Skip to comments.Who rules America? [Great, but unsurprising, read]
Posted on 08/13/2014 9:10:13 AM PDT by upchuck
"The public be damned!"
William H. Vanderbilt, railroad magnate, 1882
A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.
This study should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government. To reclaim the promise of American democracy, ordinary citizens must act positively to change the relationship between the people and our government
The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.
The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level." The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.
The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.
The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.
Ultimately, Gilens and Page conclude from their work, "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."
Rich individuals and business interests have the capacity to hire the lobbyists that shadow legislators in Washington and to fill the campaign coffers of political candidates. Ordinary citizens are themselves partly to blame, however, because they do not choose to vote.
America's turnout rate places us near the bottom of industrialized democracies. More than 90 million eligible Americans did not vote in the presidential election of 2012 and more than 120 million did not vote in the midterm elections of 2010.
Electoral turnout in the United States is highly correlated with economic standing: The more affluent Americans vote in much higher proportion than the less affluent. A study by Ellen Shearer of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern found that 59 percent of 2012 voters earned $50,000 or more per year, compared to 39 percent of non-voters. Only 12 percent of non-voters earned more than $75,000, compared to 31 percent of voters.
Ordinary citizens in recent decades have largely abandoned their participation in grassroots movements. Politicians respond to the mass mobilization of everyday Americans as proven by the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But no comparable movements exist today. Without a substantial presence on the ground, people-oriented interest groups cannot compete against their wealthy adversaries.
Average Americans also have failed to deploy the political techniques used by elites. Political Action Committees (PACs) and super-PACs, for example, raise large sums of money to sway the outcome of any election in the United States. Although average Americans cannot match the economic power of the rich, large numbers of modest contributions can still finance PACs and super-PACs that advance our common interests.
If only they vote and organize, ordinary Americans can reclaim American democracy and challenge the politicians who still echo the view of old Vanderbilt that the public should be damned.
Lichtman is distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington.
But it's the same old, same old... follow the money.
When I snail mail a letter of concern to senator linda graham and it takes 4-6 weeks to get a response and the response is a generic POS that has nothing to do with my concern, that tells me she absolutely does not give a sh!t about what I think. She's gonna do what she's gonna do and, as Vanderbilt said, paraphrasing, her constituents be damned.
IMHO, we desperately need term limits to help restore the power back to the people. Any other ideas?
People read this and tune out how much money the average democrat politician has. The media is owned
Watch Hillary run Fox News.
This is why there is a Tea Party. It is the only way to make an impact.
“IMHO, we desperately need term limits to help restore the power back to the people. Any other ideas?”
All in favor of term limits but doubt that is a solution. You’ll only get the same types but with different names until the system changes. Take away the politicians ability to bestow favors (tax breaks, subsidies, pick a winner legislation) and big business and other elites will lose interest. Then, maybe, the politicians will find the time to answer your correspondence.
‘IMHO, we desperately need term limits to help restore the power back to the people. Any other ideas? ‘
Really? The same people you say care little for your interests youll trust to write term limits. I doubt itll work as you envision.
Rather than write any new law heres a radical idea...become politically active and vote. Our system of govt is predicated in these ideas (among others). Its not at all difficult but somehow seems out of the reach of this lazy apathetic society. Its easy really...become involved or become a slave. Its just that simple.
The opposition to ObamaCare was about 70% and we know how that worked out.
Mark Twain -
If voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it."
Mark Twain -
BTW just in case its unclear...we already have term limits. If you dont like the current guy recall him if thats possible or vote him out next term.
... and big money, corporate-dominated interests are calling the shots?
You have to have a pretty strange angle of vision to torture that diagnosis out of our political predicament.
The problem is not so much not voting as it is too many voting with no thought and doing the bidding of the enemedia, which is a non-stop cheerleader for big government.
Two of the most consistently high states in voter turnout are Minnesota and Utah, who are in the 70% plus range. One consistently elects leftist lunatics, the other consistently elects people who at least pretend to be conservative.
That is a completely naive statement. There are millions of ways that incumbents have stacked the deck in their favor.
IMHO, we desperately need term limits to help restore the power back to the people.
Term limits prevent me from voting for my preferred candidate. If the people want power to vote someone out, they do not need term limits. They already have that power.
Plenty of state legislatures have term limits. Things have not gotten any better.
Real change, in my opinion, comes from rejecting the Big Two political parties. But there does not appear to be enough people willing to put in the time and energy to change election laws (that restrict third parties) and build a competent party from the ground up.
(Not to mention the fair-weather people who squawk about the Big Two for three years at a time, then can be found in the election booth pulling the levers for the same Big Two every fourth year).
