The use of the word democracy in this country is farcical. It is meant to hide that an oligarchy is in power.
A poll taken in December 2021 reflecting that a majority of “Americans” now “believe that democracy in the United State is in danger of disappearing” accommodates the bipartisan erasure of those colonized by US settler colonialism.
Several US news outlets have reported that the Schoen Cooperman Research poll on “U.S. Perceptions of Government” reflects the opinions and concerns of “Americans” at large. The poll reflects that 51-percent of respondents agree with the statement that democracy in the US is at risk of extinction, a position shared almost equally between party affiliations. The sentiment is most acute among the younger generation.
However, there is a deeply flawed premise in not just the poll itself but likely in the respondents to it as well. This stems from how popular discourse in the US and its cultural aversions have a tendency away from critical political analysis that would otherwise better define democracy. In a society where centuries of indices of oppression: poorest quality education, unemployment, poverty, disease with poor access to healthcare, police brutality, mass incarceration, and political repression that includes political prisoners, continue to afflict Indigenous and African descended people, what democracy is “disappearing”?
The US media is the most sophisticated propaganda apparatus that history has ever known, with the incredible ability to make a broad base of unexamined premises and consents widely accepted. Democracy is reduced to the process of electing representatives despite wide knowledge of the fact that the rich control the outcomes and those outcomes are invariably antithetical to the interest of working-class people, especially working class Brown and Black people.
At best the US is an oligarchy in which the capitalist class holds a duopoly on the election process. US federal elections are actually a money-making venture in themselves, an industrial complex of sorts.
All instances and means of voter disenfranchisement notwithstanding, working class people have no direct say in who the nominees will be for party primaries to federal offices, which they are expected to vote for. There is no process for mass participation in the nomination processes. Furthermore the one-person-one-vote scenario that most voters behave as if it exists has built in circumvention through the electoral college system that most are well aware of; a relic created to intentionally prevent rule of the popular vote.
If a poll were conducted asking whether or not countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, or any counties framed as adversaries to the US were democracies the responses would likely be “no”. Not because those responding know anything about the electoral processes in those countries or anything about how those societies are organized. But because the US public is bombarded with a steady diet of propaganda that portrays them otherwise.
Little do most know that unlike many counties, including the aforementioned, the citizens have the right to national referendums. US citizens have no such right. The national assemblies or parliaments in these countries, what would be most equivalent to the House and Senate in the US, is composed of representatives of sectors of society, not just geographic jurisdictions. That is, workers, women, youth, etc. are structurally represented in the state. The US has no such thing.
The same media responsible for misrepresenting these facts has been just as relentless about preoccupying the public with the January 6, 2021 “insurrection” on the US Capitol, something the Schoen Cooperman Research poll was concerned about as well. After an introduction stating, “You will now be asked about your thoughts on the impact and implications of the events at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th, 2021,” the poll asked, “Do you believe Joe Biden did or did not legitimately win the 2020 presidential election?”
These types of questions reveal the worldview of the client(s) of Schoen Cooperman Research. Democracy depends on an informed electorate. How would “Americans” feel about their democracy if they were asked whether or not the $778 Billions military budget, when contrasted against the budgets of social services, reflects the will of the electorate, what would their answer be? And if this does not reflect their will wouldn’t that also make the US a kleptocracy? Politicians are complicit with the defense industry in the theft of the people’s tax dollars.
There is a certain illogic in regarding the US as a democracy when its most powerful and prominent politicians are adamantly avowed anti-socialists even though a majority of democrats now prefer socialism. What exactly is disappearing if what the people thought they had isn’t a democracy?
With the people experiencing the unraveling of US society – the incompetence of a neoliberal order to get the COVID pandemic under control that includes shortages of hospital personel,, broken food supply chains, military build ups against Russia and China, reduced public transportation, continual police killings– it is the illusion of “American exceptionalism” that is disappearing.
At this juncture, elections in the US are only useful as a way to mobilize for the weakening of the duopoly of the capitalist parties. A people centered strategy of shifting power completely away from the Republican and Democratic pirates must be at the core of any engagement with US elections.
Netfa Freeman is an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Netfa is also co-host/producer of the WPFW radio show and podcast Voices With Vision.