Josef Braml Source: People’s Daily–US democracy is now facing fundamental challenges: growing inequality and stagnant social mobility. Instead of combating these challenges, the government has adopted clientele policy in the interest of election campaigners, putting its people in a powerless position.
The US political system is no longer welcomed by its people, instead, it is now falling into a legitimacy crisis. This is also one of the core arguments in my new book, “At the Expense of Freedom – The Sell-out of American Democracy and the Consequences for Europe.”
Most Americans have lost their faith in the current US economy and political power. The American Dream, which advocates changing one’s destiny through personal efforts, has faded. Most people are now worrying about daily life and feel impotent when it comes to changing their fates.
In the meantime, they can do nothing while the 1 percent alter the rules so they get a bigger slice of the pie by influencing politics. Such an abnormality will only shift the redistribution of power towards a higher social hierarchy and benefit the elites, thus widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
During the presidential race, nationalists like Donald Trump have been hailed by Americans because they believe the current political system can no longer represent their interests. The people are sick of monotonous US politics. In their eyes, the funding of Hilary Clinton’s campaign is tied to Wall Street, while real estate mogul Donald Trump needs donations from no one.
In the last presidential race, official campaign funding reached $2 billion. This year, that figure is likely to reach $6 billion. Every cent of that money is a bargaining chip to sway policy making for arsenal dealers, oil tycoons, IT tech companies and the finance industry, all of whom do not want state regulation and taxation..
Plutocrats can also “make a killing” in the congressional election. During the race for the House of Representatives, 94 percent of the winners are those who spent the most money. As for the Senate, 82 percent of the most generous runners win the election.
It costs at least $2 million to keep a seat in the bi-annual House of Representatives election whereas to survive the Senate race every six years, candidates spend $10 million on average.
Since the US midterm elections in 2010, the president and Congress have been caught in a standoff, which will continue after the 2016 election. This deadlock in US politics has completely twisted the intention of the founding fathers’ to create a balance of power between the commander-in-chief and the bicameral legislature.
The only area that the next US president may have true authority is security policies. As the commander-in-chief, the president also runs US intelligence activities across the globe. That is when he is at his “strongest” in the world, especially when the country claims to be threatened by extremists or other terrorists.
Whenever a threat approaches, the president, who normally would be restricted by many factors, can expand his or her power range and break the limitations posed by Congress, because on the one hand, external threats can draw public attention away from severe domestic conflicts, such as racism, poverty, high crime rate and drug abuse; and on the other hand, creating an enemy can offer the excuses they need to inject more capital into military, intelligence and other security areas.
(The author is an expert on US studies on the German Council on Foreign Relations.)