0%
Total $11 million
Average $2.2 million
Source: 2010's Self-Financed Candidates

And here is a list of 2010's costliest elections:
2010's Most Costly Congressional Races
Senate Cost*
Florida Charlie Crist (I) vs. Marco Rubio (R) et al $ 37.7 million
Connecticut Linda McMahon (R) vs. Richard Blumenthal (D) $ 30.3 million
California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) vs. Carly Fiorina (R) $ 29.5 million
Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) vs. J.D. Hayworth (R) $ 27.4 million
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (D) vs. Sharron Angle (R) $ 22.7 million
Total $147.6 million
Average $ 29.5 million
House Cost*
Tennessee District 8George Flinn Jr. (R) vs. Roy Herron (D) $ 7.3 million
Minnesota District 6 Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) vs. Tarryl Clark (D) $ 7.0 million
New York District 1 Rep. Timothy Bishop (D) vs. Randy Altschuler (R) $ 6.6 million
South Carolina District 2 Rep. Joe Wilson (R) vs. Rob Miller (D) $ 6.6 million
Florida District 22 Rep. Ron Klein (D) vs. Allen West (R) $ 5.9 million
Total $ 36.4 million
Average $ 7.3 million
*As of July 26, 2010
Source: 2010's Most Expensive Races

The amount of money invested in our elections cannot and must not be ignored.  You can imagine that this amount of money is not contributed without the expectation of something in return.  And Congress members seem to be all too happy to reciprocate in kind, so that they can expect the same or even greater support for the next election.

Limiting the Voters' Ability to Exercise Their Freedom of Choice. Once each party establishes its slate of candidates for the primary elections, don't the people at least get to vote for the candidate of their choice? Well, not necessarily. If a voter's preferred candidate is a member of that voter's party, the answer is certainly yes. But, typically, people who are registered with one political party are not allowed to vote for any member of another party in primary elections.  In most cases, only registered Republicans get to vote for Republican candidates and only registered Democrats get to vote for Democratic candidates.

Protecting Against Crossover Voting.  Sometimes, a party will agree to let  independent or non-partisan voters to vote on their ballot, but, even then, the voter is allowed to vote for the candidates of that particular party.  Generally speaking, if one of a voter's preferences for a particular office is a Democrat and the another preferred candidate is a Republican, that voter is deprived of voting for his or her preferred choices. This is not a democratic process.

Why Do These Restrictions Exist? These restrictions exist because the political duopoly wants them to exist. They want to limit the amount of control that the people have over the election. They are afraid that, if Democrats are allowed to vote for or against Republicans, or vice versa, it could upset the duopoly's control. It would take a whole lot of voters to do this -- probably in the millions -- but, if that many people felt that strongly about a particular candidate, wouldn't allowing them to vote either for or against a particular candidate be the truly democratic thing to do?

Big Money's Influence In The General Election.
  Candidates who take a stand for or against particular issues attract huge financial support from like-minded big-money interests who could benefit directly if their candidate of choice were to get elected.  These big-money interests help finance and influence political campaigns.  They contribute to special interest groups who fund thousands of television ads either backing the positions of their candidate of choice or attacking the opposing candidate. When it comes to such television messages, they are usually so contorted and contrived that it would tax the capabilities of a lie detector to get the straight facts. Instead of trying to inform the people intelligently, they are deliberately designed to misinform and deceive them. Too many voters are influenced by such ads, to the detriment of honest campaigning and true issues.

Truth Loses To Distortion, Innuendos, and Outright Deception.  Truth in advertising seems to be largely non-existent when it comes to politics.  The average citizen doesn't even have a chance against all of their machinations and manipulations -- and it is the voters who are being manipulated. All of this is done to influence and control the outcome of the election.     

Democracy In Action, Or Democracy Inaction?  All of this is done in the name of democracy. However, it is more realistic to say that it is done for the benefit of our political duopoly and their plutocratic supporters.  Most of the faults in our electoral process that are described here are either done by or for the benefit of the two major parties, to ensure that they maintain control, thereby freezing out any meaningful opposition from third-party candidates.  As has been stated previously, we have government of the people, by a political duopoly (instead of by the people), and for the big-money interests (instead of for the people).  This is not democracy in action.  It is just the opposite.

Coming up:  
                      Gerrymandering for Fun and Profit!  (in development)

In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns Supreme

Presidential Debates: Fraud or Farce?

Problems For Third-Party Candidates

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