Friday, October 12, 2007

Theories of American Democracy

Two theories offered by C. Wright Mills, Elite Theory, and Robert Dahl, Plurist Theory, both play a role in America’s Political System. There is a huge void between direct decision making and those made through people power. Many of today’s observers whisper these findings, yet due to economical factors are not loud in their objections such as the news media. They play the game.

I believe also that Hyperpluralism plays somewhat of a lesser role but nevertheless is important in the scheme of things. I believe that today’s government is designed in two levels. The first, the ‘upper’ level is that of the Elite power. The second, ‘lower’ level is to appease the people by making them feel, embrace and boast of a ‘democratic’ system. This is where the Pluralists and the Hyper-Pluralists play out their roles.

The Elite power is the fundamental workings of all governments around the world. Each government however uses both Pluralism and Hyper-pluralism to different degrees. Money is power is money. Therefore corporations must seek the help of politicians to ‘bend’ the rules and empower business. In turn the corporations help finance the politician’s aims of gaining power through election. It’s a cycle. If justification needs to be legitimized, then the military is brought on board. As Mills states, “The Interlocking Directorate”

I very much believe in Mill’s point of view regarding the Elite power. When the popular consensus was against the war in Iraq, it was the three controlling powers that ‘overruled’ the desire of the people. The military hungry for war partnered with the administration, the main architect. Companies like Halliburton and the Carlyle Group, the Corporate and third partner, stood to make huge amounts of money. The Elite power was alive and at work.

Mills rejects the conspiratorial and planning explanation. Unlike Mills, I do believe that the Elite power has a written agenda. I believe that there are forecasters at work who dictate how affairs should be managed in years to come. It’s been well documented that the Neo-Conservatives in the mid 90’s had planned the events that are taking place today.

In a book titled 'DC Confidential' by Christopher Meyer, the British Ambassador to the USA from 1997 – 2003, he talks of a visit to Bohemian Grove, an institution that dates back to 19th century. This is an exclusive club where members are carefully selected. The members are made up of the most powerful and famous men in America. Politicians, captains of industry, and even Hollywood notables are members. On Mr. Meyer’s visit, Henry Kissinger gave a breakfast lecture. President Bush Senior, and James Baker, Bush’s Secretary of State flanked him. The theme of Kissinger’s lecture was Iraq and that pre-emptive strikes could be justified.

Maybe where they are not so good at planning is evident in many of the unpredicted outcomes. This has a lot to do with their limited vision due to ideology and religion.

I believe also that it’s in the Elite power’s agenda to ‘dumb’ down the population. I think this has been proved by the difference in demonstrations regarding the Vietnam and Iraqi wars. The apathy of the population has increased ten fold since the late 60’s early 70’s to now. I believe a great deal is down to the starving education budget, which inevitably cuts back on important subjects like Civics and Politics to the mass at an early age. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ could quite easily be the Elite’s mantra.

However on a more grass roots level, Dahl’s theory is true too. There will always be the inquisitive mind. A minority that feels the injustice of the Elite power. As Dahl points out, these people will gravitate to fellow disenchanted people. These people are often the result of economic inequality. Especially in today’s 24/7 constant news story’s, they are able to compare their fortunes with the upper echelon. Feeling cheated, betrayed or exploited they will engage with their local politician for change. Alas the politician believing he is on the verge of becoming an Elite power ‘member’ thinks what’s best for him and his career rather than what is best for his fellow man. Of course the Pluralist system is a much-needed tool for the Elite to control the mass.

An example of this is how the Republican Party uses the Christian based right. The last election was won on the basis of two agendas. Abortion rights versus pro-life and, Gay marriage issues. While the pluralists were busy debating and formulating a collective voting strategy, the real issue, the Iraqi war and its failings, was completely ignored. Karl Rove, George Bush’s senior political advisor, has a reputation of averting attention from real agendas to emotional hot topics for electoral gains.

