Comment | USA, The Land of Contradictions

If I have to sum up the United States of America in one word, it is contradiction. The country is one extreme paradox that cannot be clearly defined by what it stands for because its culture caters for all the social extremes. It is a country which claims to care about liberty but since 9/11 has rolled back many of the freedoms that Americans used to take for granted.

If you were to take all the laws that have been passed since the September 11 attacks that were done in the name of National Security you would be shocked by how much the U.S. Constitution has been trampled on; the Patriot Act pretty much destroys the Fourth Amendment. Aside from National Security, healthcare has been one of the most controversial issues affecting the USA. The recent government shutdown over the issue of the Affordable Care Act shows what a joke American democracy has become. As the two major parties have become more polarised in the last few years, it’s quite easy to analyse what the cause of the shutdown is. The Republicans hate Obamacare whilst the Democrats support it. The Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, want to delay the passage of Obamacare. The Democrats, who control the Senate, don’t. The two sides could not reach a compromise, Congress was brought to a dramatic standstill.

Both sides have behaved disgracefully, but it’s the Republicans who come out worse. Since Barack Obama came to office in 2009 the Republicans have become so comically right wing, that their modus operandi can justifiably be classed as mentally unrobust. From their opposition to gay rights, women’s rights, any tax increase, however small, as well as a significant proportion doubting Obama’s country of birth, they are starting to resemble a mad old right wing grandfather. So, how do the Republicans hold such sway, despite their views clashing with the wider American public? The answer can be summed up in one word; gerrymandering. Gerrymandering (the art of creating voting districts so as to give one party an unfair advantage) was put to effective use by Republicans after they won control of most state legislatures back in the 2010 midterm elections. Since 2010, it has been made much more difficult for a congressman to lose their seat, because of gerrymandering. So even though Republicans lost the popular congressional vote in 2012 by 1.4 million votes, they still held a 33 seat majority in the House of Representatives.

As Gary Jacobson of the University of San Diego recently said, “The electoral threat of them angering anybody outside of their base is pretty low.” The real threat to them is the “Republican finance and corporate types who will be very, very unhappy.” And because corporations can donate unlimited money to campaigns, politicians have to worry more about the donors than the voters. If you’re safe in your seat, all you have to worry about is getting the money to stay in your seat.

So until sensible limitations are placed on how much wealthy individuals can contribute to political parties and districts are aligned more fairly, democracy in America will continue to remain full of contradictions.

Henry Wise

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