Saturday, October 15, 2011

The America you don’t know: elitism and pluralism

In the multifaceted American political system, the elite theory and pluralism theory can be combined to explain the political process. Special interest groups, the reemergence of the elite, the phenomenon of the apolitical and political stratum and default of compromise have been changed with the age of mass global communication. In America, people think about politics as two different aspects. First, the political spectrum presented by mainstream media. Secondly, the idea that it doesn’t matter if they participate and government doesn’t affect them at all. The current economic crisis changed the complex political system by shaking government and consumer confidence. However, even with these changes political scientists Robert Dahl and C. Wright Mills are both right in some sense. Military elite, corporate elite and interest groups remain powerful. Americans are divided into political and apolitical strata while compromise is the basis of this democracy. On the other hand, the current age has proven Dahl and Mills wrong. Educational and religious institutions are really separate; leaders often only care about themselves.  24/7 News has born with the advent of more technology and dissatisfied people are creating groups to address their grievances.

Certain groups dominate the modern political scene. People’s needs are ignored at times while the small groups of lobbyists are appeased by government officials. Interest groups have the power in national, local and state politics to force people inadvertently to choose a side on a law or proposed policy. Since the Obama Administration has been in office, influence of special interests has played out on the floor of Congress in two different instances. Healthcare reform in 2010 was supposed to bring healthcare to more citizens, but people were forced to buy private insurance. The law was an uneven proposal because it was almost co-written by the industry, contradicting the point of the bill: to stop the abuses of the healthcare industry. Later that year, a major financial reform bill was signed into law, trying to stop another economic crisis. Like the healthcare law, the bill was supported by of lobbyists from Wall St, an institution the law was trying to limit. It’s easy to see that Congress is run by lobbyists since its makes it hard to get reforms passed. Also it has become extremely easy for the elite to manipulate members of the federal legislature or any other part of the federal government.
The elite have reemerged in the American political woodwork. Mr. Mills’s vision in The Power Elite of separate corporate and military elite is true. These “leaders” still occupy high positions of power and use fearmongering as a common tactic. The corporate overlords distract public with entertainment news, something that’s not important to their well-being. In addition, they convinced the government to approve certain mergers while lessening regulation so their profits can increase dramatically. Meanwhile, the influence of the military elite in Congress has caused cuts to not be enacted even as their bureaucracy is becoming a hazard to America’s financial stability. Through the continuation of certain wars, a permanent war economy is maintained and endless war could become a reality. Therefore, corporate and military elite coalesce, creating an interlocking power structure. This country is going bankrupt from expenses that help the military and corporate overlords prosper. One prominent example is private military contractors in foreign countries that outnumber U.S. troops. On another note, the mainstay of the military elite, the Pentagon is so centralized that it can’t account for ¼ of what is spent. Furthermore, “Too Big to Fail” corporations dominate the economy while people across the nation are divided into two major political groups.
 Robert Dahl wrote about in Who Governs?, the division of people into different strata in America’s political arena. Politically active people protest injustice while inactive people accept injustice. In the apolitical stratum is characterized as people blindly ignorant of political issues and those who think politics is not important to them. At the same time, the political stratum is the polar opposite with motivated citizenry want to go out on the street. These people encourage others to get involved through the blogosphere and other means. Even so, the small supposedly-united groups called the “Tea Party” are just another aspect of the apolitical spectrum. Those that participate in these groups mostly have inconsistent opinions and ideologies. For example, many in these groups are against government healthcare, yet they support programs like Medicare, a blatant contradiction. These weakly-informed citizens try to inject themselves into the political mainstream but are mostly unsuccessful, ridiculed by many others. Despite this, overall political awareness has grown in recent years with more young people are getting involved in process whether that is in voting, protesting or blogging. The 2008 election was highest turnout for young in a very long time, but it doesn’t change the reality of compromise in the United States.
The default of compromise is accepted by almost everyone talking about politics or trying to get their point across. It is a time of divided government and the citizens want everyone in Congress to work together. However, many bills have favored wealthy and privileged class of society. America is a country founded on compromise. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, two compromises were made between the delegates: the three-fifths compromise and the great compromise. This created the mentality that everything must be solved by going for the middle road, taking all ideas into consideration. This isn’t always the right pathway as the idea you may be accepting could be wrong and horrible policy. Despite this, the Senate’s limit of 60 has made agreement required on almost everything passed. Concessions are needed to pass anything, even a bill about the Post Office. Reform legislation that was supposed to fix problems in society has been watered down time and time again. People are getting mad and dismayed as Mr. Dahl predicted. They just can’t take the endless bargaining anymore and are fed up with government. Approval rating of Congress is at an all-time low: 14%. Compromise is isolating the citizenry causing them to be disfranchised of their right to express their opinion to Congress. As a result, political action groups are popping up nationwide; something not predicted by either Mr. Dahl or Mr. Mills.
In the modern era, Dahl and Mills have to be tweaked because their theories won’t be true if something isn’t changed. Both political scientists were writing in their time, the 1950s and 1960s and before the digital revolution (1980s-Present). These factors change the ballgame in political relations.  Today, leaders aren’t always on side of people. Some politicians worry about getting reelected. Others are influenced by corporate and military elite to vote in certain ways. Educational and religious institutions have been proven separate from the corporate and military institutions for the most part. Schools teach people to have independent minds in their lives. Many different religions such as Unitarian Universalism preach the seeking of truth in your beliefs. News is more extensive and rapid in the present with first-hand accounts of events posted on YouTube that are used by the mainstream media in their reporting. Also the alternative media is challenging corporate media dominance. All of these changes have caused people to create groups/pages due to their dissatisfaction with certain policies on social networks or elsewhere. The increase in political action could be the return 1960s fervor returned in minds of some young people or expression could be increasing with the advent of new technology.
Even with the division of America into an apolitical and political stratum, people are more educated than before. As some users have said, the internet allows information to disseminate so people can decide for themselves what they believe. A forum to exchange ideas has been created, provided that it stays free from censorship or government intervention.  On the other hand, elite theory and pluralism continue to plague efforts to expand democracy to other corners of the globe. This flawed system is continued in America by societal and corporate-backed forces of greed. Even with its backers, the political system can be altered in two major ways: direct action, such as blocking a road to area being logged and expansion of the blogosphere with “blogger-journalists.” Everywhere around us, the world is always changing, a place where mass communication networks can be harnessed and where people must stand up for what they believe.

NOTE: This article/essay was originally for my US Government class but I thought you people would enjoy it.