United States is gearing up for the mid-term elections
Beijing, China | Xinhua | Democrats are funding Republican primaries to try to nominate more potentially beatable candidates. Republicans are transporting migrants to Democratic-led cities in protest over immigration policy. Both parties are busy gerrymandering to get an upper hand. Former President Donald Trump was investigated by the FBI, while Paul Pelosi, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, was attacked at home.
Such political drama, which seems endless in the run-up to the mid-term elections in the United States, has revealed the ugly truth of American democracy: Elections are political shows that fool the American people. The so-called democracy is, in fact, a game of power and money.
“WE ARE PLAYING WITH FIRE”
Elections have long been touted by the United States as the embodiment of democracy. In the United States, the electoral system is a two-party system in which the Democratic Party and the Republican Party dominate the political field.
The system has intensified partisan fighting, leading to political division and extremism across the country. Amid endless fighting, outstanding issues that concern the well-being of the American people, such as gun violence, abortion rights, inflation, the COVID-19 and monkeypox outbreaks, remain unsettled.
This year’s mid-term elections are no exception but even more bizarre. Democrats are funding advertisements to support far-right Republicans they deem are more beatable.
According to a report by the Washington Post, in at least nine U.S. states, including Colorado, Illinois and Maryland, democrats have spent more than 53 million U.S. dollars to boost more extreme Republican candidates.
The report revealed that Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee in the key swing state Pennsylvania, has a real shot of winning office due to a further boost by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, who funded advertisements for Mastriano during that state’s primary.
“I’m going to have to send him a thank-you card,” Mastriano quipped of Shapiro in an interview with local media.
The partisan fight is getting more dramatic as the election date draws near. Since September, busloads of migrants have been dropped outside the residence of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. Last week, Paul Pelosi was assaulted by an assailant who broke into his San Francisco home.
The abnormal competition between the two parties has nothing to do with the real interests of the American people, who are increasingly upset with Washington’s elite circles.
A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 67 percent of Democratic and Republican respondents said they think U.S. democracy is in danger of collapse.
“We are playing with fire,” said former House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. “Democracy is a fragile thing.”
A SYSTEM THAT FOOLS PEOPLE
More than 200 years ago, the United States chose representative democracy upon its founding, from which the U.S. Electoral College was born. “Unfair from day one” is how the New York Times described the system.
Seen from history, “all men are created equal” from the U.S. Declaration of Independence is ironic, given how white men enjoy outsized privileges in the United States.
White women were granted the legal right to vote in 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment. Native Americans were not granted citizenship until 1924, and their right to vote was not legally recognized in all states until 1962.
African Americans were given the right to vote in 1870, but that right was not fully realized until the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Nowadays, poor African Americans still face many obstacles even to go to the ballot box. From 1870 to 2021, from Hiram Revels to Rafael Warnock, the United States has only had 11 African American senators over the past century and a half.
Today, Americans appear to be empowered by their rights to stand for election and vote. Yet the American electoral system is essentially monopolized by the very few.
There remains an evident gap between the composition of Congress and the demographic structure of the United States, and ethnic minorities are still vastly under-represented. According to statistics released by Pew Research Center, non-Hispanic White Americans account for 77 percent of voting members in the current Congress, considerably larger than their 60 percent share of the U.S. population overall.
Gerrymandering is a typical American type of political manipulation of electoral district boundaries to create an undue advantage for a party, group or socio-economic class within the constituency. It was named after American politician Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts in 1812, who signed a bill that created a partisan district in the Boston area that was compared to the shape of a mythological salamander.
U.S. states redraw congressional districts once a decade based on findings from the population census, which provides a loophole for the party in charge in one state to give itself an advantage.
The manipulation has two major tactics: one is “cracking,” which means diluting the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts, and the other is “packing,” which means concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts. Through such manipulation, politicians pick voters instead of the other way around.
For instance, African Americans account for 27 percent of the U.S. state of Alabama’s population. After the 2020 census, 60 percent of African Americans in Alabama were assigned to one congressional district, which led to a lower proportion of African Americans in other constituencies. Consequently, it was difficult for their votes to impact elections in these constituencies.
Unfairness is widespread in the U.S. electoral system. According to a report published by the Brennan Center for Justice of New York University in May, 18 U.S. states have passed 34 restrictive voting laws since 2021, which could disproportionately affect voters of color. “Voters of color consistently face longer wait times on Election Day — lines that would be exacerbated by cutting alternative options, such as vote-by-mail or expansive early voting hours,” according to the center study.
“American democracy was never designed to be democratic,” said Louis Menand, a professor at Harvard University, in an opinion published by the New Yorker in August.
“The partisan redistricting tactics of cracking and packing aren’t merely flaws in the system — they are the system,” he said.
“There are two things that are important in (American) politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is,” said Mark Hanna, who once helped William McKinley win the U.S. presidential elections twice.
In American-style elections, candidates have to spend a fortune to enhance their influence. Holding election campaigns, launching ad campaigns and distributing publicity booklets require tons of cash.
Elections in the United States have become a trade of power and money, in which the voting process is a cover to empower capitalists. The so-called “one person, one vote” enshrined in U.S. democracy is, in fact, “one dollar, one vote.”
Money has gained more control over U.S. politics after the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2010 and 2014, which reversed finance restrictions and enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once admitted that the United States is an oligarchy instead of a democracy.
The U.S. website OpenSecrets states that the total cost of the 2022 federal mid-term elections is projected to exceed 9.3 billion dollars. More than 4.8 billion has already been spent on the elections, setting spending on federal elections on track to surpass the inflation-adjusted 2018 mid-term record of 7.1 billion dollars.
After seizing power, politicians also want to get a slice of the pie. In September, an analysis by the New York Times revealed that “at least 97 current members of Congress bought or sold stock, bonds or other financial assets that intersected with their congressional work or reported similar transactions by their spouse or a dependent child.”
What is more detrimental is the “revolving door” embedded in U.S. society. Many U.S. politicians and senior officials come from the business sector, while many return to private practice for high-paying jobs after stepping down or leaving office. Some even open their own companies offering lobbying or consulting services utilizing their experience in government.
“The corruption in the U.S. does not stem from officeholders putting money in their pocket,” Fred Wertheimer, an American attorney and activist known for his work on campaign finance reform, said.
“This is systemic corruption of the process itself. When you are dealing with billions and billions of dollars, much of that focused on buying influence, it overwhelms the system, and it is much harder to defend against and maintain representation for ordinary Americans.”
Gary Younge, a sociology professor at the University of Manchester, once commented that dollars play a decisive role in U.S. politics. He wrote, “U.S. elections: no matter who you vote for, money always wins.”
In 1863, the ideal democratic government of the United States was depicted by then-U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in his landmark Gettysburg Address as the “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
More than 150 years later, the fig leaf of democracy can no longer cover up the corruption of the American political system. Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean scholar, put it best in his book The Asian 21st Century. “Americans are proud of their democratic political system. But the facts show that America has increasingly come to resemble a plutocracy, where society is governed of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.”