Essay on The Illusion of Political Democracy in America

Essay on The Illusion of Political Democracy in America

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Youth are disillusioned with politics for many of the same reasons that our parents are. If lobbyists and campaign contributors did not have more access to public officials than do regular citizens; if economic democracy in the workplace existed alongside what some would call the "illusion" of political democracy; if elected officials acted more on "bread and butter" economic issues, such as the increasing concentration of wealth and the lack of health insurance for many Americans, than on expanding the prison population and on the military -- most people of all ages would consider their votes much more meaningful.

Some who never voted might even vote for the first time. Other forms of political participation -- such as attendance at local government meetings, involvement in interest groups, protest marches, petition-signing, and boycotts -- would also increase, as citizens discovered that the "power of the people" could really make a difference. However, barring these changes above, changes to the electoral system can also increase voting and other political participation - even though taking the influence of money out of politics, via means such as public financing, would be much more likely to change legislative priorities and address voter cynicism.

Already, some young people have become much more active in politics recently. Here in California, Proposition 21, a supposed anti-crime initiative, would instead, many teenagers believe, greatly expand governmental authority to lock up their generation, particularly members of ethnic minorities. Whether or not they are right does not concern us here. What does concern us, however, is that many teenagers have responded to this perceived attack by forming groups such as the...


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...ls would increase accountability to voters. These changes could spur much more enthusiasm on the part of the body politic. Another move increasing accountability would be expansion of the size of U.S. House, so that each congressman represented a smaller district.

 

But overall, reforms within the current system, in addition to being more likely to happen, could also attack cynicism better than any of these electoral alterations discussed above. Money is power; take money out of the electoral system, and you take away the corporations' power. Then representative democracy could really have a chance to work again. As the grass-roots support for Ammiano, Wellstone, and Ventura have shown, youth will respond with energy in the instances (currently far too rare) when they perceive a candidate to be free from the corporate taint. It is that simple.

 

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