I’m no socialist, but sometimes when I look at the history of the United States, I’m left to conclude that Marx was on to something. You see, when our country was founded, we actually enjoyed a fair amount of equality among our citizens (this of course, ignores the dark truth of slavery, but that’s another matter). We were an agrarian nation, and the people actually had a voice. In fact, that’s why–according to many political scientists, not the least of which is Robert Dahl–our Founding Fathers designed the government the way they did. They didn’t want the people to be able to freely exercise their power, lest the result be mob rule. Thus, they gave us the system of checks and balances that has served to frustrate many over the years who possess a legislative agenda, while keeping our system of government relatively unchanged.
History shows that this tremendous equality began to disappear with the advent of the industrial revolution and continues today as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The middle class is disappearing as income and, more importantly, wealth inequality continues to increase. As a result, most of us have much less power now. So we resort to banding together into interest groups to increase our collective power and these interest groups compete with one another in the political arena. This is a pluralistic approach to controlling politics.
Yet, during the health reform debate, people expressed outrage that the Congress wasn’t listening to what they “The People” wanted. I just refuse to believe that. I think that that was the mantra of the people and the groups who opposed health reform, sure, but there were just as many groups–if not more–who supported it. Or perhaps more accurately, the groups who supported it were more powerful. But then again, the groups who opposed it behind the scenes (e.g., insurance companies) are pretty powerful and highly determined to fight to the death.
What’s my point in all this? That appeals to the Founding Fathers’ intent that the will of the people be heard and acted upon are missing the mark. Our government was designed with the intent that it be incredibly difficult to navigate and practically impossible to dominate. After all, there were to be no more King George-type dictatorships in the New World. Jefferson, Franklin, and the like would gladly permit Sean Hannity to say whatever he wished on the airwaves, but they would never permit him to gain true power in government just by appealing to the emotions of the masses–and this is true for any party, preference, or persuasion. Only when the stars align–when consensus is immeasurably high–does law happen. We may not like it, but that’s the way the Founding Fathers intended it, and it doesn’t happen any other way.