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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/5/18

Who is largely responsible for the deterioration of the U.S. Congress? The American People

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   11 comments
Message Michael Payne

It's no secret that we have an incompetent, politically corrupt Congress within our government. That's why it continues to receive an approval rating of around 13%. Dysfunctionality is the order of the day, that could not be more evident. But the question is; how did it reach this low point in its history?

More than likely I'll hear some responses about assigning blame to the American people such as, "Sure, go ahead and blame the American people for allowing this U.S. Congress to become so useless and ineffective; sure, somebody has to take the blame so why not put the blame on Americans?"

Well, I said that the American people are largely responsible for this deterioration, I didn't say that they are entirely responsible. We know that the money, power, and influence of Corporate America and other outside interests over a period of years has polluted this legislative body. It's evident that its members are very beholden to these powerful interests. They know they better be if they want to be reelected, and they most certainly do.

The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court has compounded this problem as mountains of money have been flowing into our elections, contaminating the process and allowing faulted candidates to enter Congress. One way or another this situation must somehow be reversed. However, that's easier said than done and right now no one has the answer as to how to make it happen, how Corporatism's control can be broken.

That's certainly a vexing problem but there is another side to this issue that also contributes to this deterioration to continue. That's where the American people come in. We need to talk about their responsibilities in this matter. They not only have been given the right to vote they also have an obligation to do so to maintain a healthy democracy in our country.

The problem is that far too many Americans do not feel any such obligation and that's why so many incompetents and corporate-controlled politicians keep getting elected again and again. Because of their lack of interest and lethargy they have, in effect, let the foxes, aka the Corporatists, guard the henhouse. The problem is that the foxes are no longer just guarding the henhouse, they have taken full control.

We keep hearing the same old, same old, proclamation, that this is the greatest democracy in the world. Really? How can this be the greatest democracy in the world when the largest portion of the people who live in it don't even bother to turn out to vote anymore? That's not democracy at work.

Let's compare the voter turnout in this country with that of the various countries in Europe proper and in its Scandinavian sector. One would think that the turnout in the greatest democracy would be far better than in these other countries but, actually, the opposite is true. Believe it or not, most of them have far greater turnouts than the U.S. Let's take a look at a few and see how they stack up against America:

Here are the recent vote turnouts in several of them: in Belgium 87%, in Sweden 83, in Denmark 80%, and across the world in Australia, it has ranged, in recent times, from 90 to 95%.

It's important to mention that some of these countries, notably Belgium and Australia, have what is called compulsory voting. This means that if you do not vote, and do not have a good reason, you can be subject to a stiff fine.

Now one might say that this is not the way a democracy, or a social democracy, should function, that citizens should not be forced to vote. But, in these countries, they are not being forced to vote at all. And that's because compulsory voting would not have been approved if the people strongly opposed it.

Here in America we certainly do not have compulsory voting but we do have what is the opposite of that method. It's called voter suppression and it is practiced by the Republican Party in various parts of America, where the party thinks it can get away with it. Instead of trying to increase turnout the intent is to stifle it.

Let's review how large voter turnout has been in recent decades, for example, from the 1960's to date. The turnout for national elections, the midterms by which House and Senate members are candidates for reelection, was fairly high in 1967 at 48% and then began a steady decline in 1974 until it reached the low point of 37% in 2016. That year also included a presidential election.

Could we adopt compulsory voting in America to significantly increase voter turnout? It has worked well in those other counties but there is little to no chance that it would be adopted here for two main reasons: first, the people would never agree that it is necessary; and secondly, those in Congress would never pass legislation to make it happen.

It's common knowledge that, in times past, Congress received a great deal more respect than it receives now. That was when the two political parties worked together and compromised on key legislation to do the right thing for this country. But that was before the money, power, and influence of outside interests took control of the Congress.

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