Is Democracy Working: A disaffected American public questions the system

A growing number of Americans are not going along with the Bush/Gore hoopla. Some of them voted for Bill Clinton last time and felt betrayed. Others are disgusted by the Democratic party’s rightward tilt over the past eight years. Many more are angry at the blatant corruption practiced in Washington and have come to the conclusion that both parties have sold out. Underneath it all, there’s a gnawing feeling that the whole two-party format is now morally and intellectually bankrupt.


A growing number of Americans are not going along with the Bush/Gore hoopla. Some of them voted for Bill Clinton last time and felt betrayed. Others are disgusted by the Democratic party’s rightward tilt over the past eight years. Many more are angry at the blatant corruption practiced in Washington and have come to the conclusion that both parties have sold out. Underneath it all, there’s a gnawing feeling that the whole two-party format is now morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Enter Nader.

The betting line was that if Nader were just allowed in to the presidential debates, he would inject the real issues: environmental degradation, corporate domination of the media, concentration of wealth, campaign finance reform… and yes, the core issue of American democracy itself. In front of a hundred million people, in his crumpled suit, with his characteristic seen-it-all-detective delivery, he would point his finger at Gore and Bush and confront them with those nasty questions that would otherwise never be asked. No doubt he would make them squirm.

(Would the true face of American politics be revealed?) Maybe, if he was having a good day, he would crush them in the passionate thrust-and-parry of democratic debate. He would expose them as two establishment men who stand for exactly the same thing: business as usual.

The debate rules are a metaphor for why American democracy is not working anymore. First of all, the debates themselves are corporate-backed – why do the American people allow their presidential debates to be sponsored by beer companies like Anheuser Busch? Secondly, to get into the debates, Nader has to show 15 percent support on six polls. That’s the rule, as drafted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which is controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, in a rare perspicacious moment, put that rule in perspective: “It’s like Coke and Pepsi saying you need 15 percent of the market to get on the supermarket shelf.” Restricting participation is backwards thinking – or rather, canny pretzel logic designed to protect the status quo. It’s almost impossible for a candidate to win broad support without the privileged exposure the debates bring. So why is the deck stacked so heavily against political insurgents? Why in America is it so difficult to challenge the system?

These questions are already resonating around the world. When a legitimate political contender with millions of passionate supporters is denied a chance, it’s time for some serious soul-searching. It’s time for editorial writers to rattle the cage, and for ordinary citizens to speak. The game is fixed. Let’s clean it up! This isn’t just about America. The interests of every global citizen are on the line.

Author: Kalle Lasn

News Service: Adbusters

URL: http://www.adbusters.org