Welcome to 2018 Summer Hybrid – LS 657: Challenges of Democracy

Due July 24 – For discussions at our July 24 meeting at Columbia

(Return to the course’s main page?)

In our July 18 meeting, we introduced three books from which this weeks readings come. But let’s begin with an introduction to how social media in influencing the study of politics.  This video is about international relations, but it applies across political science and many other fields.  It is a few years old – how much is the same and how much has changed?

Charli Carpenter, Transnational Politics, i(I)nternational r(R)elations, and the Information Age – on teaching, scholarship, and Web 2.0 and 3.0 (2012) – (watch all eight minutes) – she focuses on the IR field, but it’s applicable to all social sciences – notice that this is from 2012 – what has changed / what has stayed the same since then?


Our readings for this week:

I.  Ayn Rand, Anthem

The first is Ayn Rand’s Anthem.  Rand, and Russian-American of the early 20th century, is most associated with the idea of objectivism, emphasizing self-reliant individualism and reason.  Anthem is famously short and accessible, compared to her much longer The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  Indeed, she wrote Anthem in the middle of writing The Fountainhead.

Anthem isn’t about democracy, directly – but it is much about challenges to democracy.  Rand’s dystopia was influenced more by the first decades of the Soviet Union and its priority of the collective over the individual.  But the themes of challenges to democracy today have some echoes in Anthem and we’ll talk about those when we meet.

II.  Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal

Our second reading this week comes from Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal.  In out meeting July 18, we discussed that Frank is a member of the media, and a liberal Democrat in good standing.  His What’s the Matter with Kansas? explored what he considered the mistakes of Republican voters.  But in Listen, Liberal he is a fierce critic of what he considers the Democratic Party’s betrayal of the working class in favor of the privileged, educated, urban professionals in tech and other high-paying fields.

Our primary reading from the book is this excerpt (please read). My advice is to watch him talk about it a little, first, in this  seven-minute video.

He criticizes his Democratic Party for abandoning the working class of America in favor of its fetish for young coastal techies.  He condemns it for adding a moral layer to success and meritocracy: the Party’s judgment that whether you are a success or not, you deserve your fate.  This Democratic Party, he argues, has forced much of Middle America into Donald Trump’s siren song.

In this clip, Frank offers a short critique of the Clintons and pro-Wall Street, pro-tech deliberate, decades-long choice of the Democratic Party to shift from a party of the working class to a party of the winners class.  Love this? More and longer videos – all optional – from Frank.

Two additional readings go along with this.  First, we hear a lot about the “one percent” or the “0.1 percent.”  But in some ways, the next group – the 9.9 percent, are especially interesting.  They combine an unmistakable amount of privilege for their children with a real anxiety that their own and their children’s status is vulnerable.  How do they deal with that? Richard Reeves gives one answer: dream-hoarding. (please read)

On the other hand, some argue that politics has become a battle not of left and right or black and white or rural and urban, but “between the sane and the mindlessly angry.” After Brexit and looking toward the 2016 presidential elections, a son of New York elites wants his kind to smarten up and stop “the ignorant masses.” (please read)

It goes both ways, of course – there was vast critiques of the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nominee – by Republicans.  See some of National Review’s collection of #NeverTrump outrage.

III.  Mark Leibovich, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital

Our third reading is a more cynical (and more humorous) approach to democracy.  Mark Leibovich, journalist for the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, gives it away in the subtitle of his look at Washington:  This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital.  Please read the excerpt on Moodle.  Who goes to a funeral “to be seen”?  Do Democrats, Republicans, lobbyists, and journalists all hang out together at the same prep school soccer games and Georgetown cocktail parties?  Does it matter?

A short intro to Leibovich and his book:

Love this? Try a one-hour version on C-SPAN.  Finally, please read:  He follows this up with an early-Trump assessment of how things have changed – and not – in the new administration.

Ok, your turn

Maybe this is an unusual collection of readings for a course on democracy, but maybe there is some value to them in introducing a course on the challenges to democracy:

– What does it mean to live in a democracy, really?
– What is government doing, really?
– Whom do elected officials and political parties represent?
– We all know a little about the debates of the last couple of years:  Establishment Hillary vs FeelTheBern – Sanders almost won the nomination even though he’s not a Democrat.  Trump vs The World – a tv star defeats 16 actual Republicans for the nomination.
– Is there a role of “ordinary Americans” here anywhere?

Use these prompts or any ideas, questions, problems, etc. of your own, to write about 400-500 words – put them at the bottom of this page before class July 24.  Most weeks you’ll respond here online to each other, but this week we’ll do that together in class instead.  But first, please see this guidance on what makes a good post.

