Politicians, the media, and our education system continually tell us the U.S. is the epitome of a free and democratic nation, that we have the “greatest democracy in the world.” This lie was laid bare in the 2000 Presidential election where, of two evils, the loser was actually handed the presidency by the Supreme Court and Electoral College, despite the Bush brothers’ racist hijacking of the Florida vote.
The entire U.S. electoral system is structured to ensure corporate control of politics. Rather than a democratic, participatory government, we have a government of, by, and for big business.
Huge sums of money are required to run competitive campaigns, meaning usually only candidates who are rich or able to attract wealthy backers can win. Career-oriented politicians quickly learn either to adopt the outlook and politics of their capitalist paymasters, or be sidelined.
Real democracy requires a free exchange of ideas, yet there is an abyss between our freedom of speech and the ability to be heard. Currently, five corporate conglomerates own practically all major media sources. This consolidation of all the major media into the hands of a few corporations gives the ruling class a powerful ability to shape mass consciousness by deciding what is news, limiting the scope of public debate, and drilling their ideology into our heads.
According to the Center for Voting and Democracy, less than 20% of congressional races are even considered “competitive,” while the vast majority of districts are won by either “landslide” or “safe” margins (fairvote.org). Through patronage and gerrymandering, the Democratic or Republican Party is so firmly entrenched in most districts that choosing the next office-holder consists of the local party machine appointing their favored candidate and then presenting him or her to the public for a passive vote of approval.
This reduces voting to a meaningless, ritualistic exercise, an absurdity heightened by the common occurrence of candidates running unopposed in elections. No wonder only a third of eligible voters turn out for congressional elections, and barely half for presidential elections. Inspiring the 100 million Americans who feel their vote is too worthless to even bother voting will require a new party that offers a real alternative.
The most undemocratic aspect of our political system is that only one class viewpoint is represented: the capitalists’ viewpoint. We have two parties, but they both are funded and controlled big business.
Many people point to the proportional representation, multi-party systems in Europe and elsewhere as a more democratic alternative to our two-party system. While such democratic reforms would represent a huge step forward in U.S. politics, more choices do not necessarily equal a qualitative difference. Witness the participation of virtually all major European political parties in attacking the living standards of working-class people. Our political participation will always be empty as long as we are limited to candidates who serve the needs of big business instead of working people.
For our vote to mean anything, we need to build a new political party under working people’s democratic control to fight for our interests in the streets, our workplaces, our schools, and at the ballot box.
The Truth About the 2000 Election Scandal
The well-known scandals of the 2000 election highlighted the underlying corruption of our whole electoral system. Since then, the only substantial change has been a huge investment in electronic voting machines that would eliminate any paper trace of fraud perpetrated against voters!
The 2000 elections were no anomaly. They were a blatant manifestation of the corruption underlying this country’s so-called “democracy.” In the 2000 elections alone, voter abuse was reported not only in Florida but in 11 more states.
In California and Florida, police erected roadblocks, while African Americans in Missouri waited six hours in line at their polling places before the doors were slammed in their faces. Polling facilities in black neighborhoods nationwide closed illegally before 4:30 pm (www.blackstripe.com).
An ever-growing list of disenfranchised groups further exposes the fraud. How can an election be “close” when only 51% turned out to vote? Prisoners cannot vote in 47 states, and ex-felons cannot vote in 15 states. These laws have stripped over four million people, disproportionately people of color, of their right to vote (sentencingproject.org/issues).
Both parties work to dissuade the working class and people of color from voting. Both parties refuse to make election days paid national holidays, implement same-day voter registration, or seriously challenge the systematic electoral corruption employed by their local political machines.
The fundamentally undemocratic Electoral College was established to protect the system against “popular excesses.” In normal times, the “electors” of each state go to whichever presidential candidate receives the highest vote. However, this is required in only 24 states. This means that if a radical insurgent like Ralph Nader hypothetically received 40% of the popular vote, beating both Democratic and Republican candidates, the electors could decide to coalesce behind one of the corporate candidates to block him, contradicting the popular vote!
In 2000, despite Gore winning the popular vote, he openly praised the Electoral College that handed the White House to Bush. As documented in Fahrenheit 9/11, not one Democratic Senator objected to Bush’s theft of the election. Their silence proved that Democratic politicians cared more about preserving the system of corporate political domination than keeping Bush out of the White House.
Justice #40, September-October 2004