It is utterly farcical to call the United States government democratic.
By Nathan Robinson
The Guardian (5/20/19)
The core democratic principle is that people should have a meaningful say in political decisions that affect their lives. In Alabama, we’ve just seen what the opposite of democracy looks like: 25 white male Republicans in the state senate were able to ban almost all abortion in the state. The consequences of that decision fall exclusively on women, who will be forced to carry all pregnancies to term if the law comes into effect. And, as has happened in other countries with abortion bans, poor women will be hit hardest of all—the rich can usually afford to go elsewhere.
There is no reason to respect the legitimacy of this kind of political decision, in which those in power show no sign of having listened to the people they’re deciding on behalf of. Though plenty in the pro-life movement are female, the people who will be most impacted are nowhere in the debate. Unfortunately, structural problems with the US government mean that we’re heading for an even more undemocratic future.
Demographic changes do not automatically change the power structure, and it’s likely that we’ll see a conservative white minority taking extreme steps to cling to power in the coming decades.
White men have never made up the majority of the United States population, and yet from the country’s beginnings they have made up most of its political decision-makers. The Constitution itself is an outrageously undemocratic document. People today are bound by a set of procedural rules that were made without the input of women, African Americans, or native people. The Framers quite deliberately constructed a system that would prevent what they called “tyranny of the majority” but what is more accurately called “popular democracy.”
Protecting the minority of the opulent
That set of rules has been very effective at keeping the American populace from exercising power. James Madison was explicit about the function of the United States Senate—it was “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” Indeed, that’s precisely what it does. As Jamelle Bouie points out, the Senate has “an affluent membership composed mostly of white men, who are about 30% of the population but hold 71 of the seats” out of 100. Though popular opinion may overwhelmingly favor universal healthcare and more progressive taxation, these policies are said to be “politically impossible” because the millionaires who populate Congress do not favor them. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2019. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )