Is our political process fair?Updated: Nov 11, 2016
Many people would argue that the American political process is unfair, but they would say that for different reasons. Some people would say that the American political process does not accurately reflect the will of the people and that this is unfair. Other people would argue that it is not feasible for this to be the case and that certain people deserve more influence in American politics because of their greater contribution to society or because they are more qualified for the job. These two sides have been in conflict since the early days of the American political process.
The representative democracy of the United States does render the opinions of individual voters relatively unimportant. While voters and their votes do matter and candidates spend millions of dollars trying to sway the opinions of voters, many individual voters are frustrated with the fact that it barely seems to make a difference whether they vote or not and the voting seems to be a matter of principle.However, the fact that every voter is in the same situation does seem to make the process fair in its own way. People have been arguing since the beginning that American democracy has to be representative.
Pure democracy with no representatives is very rare when the voting public has hundreds of millions of people. It usually only works in much smaller societies. While some people would argue that this does not mean the situation is fair, they might still make a case for the system in a pragmatic sense. Democracy requires an educated middle class to be sustainable, or people will often vote for the very same individuals that democracies seek to eliminate.
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In Principle and In Practice
It should be noted that a lot of Americans functionally never vote for reasons beyond their control. Even getting to the polling booths or getting absentee ballots is tough in some areas, which is genuine discrimination against poorer people and people who live in certain regions. Disabled individuals often find it difficult to vote for various reasons, so their voice gets excluded from American politics.
Some wealthy people argue that since they pay most of the taxes, they deserve a bigger voice in American politics. However, wealthy people pay fewer taxes in America than they do in other countries. Also, wealthy people have more control over American elections than almost anyone even though they each have one vote. Wealthy people can give campaign contributions to the candidates of their choice, so the candidates of their choice will have an advantage during the election. Elections are automatically slightly biased in favor of the wealthy on this basis alone.
Wealthy people represent a small portion of the population, and the policies that favor lining their pockets further will directly go against the interests of most of the country. More and more wealth has been directed to the wealthy over the past thirty years, and campaign contributions towards certain candidates have had a huge impact on that.
The situation involving wealthy people buying elections is reflective of faulty laws in the sense that there could be laws limiting campaign contributions. However, this situation does not directly reflect a problem with the baseline American political process or democratic structure itself. If anything, this problem demonstrates that the American political process is not working as it was intended. Wealthy people who have no political experience and who are acting purely in their own self-interest have more political power than many politicians.
The overall system for American voters and the American representative democracy isn't perfectly fair, but having a direct democracy that was perfectly fair would be too difficult. However, the fact that wealthy people are able to subvert the political process and control it so substantially automatically taints the American political process, rendering it unfair even though there are no laws mandating that this should be the case. The disproportionate influence of the wealthy has made the American political process unfair, and not the representative democratic structure.