Meanwhile, any time before Tuesday, please discover some interesting news or analysis item and share it with us on our facebook page.

Ok, great – let’s go!

10 Replies to “LOY-657-DEM-2018-july24”

  1. So what is a democracy and what does it really mean to live in a democracy? Simply put, a democracy is a form of government in which the people rule, where government policy should reflect the collective will of average citizens. Competition for power, political participation, and civil and political liberties are the core elements of a liberal or representative democracy. In a democracy, government is supposed to be responsive to the preferences and interests of its citizens, but the influence of ordinary Americans over public policy has diminished significantly over the last several decades. Unfortunately, our government operates much more like a plutocracy than a democracy, as our institutions and policies reflect the interests of an economic elite – not ordinary citizens.
    The material for class this week touched on several challenges to our democracy, both directly and indirectly – the influence of digital and social media, the liberal class “virtue quest,” the corruption and power of the DC establishment or “This Town,” political dissatisfaction and disillusionment and the subsequent rise of populism, the relationship between democracy and liberty, and “too much democracy,” to name just a few. Of all these challenges, I believe rising economic inequality coupled with the influence of big money over our elected officials and public policy is the greatest threat to our democracy today. Our political system is dominated by an elite group of citizens and lobbyists representing their interests which drown out the voices of ordinary Americas. As Leibovich put it, there is a constant “revolving door between money, media, and politics.”
    Our political system was set-up as a republic so we’ve always had inherently undemocratic institutions that constrained democratic will by design – the electoral college, unrepresentative Senate, and unelected Supreme Court justices are just a few examples. That said, the rapidly growing influence of lobbyists and money in politics have increased the unresponsive nature of our political representatives and the system in general. Average citizens have almost no direct influence in determining policy outcomes and don’t see their interests or preferences reflected in government, which in turn has caused further political cynicism and apathy among the electorate. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010 protected political spending under the First Amendment which allows corporations and special interests to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of a candidate or party. This ruling put even more power in the hands of the economic elite and big business. It ensured that elected officials are constantly campaigning and beholden to donors and corporations rather than their constituents. This means that K Street lobbyists and corporations essentially control the laws and policy at almost every level of government, wielding immense power not only over legislators but also over independent federal agencies like the FCC, EPA, SEC, and FTC, equally responsible for legislating crucial issues and creating policy that impacts the lives of everyday Americans. Both political parties are to blame here – and both are equally unable to address the growing economic disparity in our country or the needs of average citizens. As Frank explained, “money and the way it runs through politics, adjusts incentives and distorts priorities wherever it flows.”
    This political climate set the stage for candidates like Bernie Sanders and Trump who promised to take power from Washington elites and return it to the people. Of course, Trump has done the complete opposite from the day he was sworn in, but nonetheless his populist message has inspired millions of working-class Americans who feel they don’t have a voice in Washington. Their populist message isn’t wrong – our democracy is in crisis and the political establishment is indebted to the economic elite… but this is a vicious cycle that will further democratic decay.

    Among other things, what I think we desperately need is campaign finance reform to get the money out of politics to allow for political institutions that are responsive to the views of ordinary citizens, but also capable of solving the incredibly complex issues our country faces. Our institutions need to remain somewhat elitist, we need experts in their fields to keep us safe and prosperous. But these institutions need to start reflecting the views of everyday citizens, not just a subsection of economic elite and interest groups. I look forward to continuing this conversation in class this semester.

