Democracy by Austin Welch

Democracy is alive in America—and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Our forefathers established this country as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Over 200 years later, that dream still lives on. Many successful political movements have been started by normal, working class citizens fighting for their best interests. We have one vote for every man or woman regardless of race or religion. Being rich doesn’t give you any more say than a person living on the streets. We live in a democracy where it is not only your right, but also your responsibility, to run for office, and we see that everyday.

If you go by the definitions, it is obvious that the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government is still alive and well. However, one may say even though anyone can run and vote, it makes no difference because the ads bought with rich people’s money will sway others’ votes. Make no mistake, it takes money to run an election and get your message out, but with a persuasive enough platform, you can raise money in small increments. Plus, if you can sway people enough with large enough microphones, anything is possible.

One of the most resent examples is the “Rent is 2 Damn High Party” led by Jimmy McMillan. He had nothing more than an idea, a catchy name, and a microphone to spread his message. Even though he didn’t win, he brought up a debate. Has the cost of housing become too much of a burden on those who are poor? His website has had over 21.5 million hits. He is giving a voice to many people who would otherwise have been silent. He is the perfect example of how an interesting idea with some theatrics can change the way we think.

The recent prop 19 battle to legalize marijuana was fought not with money, but with arguments on different platforms of the media. On TV, many major cable news shows such as CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC brought “experts” to debate. This battle was fought with less than $100,000 for the NO on Prop 19 campaign, and less than $1.6 million dollars on the YES side. For a statewide battle, this is nothing, and it still sparked debate. Even though the proposition failed, it was a giant win for those who want the decriminalization of marijuana. With next to no money, they started a discussion about a social issue. If America is a plutocracy, there would not be anything close to a debate. This shows how little money is needed to change the country.

There are many points against America being a democracy, and the one that comes up often is that the rich influence media coverage. Even though in some cases this may be true, the public has more control than you might think. When a story breaks, anyone can go to hundreds of different news sources, from TV  to the Internet, and the number of sources prevent overbias. As long as we don’t consolidate news coverage to fewer media outlets, there will never be a monopoly on our media. As long as we can go to a dozen different places to get our news in fewer than fifteen minutes, the rich will never monopolize our news.

If America has become a true plutocracy, you would be able to buy a seat of power. That, however, has been disproved by the recent defeat of Meg Whitman. This is the best example of democracy beating plutocracy. Whitman spent about $150 million to get elected Governor of California. If America really was a plutocracy, she would have won with record numbers. Even with all the ads on TV, Internet, and radio, she still lost. Political pundits may say that it was because she had scandals, but the real reason is that every person has one vote. Add one vote to another enough times, and no amount of money can stop democracy. That is why America is, and always will be, a fair and equal democracy.

 

Plutocracy by Michelle Cerami

America has always prided itself in being the land of opportunity. Since the country’s founding, immigrants have sought opportunities and fortune in this country, with and without success.

Now, in the modern day, people who immigrate to this country still come for success. However, there is no way they can achieve it—America has become a plutocracy.

Early America strived to achieve an equal opportunity democracy that benefitted not only the country, but also the people. The founding fathers made sure that every citizen in the United States could be able to prosper, and prosper some did.

Currently, it is hard to prosper in the United States. The education system fails its students, seeing as students in the United States score low on standardized testing. Even third world countries like Costa Rica have a higher literacy rate than the US. How can we claim to be a land of prosperity and opportunity if third world countries outperform us in education? How can we expect immigrants to prosper in the United States with our poor education system?

The wealthy are able to afford a proper education for their children. Meanwhile, immigrants are left sending their children to a failing public school education system with minimal funding. Education is the key to success in this country, so the wealthy rise ahead and become our leaders in government. This leaves the immigrants left behind and confused. Where is this land of equal opportunity and fortune that they have been promised? Where is the equality in government representation, if the lower class does not have the tools to rise in society? How can we call ourselves a government with representation, if there is no representation for these immigrants?

Our country was founded with the right intentions. Our founding fathers sought to create a society of equal opportunity with no bias. In those days, the bias was towards religion, which was why the settlers sought to leave England in the first place. These days, I believe, the persecution and bias is not only towards religion, but race and socio-economic status. I tutor at Wilmington Middle School, and their literacy coach, Mrs. Sachs, has told us that their main goal is to give them a proper education to direct them towards college and a job. However, some public schools maintain the mindset that a certain group or sects of social economic status are not going to perform, and then they don’t. You must believe it is possible in order for it to be achieved. This is where I believe our plutocratic government has gone wrong; they continue to cut funding from schools such as Wilmington Middle School, and by doing so, lose the opportunity for students of said immigrants to rise in society and wean off of government dependency.

The government provides financial and medical assistance for those not financially able. Therein lies the problem—the more assistance you give a person, the more dependent they become. If you do not give people the tools they need, like education, there is no hope for them to ever be truly independent from the government’s aid; it is a vicious cycle that will cease to end.

As Americans, it is difficult to look at this issue without being defensive. Of course, we would love to think that we have a perfect democracy that caters to all members of our country, but this is not the case. The United States does not have a perfect democracy—we have a plutocracy that fails all members of society. To fix this issue of plutocracy, however, we will need to address the issues in our public education system. The only way all members of our society will be treated equal is to have a better pubic educational system.

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