Myth of Democracy

“The Myth of American Democracy”    

                                               By: Jim Lafferty

      If school teachers were honest, they would start teaching our

children that America is not really a true democracy. That it’s basically

a capitalist oligarchy, with an elaborate façade of participatory

democracy covering up the truth.

         For starters, governance in America, even as enshrined in our

constitution, is anything but democratic. Consider: Each state gets

two Senators, right? Well, the 26 senators from the least populated

50 states have a majority vote in the United States Senate. That

means that a really tiny fraction of the American public can determine

the outcome of a vote in the upper house of Congress. How is that

         But, of course, the problem is much deeper than the gross

disparity of voter democracy in the Senate. Primary voters are

currently experiencing another myth about American democracy: the

1

idea that the people, in a true exercise of democracy, elect the

candidates who will run for the presidency. The Democratic and

Republican Parties, the only political parties, by design, that are on

the ballots in all 50 states, are private clubs and not governmental

entities at all. So they make the rules and can change the rules. They

can decide how delegates to their private conventions are selected.

They can decide on how super-delegates, elected by no one in the

primary process, are chosen. They can decide how the votes cast in a

state’s primary are apportioned, including on a winner take all basis.

They can decide to hold only a caucus, which is the most

undemocratic way to conduct a primary since only those able to

spend a whole day in a caucus room can decide for millions of other

people who that state’s presidential candidate will be.

          And speaking of an un-democratic America, let’s not forget the

fact of massive disenfranchisement of people who should be able to

vote, but aren’t allowed to vote. There are at least 6 million former

2

felons who can’t vote in the presidential election coming up. Then

there are a growing number of states who, having gerrymandered the

voting districts in their state to make sure one capitalist party or the

other will have the most seats in the state legislature, can, in turn,

then decide what the rules are for voting in that state. You know,

whether the voters need to present birth certificates and other

picture ID before they can cast a vote. Or determine how many voting

places there will be and where they will be and for how many days

they will be open, etc., etc. Currently, this is a favorite pastime of the

mostly Republican controlled state legislatures. In the past it’s been

the Democrats.

           And, of course, while all of the above should be enough to

convince any thinking person that we don’t have a true democracy in

America, we haven’t yet talked about one of the biggest obstacles to

democracy in America: the role of money. It’s no secret that running

for office, and winning office, is a very expensive enterprise in

3

America. Try doing it on a worker’s salary and you’ll quickly know

what I mean. More than a billion dollars will be spent on the fall

presidential election. And under the Citizens United case there is no

limit to what the richest among us can pay to make sure their

candidate, the person they are confident will vote in Congress or

behave as President as they want them to, will be elected. And then

there’s the corporate owned media. They exercise their influence by

simply giving more air time to the candidates they like than to those

they don’t. At the end of this primary season, it will be interesting to

see how many more minutes Hilary Clinton has gotten, for free, on

the main stream media than has Bernie Sanders. This is one of many

reasons why Bernie Sanders never had a fair chance.

           The truth is, I think many more of us than is generally

acknowledged, intuitively understand that our so-called democracy is

deeply flawed. And that neither of the two capitalist parties really

care all that much about we the people. That’s why, even in a

4

presidential election, barely more than 50% of registered voters vote,

and when you factor in the number of potentially eligible voters who

don’t bother to even register, the figure is less than 50%. And that’s in

a presidential election. In local elections it’s a relative handful of

people who bother to go to the polls and vote.

          All of this reminds me of an interesting fact. In Communist East

Germany, after the Second World War, there was a particular state

that prided itself on being the state that sent the highest proportion

of its people to the polls to vote. Oh, they had little choice in

candidates, but they were hopeful over the prospect of what their

new socialist government would produce. But as time went on and

the people of that East German state came to realize that what they

were living under wasn’t socialism but tyranny, that East German

state came to pride itself on being the East German state that sent the

fewest number of its people to the polls to vote. In short, they

5

discovered that the only meaningful way to vote under such an

undemocratic system was to not vote at all.

           All of this explains why I contend that voting in America today is

not nearly as important as building a people’s movement for true

democracy, and for an end to rule by a capitalist oligarchy. In many

ways, whether expressed that way or not, that is why so many young

people, and others, flocked to the Sanders campaign and made it into

a movement. So let’s hope it doesn’t shrivel up and disappear with a

whimper when this primary season ends. Let’s hope that it frees itself

of the myth of democracy, so that it can continue as an even more

independent and revolutionary movement than it has been.