Over the past two days I’ve read about a recently released report by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page in two different progressive blogs: Common Dreams and The Math Babe. The report is a detailed statistical analysis of the role citizens play in the decision making in our country and concludes that we are not living in a democracy but rather in an oligarchy. Gilens and Page are not advocates of any political party, they are academics: Gilens works at Princeton and Page is from Northwestern. Their study will appear in the Fall 2014 edition of Perspectives in Politics, a scholarly journal of the American Political Science Association. Their findings are sobering.
Eric Zuess, the Common Dreams blogger concludes his post with this paragraph:
The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.
Cathy O’Neill, the Mathbabe, concludes her lengthy and detailed post supporting for the statistical models and findings with the authors’ conclusion:
What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.
With fewer people controlling ever increasing shares of the media and with more and more money required to run for office it is increasingly difficult for the voices of people like Gilens and Page to be heard and increasingly difficult to change the status quo politically… which means making changes to schooling will require the support of the oligarchs who, to date, seem to view public education as a vehicle for increasing their wealth. Tough sledding ahead!