The news from the big-money midterm is: meh!
Democrats are out, the Republicans are in, and the country’s feeling bluer than ever. Six years after the rise of Obama, we are coming together as a country: not around the ‘hopey, changey stuff’, but around the same grim view of the future. Coming out of the polls the pessimists outnumbered the optimists two to one — and pessimists voted Republican.
There’s good reason for the crisis of confidence in the political leadership of the country: a report by Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern published earlier this year found that American democracy may not be worthy of the name. Since 1980, at least, we’ve watched our government respond right quickly to the wishes of wealthy elites, at the expense of the rest of us. So what do you say when government of the people stops working for the people?
Are we ready to be small-d democrats? According to the ballot questions the citizenry wants higher wages for all, even in Republican strongholds, and to free up the criminal culture around marijuana. Do we wish we did more legislating by popular vote? A recent article by Thomas Meaney and Yascha Mounk in The Nation poses the hypothetical. If the Congress were sent home tomorrow, and all 315 million of us were given the power to pass the laws, enact the taxes, build the bridges and start (or stop) the wars, by simple majority, over our smartphones or using our clickers — how long would it take before we were begging John Boehner or Harry Reid to go back to work?
We put it to you: after midterm Tuesday, has anything changed? Do you see anything exciting out there in the post-midterm haze?
Martin Gilens on “Affluence and Influence”
We’re so thankful for the years of academic work from Martin Gilens, a political scientist at Princeton. For years he has analyzed how popular and elite will has translated into policy. That work bore fruit in his book, Affluence and Influence, a blockbuster academic paper, and a star turn with his co-author, Benjamin Page, on The Daily Show.
When asked what we should call our lumbering democracy, he said not “plutocratic” — there are too many riches and distinct wills: Tom Steyer and George Soros versus the Koch Brothers and Paul Singer. He says it’s simple: we were dysfunctional, we’re still dysfunctional, and we have to work to purify our politics.