Belinda Mercado, Zachman
America is considered a flourishing democracy by some standards, although not my ideal democracy. For over 2000 years the United States has ruled by a democracy, however this does not make us the best country to live in. As published in The New American Democracy 7th addition 2007, Mayer and Peterson present an overall perspective including looking at the poverty and homeless rates because of the holes in our safety net system (Mayer, Peterson 26). Furthermore, we consider the fact of economic inequality, the murder rates, and the inadequate access to affordable medical care. With all these issues that face America today I believe our democracy does not work as well as it should.
In addition, I question whether the American democracy system serves the public as a whole or merely individual parties and interest groups. The first thing to consider is although we are a very diverse nation there is a lot of conflicting stances on several issues and values. The single issue voters can have a strong stance on issues they want to see addressed. Consider gun control for example. There is a special interest group that is lobbying for internet sales of guns to have restrictions on people’s ability to purchase guns over the internet. This group wants to make it mandatory that internet sales of guns are registered within the state of origination and cannot complete a sales transaction without first running back ground security checks on the potential purchaser. The National Rifle Association (NRA) believes in the ability of this bill to create a safer America for responsible gun owners and donates the maximum amount allowed by law to see this bill through. The bill succeeds; therefore we have proven that it is the power of special interest groups that can easily influence public policies. This very ideal is backed up by authors, Mayer and Peterson within the new American democracy text which states:
Power of the few is incorporated into our democracy in many ways. Weak political parties, relentless media coverage has made American democracy more responsive to outside pressure. Yet it is not necessarily rule by the majority. Well organized groups focused on particular issues have a lot of influence on polices, which shifts power from majority’s to specific groups, small in numbers but powerful in operation (Mayer, Peterson 20).
Furthermore, the one percent of Americans that are extremely wealthy have a lot of power over polices in this country as well. Take the oil and gas industries for instance, they have attained record breaking profit margins by using controversial drilling procedures called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. This process was originally engineered over sixty years ago by Halliburton. The geophysicists engineering operations are constantly improving through advances in technology, which are intended to translate into cost savings and enhanced production. However all the environmental impacts that are affecting Pennsylvania’s ground water is allowed. Why, because of politicians like Dick Cheney. If we the citizens do not speak up and expose the true environmental impact of this type of drilling, the gas companies through special interest groups win hands down. Easily they are able to afford the hefty price tag of advertising campaigns to gain popularity among folks that have shown an opposition to fracking. . A commercial that was paid for by Halliburton puts emphasis on expanding opportunities for job creation, with no mention of ground water pollution. Now consider the dynamics of the whole equation. We have Dick Cheney whose campaign receives a substantial yearly donation from Halliburton which he in turn then supports by blocking any environmental bill that would prohibit regulation of “fracking” by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a viscous circle of deceit.
In order to rebut this type of commercial claim a citizen’s environmental group would have to match funds in research and have the ability to prove the facts that drilling using this “fracking” procedure would cause more damage to the environment, ground water supply and risk potentially more earthquakes, such as the 4.0 that hit Ohio in 2009.
It appears in our current democracy the environment is not a high priority. Sadly none of this gas and oil exploration is to save American households money on their monthly utility bills and certainly not to save American drivers at the gas pumps. This whole process is about deeper pockets for the affluent, not preserving the institution of clean energy and a greener America. It is delusional for one to think that gas and oil companies alike care about the ecological impact of drilling. As Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben of Commondreams.org declares [“After all they do not have to pay for any environmental damage their drilling causes, we’ve seen its effects on local water supplies—the dead creeks in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the wells poisoned to the point where residents can’t drink from their faucets.”] It is a very corrupt democracy that protects the evils of the big gas and oil corporations. Any feasible loop hole is researched and contorted to fit the needs of the self-serving big guys. Kickbacks, tax breaks, contributions to individual party’s and campaigns that help enable them to keep up and running these controversial practices. Where are the democratic principles when we are paying over four dollars a gallon at the gas pumps?
In the constitution, the first amendment states, “we the people have the right to freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly.” Conversely, over the past eighteen months we have seen many occupies across the nation that have been disassembled with police force. These are folks that hold the belief that they are the ninety-nine percent being held back economically by the one percent of the affluent population. If the intended first amendment were truly a working democratic device, then the “free assembly” rule should allow these gatherings to take place so long as they are peaceful and not causing any impendent danger to the public as a whole. We should have the right to stand up for what we believe in without the police intervening and disbursing peaceful demonstrations against the bailouts of major banks and corporate corruption.
“One of the difficult lessons we have learned,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr, “is that you cannot depend on American institutions to function without pressure. Any real change in the status quo depends on continued creative action to sharpen the conscience of the nation.” This is a very strong and true opinion about our civil rights and the ability to enact equal rights for African Americans. Our flourishing democracy has let this class of persons down. African Americans have gained monumental rights over the past century including the right to vote, the dismemberment of all white primaries and the abolition of poll taxes, the paramount accomplishment for African Americans was the abolishment of slavery and racial segregation!
In an accurate democracy under the theory we are all created equal under God, these atrocities against African Americans should never have been allowed, nor tolerated. The color of our skin, should not determine the rights we do or do not have. God loves all his children, regardless of race. Civil rights in this nation are very complex when we consider the ability the Supreme Court Justice has over final rulings that are brought forth, emerging from clashes in the interpretation of the civil rights laws as written in the constitution. In the case of Brown V. Board Of Education. The Supreme Court Justice ruled that de jure segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Yet clearly it is evident that de facto segregation still exists today, in fact it has increased over the past two decades. Even in close proximity to home, in rural Detroit, Michigan.
We can see looking at a recent event reported in the New York Times, the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. The accused gunman, George Zimmerman asserts he was acting in self-defense using Florida’s “stand your ground law” which has so far protected him from prosecution. Proving even in recent history civil rights are not properly enforced there an abundance of unsubstantiated discrimination that still exists in this country today. A flourishing democracy would not be so far astray from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
In the defense of our pronounced American western culture, I am grateful we are more civilized than other nations. In certain Muslim communities mothers and fathers take the life of their own children in “honor killings” as seen in a recent report on ABC’s 20/20 news show. A seventeen year old college student was run down by a 3,000 lb. vehicle, her own father behind the wheel. He viewed her as a dishonor to the family because she no longer obeyed the Muslim rule of arranged marriage and strict obedience to her father. In another non-western instance, Chinese government enforce a “one child rule”. They will and do enforce abortion in families that violate local regulations of the one child rule. In 2001 over 20,000 forced abortions were administered in remote villages (WIK). I am very thankful for the basic American freedom to act on material instinct without murderous birthing restrictions.
To sum it up, we are an irresponsible democratic republic that continues to ignore the ever growing environmental issues that face our country today, and allow for the majority to be ruled by the mobilized minority. Last of all, in a flourishing democracy this allegiance would hold true. “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
America we have failed in basic liberties and justice for all !!!
Belinda Mercado, Political Science NMC
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