III Severe flaws in American-style democracy

Money politics in United States has gone further in 2017, as the wealthy groups controlled the political development; the disadvantaged groups faced more barriers in voting; and continuous scandals of political figures happened.

Money politics made inequality worse. The Financial Times website said on July 15, 2017 that the U.S. political system has been so warped by big money. According to Federal Election Commission data, dozens of political action committees collected tens of millions of dollars in the first season of 2017. Individual donors contributed 236.4 million U.S. dollars to political action committees and related political entities, roughly 30 percent more than the recorded contribution during the same span following the 2012 presidential election (www.bizjournals.com, May 8, 2017). The website of the Center for Responsive Politics on December 27, 2017, presented data which showed the lobbying spending in 2017 was the highest in the past five years(www.opensecrets.org, December 27, 2017). The New York Times website said in its commentary on September 20, 2017 that “American democracy is drowning in money”. The money politics has made American economic policies over the last 40 years “strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent, but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans.”

Democratic politics went weakening. An expert survey on American democracy showed that 89 percent of respondents believed the democratic quality in the United States had declined over the last 10 years (www.authwarningsurvey.com, June 28, 2017). The Atlantic website reported on June 21, 2017 that most interviewees of a survey on U.S. democracy disagreed that the U.S. met standards for granting citizens an equal opportunity to vote, stopping officials from exploiting their public office for private gain, and conducting politics and formulating policy.

Low-income voters faced more severe barriers. A report on November 21, 2017 from the website of Newsweek magazine said that hundreds of thousands of Americans were being denied the right to vote because they are poor. In nine states, legislators have enacted laws that disenfranchise anyone with outstanding legal fees or court fines. In Alabama, more than 100,000 people who owe money – roughly 3 percent of the state’s voting-age population – have been struck from voting rolls. The report commented that preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in the nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

Older and physically challenged voters encountered more barriers. The New York Times website reported on November 24, 2017 that voting machines at polling places made it difficult for the elderly and disabled citizens of any age to vote. A survey of 178 polling places showed that the great majority still had impediments outside — like steep ramps or inadequate parking — or inside that could discourage or exclude disabled voters.

The media was suppressed. In 2017, a number of news organizations were rejected by the U.S. government in press conferences and other official activities and the CNN, New York Times, and other media organizations were barred from White House briefings. Press freedom in the United States is at its lowest point in 13 years, according to a report in 2017(www.cnn.com, April 28, 2017). Another survey from the Pew Research Center on April 4, 2017 showed that 73 percent of adult respondents believed the tensions between the government and the news media were getting in the way of access to important national political news and information(www.journalism.org, April 4, 2017).

Corruption scandals broke out. A survey in 2017 showed that nearly six in 10 Americans believed the level of government corruption has risen in 2017, and nearly seven in 10 people said the government was doing a bad job at combating corruption. The website of CBS News reported on March 14, 2017 that nine military officers including the retired Navy admiral Bruce Loveless were indicted in a bribery scandal as they accepted the services of prostitutes, lavish meals and fancy trips from a defense contractor. The case has charged more than 20 former or current Navy officials.

Sexual scandals of congressmen continue to happen. The USA Today website said on November 20, 2017 that since 2016 at least 40 lawmakers in 20 states have been publicly accused by more than 100 people of some form of sexual misconduct or harassment. The website of Al Jazeera reported on December 12, 2017 that Democratic Congressman Al Franken, and others have faced the allegations of sexual harassment. According to a report on the Washington Post website on December 21, 2017, a senator’s office used Treasury Department fund to settle a claim of sex discrimination or harassment, and the House of Representatives said its member-led offices were involved in settlements of at least 10 allegations of sexual harassment or sex discrimination since 2008. Another report also from the Washington Post website on December 1, 2017 said that the allegations against several political figures were being shielded by their parties, showing an ugly portrait of American politics.