Yes. It is your civic duty to educate yourself, and THINK about the issues, then vote. If you haven’t done the first part then it’s your civic duty NOT to vote.
The first few words in the article pretty much put this "study" in the suspect column. Two professors? What is their worldview (do I really need to ask?)? Clearly, it is an attack on big business. What about all the special interests and NGOs of a far Left nature that probably have far more influence on politics than any business? We'll be seeing a lot of this garbage between now and election day.
Two quotes come to mind.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing” & “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Translation: The American public has chosen to become disengaged (”good men to nothing”) in the political process and conservatives want a white knight (the “perfect”) to sweep in and save the day, otherwise they won’t vote.
Term limits are a band aid for doing nothing. We have term limits here in Arizona. The end result is professional politicians just shuffling chairs. When they term limit out as a Rep., they run for the Senate, then an executive branch job. Rinse and repeat.
Same with the whine for a constitutional convention. It’s nothing more than wanting someone else to “fix” the end result of people refusing to engage in the political process.
Want to make a difference? Put down the video games and the beer and get involved.
Who rules America?
Fallacy of construction. All Americans are members of multiple "organized interest groups." There is no such thing as "ordinary Americans" in opposition to "economic elites." Everyone plays the game, including such nominally wholesome groups as farmers and "working people."
Does anyone seriously want to deny that environmentalists and government workers, to take two examples, are people who are not the "economic elites" the authors have in mind yet significantly influence government policy?
The professors' homework is to read Federalist 10.
The only federal politician I have a problem with (and it's a big one) is linda graham.
Senators cannot be recalled. And she just won the pubbie primary by using her six million dollar warchest.
IMHO, politicians should not be allowed enough time in Washington to build up a multi-million dollar campaign slush fund.
If they are term limited, it would reduce the need for $$.
Again, IMHO, 12 years in Wash DC is plenty.
Personally, I'd like to see a restriction that says if you've held public office, you can't ever go to work for a lobbying firm. But I suspect that would trample on personal rights.
With voter fraud in every state and national election, I see no reason to believe that voting even makes a difference. Republicans run as conservatives and after 6 months months start reaching across the aisle, with a few notable exceptions, Cruz, Paul, Gowdy, Gohmert, Sessions, and the kid from Utah, that is about it.
The Golden Rule: Them that has the Gold makes the Rules.
Problem with term limits is that it puts the power in the hands of un-elected bureaucrats, congressional staffers and judges.
What we really need is to vastly reduce the power of central government so that the Money loses interest in manipulating it.
Also the Several States should take ownership their Congresscritter and Senators, paying them, providing their staff and housing, and expenses. As things stand Congresscritters are and Senators are employees of the Federal Government which is a conflict of interest if ever there was one.
I really like your idea about the Several States.
Like I said...are you really going to trust the pols in DC to write term limits? We already have it...right now. If the electorate becomes engaged then things will change. Our system of govt is based on an engaged electorate. If that part doesnt work dont expect the rest to.
Its surprising how many here talk down about DC until they find themselves in a hard place then look to the same corrupt outfit for a bail out. Really FR is no better than DU in the ‘quality’ of participants. Theyre all running after more civil govt.
Hopeless, we can only hope they will throw their scraps in our direction and pray they do not try a final solution on us.
Then for you theres no way out. Hope you enjoy being a slave. Im sure you can find it easy to rationalize.
With all due respect, you're messed in the head.
Not really. Its the same kool-aid drinking silliness in both places. FR gives you a healthy helping of republican fan boys and delusional conspiracy types. DU gives you dem fan boys and delusional types. Its all the same thing.
I only have one disagreement with the article... we aren’t a democracy, we are a Republic.
So off the point it’s laughable.
Advertisers (a ‘business interest” I suppose) control EVERYTHING in the public square.
Whatever government policies take savings and turn them into spending make the media and it’s advertisers the most money- and therefore are favorably presented to the public.
Nothing else in politics is remotely as dominating.
“It’s a big club, and you aint in it!” - George Carlin
“strange angle of vision to torture that diagnosis out of our political predicament.”
Not at all.
The ‘public square’ is advertising-supported: TV, print. internet search engines...
Consumer spending supports advertising.
Investment and savings do not.
It’s not a coincidence that spending is always presented more favorably in the public square than investment and saving. Resulting in the imbalance we now have that causes most of the problems you mention.
“He who pays the piper”... “Show me where a man gets his cornpone”...
Unfortunately I don’t see an obvious corrective action to take except making people aware of this dynamic.
Amazing how much resistance there is to this blatant fact.
You’re telling me to get involved and to put down the video games?
<< Youre telling me to get involved and to put down the video games? How presumptuous. >>
I am sorry you took my comments personally. It was meant to be a generalization about apathy.