I am not American, but I am very interested in what happens in America because if America continues its decline, democracy will die. If US democracy collapses, democracy in other countries is doomed too.
The root problem with US democracy is that, like all representative democracies, it gives too much power to politicians and to the Supreme Court. In the US, and in all other representative democracies the politicians, as a class, they have all the political power; besides making all the political decisions, without the people having the power to stop them, they also appoint the Supreme Court judges; they have total control, the people control nothing, this has to change, it is killing democracy.
In the US, and in all other representative democracies, the citizens, the voters, only have power to elect politicians, they do not have the power to stop the policies and laws the politicians make. Nor do the people in representative democracies have the power to introduce on their own policies, new laws or changes the constitution.
The politicians know they have power, but to get elected they need the vote of the people. This requires a lot of money, particularly since the US Supreme Court made the democracy-undermining decision in 2010 of allowing unlimited contributions to political campaigns by corporations, unions, professional associations and individuals.
This has created the crazy situation where politicians need the money of big donors to get elected. If a candidate turned down money from those entities, his or her campaign will not be competitive; with lots of money, a much worse candidate will obliterate a better candidate.
This means all candidates have to accept as much money as possible from the big donors. The donations of ordinary wage earners do not really mean much any more, their vote at election time is all that counts.
Because for politicians their main goal is to get elected and they need lots of money from big donors, they can not consider what is good for the people over the long term. They promise a lot and do some things to please the voters “now”, even if those decisions are bad for the future of the voters, their children and the country. But let us not blame the politicians; they behave in the way the system forces them to behave. Let us change the system so that politicians have no choice but to make decisions for the long term and for the majority, not for the donors.
In the current situation candidates are in a Catch 22 situation; “if I reject the donations, in order to represent the will of the average voter, I will lose the election for lack of money and staff, if I accept the big donations the interests of the voters will have to take a bad seat at the back seat”.
This dynamic has effective destroyed the basic idea of democracy; “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
As a result of the current system, politics in representative democracies gradually deviate from the will of the people, from government of the people, by the people…, etc.
In the US, the situation is worse than in other democracies because, besides the terrible decision of the US Supreme Court, other factors already made money a decisive factor in American politics. But all representative democracies suffer “deviation from the will of the majority”. In other words, they do not really practice democracy much beyond freedom of speech.
This means than in the US executive and legislative key policy decisions, laws and regulations cater to the interests of lobbies and pressure groups, not to the interests of most voters. Sometimes the people inm power favour one lobby over another lobby, they do not put the interests of the people ahead of everything else.
To get elected and use their power, US candidatesb also have to fight like hell. Republicans and Democrats have to destroy each other’s credibility. Inevitably, this polarises the parties, the candidates and the voters. It is absurd to expect democracy to work with such bitter polarisation.
It is not then surprising only 30% of the American people trust politicians. Compare that to the 90% support level they get in Switzerland, higher than anywhere else; it is one of the positive effects of direct democracy.
Anyone can understand that with only a support level of 30% no democracy is solid.
Riots on American streets, the assault on the Capitol, etc., are just the symptoms, not the problem. The problem is that US politicians do not adequately represent the people, because they can not, even when they want.
The remedy for the US, and for the rest of us? Direct-representative democracy. In direct-representative democracy Americans will still elect politicians, but there will be a crucial innovation; if 1% of the voters demand a referendum on any decisions of the executive or the legislative, a referendum will take place. The decision will bound government and parliament. Nobody can overturn the decision, not even the Supreme Court; only the people, in another referendum could overturn the results of a previous referendum.
In my next blog I will discuss how prevalent US corporate management practices are also undermining the US economy, American wage earners and, as a result, US democracy too. Make no mistake, democracy is sustained on the shoulders of the political intelligence of the common citizen, not on the shoulders of politicians, scholars, entrepreneurs, etc.