With all the talk and protests lately about distribution of wealth and scope of government, I’ve gotten stuck on one particular point. We Americans call ourselves a democracy, but that is essentially “one man, one vote.” We don’t have that. Technically, we have a republic, in which we elect representatives who should vote in our best interest. However, I’ve believed for a long time that what we actually live in is an oligarchy — ruling by an elite class. The American elite class is the monied lobbies which get much of their operating funds from corporations. We think we are voting for who we choose, but who we choose depends on what we know about the candidates, and that tends to be based on ads and exposure, which is ultimately based on the amount of money a candidate has at his or her disposal. I get frustrated when journalists follow, not the candidates’ platforms, but the amount of money they’ve raised; yet the latter is probably a better indication of how they will fare. Of course, the financial influence doesn’t stop with elections — it’s camped out permanently in the lobbies of the House and Senate.
So we follow the money. The top 1% apparently has the most and they use it to their advantage to control the power structure in their favor. Corporations are the evil “They” which run the oligarchy. Career politicians are little better. They spend their time worrying about funding their next campaign instead of passing legislature that would benefit their constituents. But who are “They?” Isn’t the American Dream to work hard and become successful in one’s business? And aren’t corporate boards made of successful business people? I also look at my local senator and representatives, and they seem like normal people, living a pretty regular life, making appearances at local and charitable events, pounding the pavement to connect with the people, working to solve local issues. Weren’t the politicians in Washington once just local ones too?
So my conundrum revolves around this “Us” versus “Them” conflict. On the one hand, yes, we the 99% (my family has a roof over our head, food in our belly, medical coverage, and little debt, so are we “Us” or “Them?”) have far less influence, and appear to suffer far more than “They” do in the top 1%. We talk about corporations running Washington. But aren’t those in Washington just extensions of us (since we voted for the representatives that voted for them, and the representatives are still “Us”)? And aren’t corporations run by people? I could be wrong, but I haven’t gotten any emails from Skynet welcoming our robot overlords. So where’s the disconnect? At what point did “We” become “Them,” or do “They” cease to be “Us?”
I think I have an answer, but it involves basic human nature being about greed and self preservation, with some sour grapes thrown in. But I don’t want to believe I’m that cynical as it goes against my self view of a liberal, reasonably compassionate, person.