Sunday, April 16, 2017

ANS -- Too Important for Clever Titles -- Scientific Study Says We Are an Oligarchy (Update)

This article is three years old (I just saw it) and the study it cites is from 2002.  That makes things worse than they say.  It's about scientific proof we are an oligarchy rather than a democracy.  The main criteria is how often what the People want does not get to happen.  We must work together to change this.  

We like to assert that Daily Kos is a reality-based community. At the very least we surely do not deny science. A new study appearing at Princeton's website may test these assumptions for some of us here. For others, it will be grim vindication of what we already know: the United States of America is no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy.

The anecdotes are plentiful, from modest gun control proposals that saw 90% public support, to unemployment compensation, to infrastructure spending, to women's rights; where a plurality exists even across party lines, the median public interest seems to hold no sway in policy making. Now science has proven this to be correct:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
Distilled down into simple terms: The U.S.A. is now provably an oligarchy; we are a democracy in name only. DINO, as in dinosaur... As in extinct.... Has the acronym ever been more pathetically poignant?

The authors of this study, which will appear in the Fall issue of of the academic journal Perspective on Politics, are Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University. The findings are shocking, but should surprise none. The progressive website Common Dreams ( today posted an article on the study and pulls this deeply disturbing nugget from the study.

...the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
Since we are not science deniers, we need to do our part to make this report gets the audience it deserves. None here should take comfort in an "I told you so moment," because we are all losers here. Despite the trappings and tradition of a representative democracy, the truth is those are just theatrics. At this point, even the echos of democracy are becoming faint. Spectacles like GOP presidential nominees making the pilgrimage to kiss the ring of King Adelson now happen with full knowledge, the vampires are out of the shadows and discover it's fun in the sun. While satirists rightly lampoon it, media practically celebrates it and the Supreme Court in practice has endorsed it as a victory for the 1st Amendment.

Now that we have science on our side, will we be able to go beyond online outrage? Will the Democratic Party have the courage to fight for the restoration of the public's will?

I'll close with an understated gem from page 24 of the study's published report:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
The bold is from me. The warning is from science.

Update Note:

In a previous diary penned by HoundDog, which I missed, he revealed the date range for the data set for this study was 1981-2002. Did you catch that, the set of data does not include study beyond 2002, yet the conclusion even then is that we've become an oligarchy. Consider all that's then missing in the equation:

The Iraq War, drones, the 2008 criminally-caused economy crash, the rise of the Kochs, the most obstructive Congress in history, OWS beat down by government proven collusive with the banks, Citizen's United, McCutcheon, Wikipedia's leaks & Manning's torture (arguably), Edward Snowden revelations. Even without the rigors of research, it would be obvious to conclude that 2002 compared to today was practically a majoritarian paradise. It boggles the mind and fuels the urgency of the issue.

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:54 AM PT: I woke to share the blood moon with one of my young daughters, so I thought I'd run through the comments before heading back to bed. I see lots of "well no shit, water is wet" responses. While this is obvious to even casual observers, scientific validation is important as it elevates the discussion and can't be disregarded as mere whining by the 99.9%. It is provides both meat and hammer in the messaging.

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at  6:34 AM PT: I reached out to the authors and received a reply from Ben Page. He hopes their work will be used as part of evidence-based debate and he was pleased the work is gaining wider audience.

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM PT: A commenter makes note from one of HoundDog's diaries that the data used for this study was drawn from study of public policy 1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002. Did you get that....2002...In other words the closing set of data PRE-dates the years most of us would say were when the oligarchs truly built steam. Think of what's unaccounted for: the Iraq War, OWS, drones and the NSA, Citizen's United and now McCutcheon. One has to think if the last 13 years had also been accessed, the conclusions would be much more dire than even they already are.

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