Essay: Democracy in America: On the Ropes?

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[. . .] What are those consequences? The authors allow the reader to figure that out or to conjecture quietly about the potential consequences. The authors do point out that the poor are about "three-fifths" as likely to vote as the rich; and the poor are "only half as likely" to attend a protest march or even contact a government official; and the poor are only "one-tenth as likely to make a campaign conation" (Verba, 76).

Reading between those lines an alert person can easily relate to the pathos of the narrative: without saying so, the authors are pointing to the slow but sure decay of participatory democracy here in America. Fast-forward to 2012 and what Verba and colleagues were writing about in 1997 has become dramatically and profoundly more apparent. The conservative Koch brothers (David and Charles), fabulously wealthy from oil and gas investments, spent $122 million on the 2012 presidential election (Confessore, 2013). Their goal was to defeat President Barack Obama and to create a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate; they didn't succeed notwithstanding all the money they spent, but the brothers insist they will spend even more in the Midterm Congressional elections in 2014, and again in the presidential election of 2016.

Meantime, on page 77 the authors explain that the top ten percent of the population (in terms of income) were donating "more than half the money" in campaigns in the 1990s. The 19% of voters from families that earned under $15,000 donated just "2% of the campaign dollars" in the 1990s; and rather than present language that is apocalyptic, they simple say that growing income inequality in America "…will only exacerbate the situation" (Verba, 77). Another comparison that the authors offer provides a contrast between those who participate and those who do not. Some 35% of individuals who get veteran's benefits, and 24% of those who receive Social Security or Medicare money, belong to advocacy organizations (like the AARP) that frequently contact government officials and lobby for continuing benefits (Verba, 78).

However, only 2% of those who receive welfare benefits -- and "none of the food stamp recipients" -- actually belong to organizations that advocate for the poor and the hungry (Verba, 78). The box in the middle of page 78 makes a succinct statement that cuts through all the data and comparative information and gets down to the bottom line:

"Public officials receive so many more messages from the advantaged than the disadvantaged that their picture of public opinion is profoundly distorted" (Verba, 78).

On page 79, once again, the authors embrace the reality of democracy, and without saying so, their narrative portends that the American system of democratic values is heading for a fall. The way in which the writers suggest but don't pound heavy-handed meaning into their narrative makes this article all that much more important in terms of its substance. Democracy "…rests on the notion that the needs and preferences of no individual should rank higher than those of any other," Verba asserts (79). But when that notion doesn't ring true anymore, when the concept of one person, one vote goes out the window, a "fundamental principal of democracy" is lost, the authors are clearly pointing out.

The authors also make clear that when there are "inequalities in education" and inequalities in "income," and as long as Americans have "unequal opportunities to develop and practice civic skills," those voices heard vis-a-vis citizen participation will "be loud, clear, and far from equal" (Verba, 80).

In conclusion, as was stated in the Introduction, this article was really about the future of democracy. Given all the examples presented in this piece, and the trend towards more power for the wealthy and less power for the poor -- juxtaposed with today's outrageously unequal financial participation in politics -- whether democracy will exist as the Constitution of the United States intended is an open question.

Works Cited

Confessore, Nicholas.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Democracy in America: On the Ropes?.  (2014, June 6).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/democracy-america-ropes/6793330

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"Democracy in America: On the Ropes?."  6 June 2014.  Web.  25 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/democracy-america-ropes/6793330>.

Chicago Format

"Democracy in America: On the Ropes?."  Essaytown.com.  June 6, 2014.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/democracy-america-ropes/6793330.