In defense of the establishment
Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 14, 2016
Almost verbatim at any rally, interview, town hall discussion or any speech of any form given, Senator Bernie Sanders exasperatedly cries out that the American people have lost faith in government because of a system that favors the rich, an economy that forgets about the regular working class American and establishment politicians that only pay attention to Wall Street. Subsequently, as a result of these polemic statements, the increasingly hackneyed diatribes by Senator Sanders erupt in applause by crowds that are basing their indignation on the sense that they are being forgotten by the government.
This growing hatred and distrust for the government is a dangerous path that the general public has decided to enter — and in both political parties, as seen with the popularity of anti-establishment candidates such as Trump in the Republican Party — because this “political revolution” that Senator Sanders is calling for is stemmed in a false understanding of the role of government, which as a result can be extremely harmful to the structure that maintains society as we see it today.
In fact, our system of government was designed to favor the people over the threat and interests of the oligarchs and monarchs of imperial England. The reason the system seems so rigged is not because it is inherent in its design, but because we’ve let it get that way. When only 38.5 percent of all the voting-eligible population in the United States voted in the past election, it means we are actively letting roughly 40 percent of the population decide what the other 60 percent want.
Civic disinterest is what is causing the economy and the entire system to be slanted towards the rich and wealthy, because they are the ones who are the most consistent in voting and voicing support. Money may be able to buy companies and formal interest groups time with members of congress, but money will never be able to transact votes from one individual to an interest group.
Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that it is easy for everyone to vote, when there are laws that are always being passed to make it harder for people to vote, many of which are masked by the pretext of having less fraudulent elections (as if that is currently a huge problem). I do think some laws are designed to make it harder for people to vote, and we need to find ways for those Americans who may be alienated by language barriers, economic barriers or other impediments that are legitimately keeping them from being involved in the civic process. What I do not take as legitimate excuses are the ideas that government is boring, irrelevant, does not matter attitude or other similar responses that justify general disinterest and nonparticipation in voting and civic participation.
One of the tactics that lobbying groups use to force politicians to vote one way or another is assuring them that they will contact the people in their congressional districts and tell them how their opposition or inaction for a bill that a lobbyist supports and convince them to not vote for the politician again.
Most bills involving money or regulation impact somebody negatively, and finding that small amount of people in districts of 700,000 constituents (where perhaps only a few thousand vote each election) and spinning distaste for a bill is not too hard. This is a politician’s worst nightmare — grassroots opposition. Perhaps this would not be a problem if more people voted, but since that is not the case, the opposition of a few people is enough for a politician to guarantee a lobbyist their support for a bill that may benefit corporations more than it does the people.
It is not money that is truly destroying our political system; it is a lack of participation in the political process. Grassroots support and opposition is perhaps the most efficient force that drives a politicians decision-making.
Successful lobbying groups take advantage of the public’s general disinterest and engagement by targeting key groups in districts in order to scare a politician into voting one way or another. With voter turnout being dismal in most areas of the country, politicians can be swayed by the smallest threat at reelection they receive. Therefore, it is unfair to say that the interest group system in the United States is rigged in favor of the rich, because the power lies within the people. The unfortunate part, however, is that the people seem to care little about this power they hold.
The reason the political process has become so expensive is because people increasingly make themselves less accessible to politicians, who ultimately still need one’s vote to keep their jobs, so they beg for more money to pay for ads and mailers and canvassers, and outreach efforts for the purpose of reaching someone and sharing their message for America.
Ultimately, I do not think Senator Sanders is wrong in saying that the economy favors the rich, but I do think it is wrong for the indignant of the current awakening to claim that it is the fault of the establishment for letting it get this way and radically calling for a revolution that will harm our government more than it will help. If you want the economy to be more in favor for you, then do the revolutionary act of registering to vote and actually doing it, and don’t let 40 percent of the voting population dictate what is best for the other 60 percent.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.