Hyper-Pluralism is also a much-needed instrument used by the Elite power. This is an ideal place for disguised agendas. A place where the desires of the people, but not those of the Elite, are cycled continuously until attention is either waned or completely lost.

For instance, Polly Diven states in 'A Coincidence of Interests': The Hyperpluralism of US Food Aid Policy, “Building on the “policy Subsystem” food policy selection is a function of its ability to satisfy multiple, coincidental interests”. Diven goes on to say that “The humanitarian rhetoric of food aid is used to improve the political standing of the program both at home and overseas” yet, “as the theory of hyperpluralism predicts, the multiple interests and complex objectives of food aid ultimately undermine its ability to meet domestic agriculture, foreign policy, and humanitarian goals”.

Another area greatly awarded by hyperpluralism is the Universal Health Care debate. Politicians all agree that it’s a travesty that so many Americans do not have health insurance and coverage. It’s a subject that in the public forum makes great viewing on how caring the electoral candidates ‘feels’ our need. Yet none of the great players, Health Insurance Companies, Professional Doctors, Pharmaceutical Companies, want to give up their piece of the pie. Therefore the agenda will forever spin in circles without ever producing an outcome or solution. As for the politicians, they are so heavily funded via contributions from these financial powerhouses, that it remains best to talk about it but not upset or ruffle any feathers. In other words it pays lip service but yields nothing.

As a matter of interest I have read that only a communist system can truly be void of hyperpluralism.
My conclusion is that the three theories do exist and are interwoven in the fabric of American Politics. They are tools that are used to enable power to carry out its agenda and appease the people under a guise of Democracy.

American Political Party Direction - Dealignment

The Decline of the Political Party is without doubt a phenomenon that sits on the near horizon of America’s political system. For decades before today, our social environment asserted its influence on our politics. Party machines held our backs against a wall in regard to our allegiance to parties, and depending on our social status, we were ‘expected’ to follow suit. Voting and supporting a certain party was almost a religion where we could not oppose or beg to differ in our immediate surroundings. Through this Political Parties were an essential part of the system. However the 20th Century awoke with the Progressive reformers who laid the seeds for the decline of the Political Party. With the introduction of TV media, grass roots major party activism is no longer as crucial. Candidates can now by pass the ‘grapevine’ of communication and inform the voters directly reaching the multitudes instantly. Therefore this has made a large section of the Political Parties activities near redundant.

With this new dawn comes a generation of independent voters who unlike before do not need to be part of a party in order to be influenced of a candidates proposals and pledges. As this new breed of voters are not limited by party affiliations and loyalties, they are free to vote more pragmatically, what they feel serves their purpose better. These new practical voters choose by what makes the most sense, as Anis Shivani states, “when voters don’t see the political system able to handle large problems they vote conservatively”. They are freer to choose what they feel are the best candidate policies to handle a problem not necessarily addressed by a relative party.
Studies have shown that voters are willing to vote for a Presidential candidate who is from a different party than a nominee he or she would support in a Congressional race. As reported in the Retro-Politics, Political Typology, November 11, 1999, under the heading, Congressional Test Ballot, “Democrats are much more firmly united behind their party in Congress than they are behind Al Gore”, (Democratic Presidential Candidate). Therefore confirming there is no automatic affiliation anymore when it comes to voter’s actions.

Voters are more likely to choose a personality than a party if this person addresses their concerns. And candidate individualism is a result of not having to depend on a political party once his or her political career has been launched. It’s a catch 22 in its infancy. As more money is pumped into the political system, less is required of a large political organization. Political evolution will set a new format.

What does this tell us? When it comes to the two branches of government, (Executive) President and Congress, the voters, of a more pragmatic nature today, will vote for an individual not guaranteeing any party victory total. This results in Dealignment. If this trend continues, other than a national catastrophe or war, which brings the voters together to support government and congress, Dealignment will be here for some time to come.