  2. In synthesizing our readings this week, I was left feeling cynical. In what way does our political system reflect a democracy at a national level? The electoral college and the raw popular vote do not have to align; the Senate and the House are full of insiders – even those who like to cast themselves as outsiders, as both Bernie Sanders and John McCain like to do, on their respective sides of the aisle – who hoard wealth, status, and access; and one party controls all three branches of government while the other expends enormous energy and resources resisting their work at every turn. We seem to have gone wrong in one way or another, but I think we also live under an illusion that has never been true.
    The United States of America was never meant to be an Athenian democracy. It was designed to exclude a good deal of people under its power from joining the voting citizenry, as did that of Athens, and it was most accessible to those who had power, money, or both at the time of its founding. Though our shared narrative of citizenship and ideals might say otherwise, we have never done the work to cultivate a more pure democracy at the national level, in which any citizen can engage with, participate in, and direct their own government.
    We have long been bogged down in the ideas that individual votes do not matter, that some combination of nepotism and elitism is necessary to break into politics, and that everyone within the system is guilty for the corruption it cultivates. I do not think these understandings are off-base – but I am curious as to whether they can be changed, with proof to the contrary. This is what the “blue wave” of the Democratic Party is seeking in the 2018 midterm elections: challenges to the system from folks truly outside of it, [many of whom are] running for office not because their name is recognizable or they have a network to rely on for fundraising, but because they want to restore the place in our politics for “normal” people from outside the most elite circles.
    I am interested to see if we can collectively break our old habits. I think Americans romanticize democracy and demand more of it than it can ever deliver. But if the electorate demands what it has long stated is the desired type of government – that for “regular people” – and it elects candidates who reflect that, the idealist would have to believe a shift is possible. Knowing that those “regular people” are, in fact, people, though, demands something more than hope. I appreciate and agree with Genna’s suggestion of campaign finance reform. If “regular people” are what the electorate want in government, then they cannot continue to operate the way that elites long have. In addition to changing campaign finance law, I would also propose term limits for members of Congress, and stricter laws around who may file for office in congressional districts and for state office. Though I am not sure how to force a body of politicians to vote against their personal interests and curtail their access to power and money, I think the lack of conversation around this practice has allowed a problem to fester for far too long. I am interested to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the material this week – looking forward to class in a few hours.

  3. The reading this week was interesting. Frank’s book is factually inaccurate and kind of sexist (I could write a whole essay about just that); Leibovich’s book made me miss the game and so happy that I left the game. Ayn Rand’s novella was more interesting for me. In that story, I was a lot of theories I’ve read and written about come out. In that novella, you can see extremes of societal/governmental problems in democracy, and see where government can be a mediating force.
    “Democracy” is a complicated word. The basic definition we learn as children is people-rule. Unfortunately that definition is not clear enough to get a grasp of what the word actually is. Anthem takes this idea and extrapolates it. In fact, it seems to be a retelling of Ranciere’s Nights of Labour.
    First, we can look at democracy as a governmental system. In the dystopian system in the story, the government was the driving force of the societal organization. The individual is swolled up by the “we.” They have no “I” only the We. In a democracy, the demos is a singular entity. Ranciere’s book outlines how that prevents any individual from actually being free. Those in power, the government in this case, prevent any individual from doing anything outside of their role in the system.
    This brings up the second way one can view democracy: societal structure. Aristotelian ethics argues that someone’s value is in what they do toward that society. Your worth is in your ability to do your job. In Nights of Labour the proletariat workers dream of doing something different than the position in which they were placed. Ayn Rand’s Equality does just that as he finds the tunnel and works on electricity. He works toward becoming something other than the role in which he was placed.
    While many try to force the word, democracy, to be a governmental structure or a societal structure, some theorize it is both (others argue it is neither). Ayn Rand’s hero seems to argue against the democracy because it prevents freedom of the individual. However, she takes the argument too far. In her dystopia, the government stripped the individual of any identity outside the WE, and the individual I stripped any ethics toward the group or care of others from the equation. Only the individual matters—I personally find that to be quite selfish.
    I think this is where the role democratic government can be. The government can protect the individual identity while fostering a care for others and compassion. In theory, it can balance it so each individual cares for self and for others. In Ayn Rand’s “I over We” preferred system, individuals place the self over others. Human Rights exist only for that one individual. Protecting others and insuring every individual has basic human rights cannot happen—it fosters racism, sexism, isolationism, and all the other negative “isms.” On the other hand, keeping the individual’s existence as solely a part of the demos stripped human rights from each person. Each individual does not exist as his or her own self. They are part of a larger being: the singular demos. Even if we talk about demoicracies, the individuals still only exist as part of a smaller group that feeds into the demoi. They exist as part of something rather than existing as themselves. Government therefore, should be the stabilizing force to give each individual human rights while fostering a society that cares for one another.

  4. If we are talking about what it is like to live in an American democracy, really–well, I think it is like living at a carnival.

    The carnival, perhaps like the United States has historically functioned on the global scale, depends on the existence of a greater society but functions in a way that is dangerously autonomous. Anyone who has ridden a carnival ride knows that regulation is a myth. Carnivals basically do what they want, getting away with being unsafe and unsanitary with their flashy lights and attractions. The carnies are part of the collective carnival, but they too have individualistic ambitions. They have their own booths, they operate their own rides—some are Senators, some are Supreme Court justices, some are just clowns—and they are seeking their fame and fortune, as Mark Leibovich satirically captures in his portrait of Washington in the article “This Town Melts Down.” Switch out the carnies, and you might get a fortune teller on Twitter, but you are still at the carnival, getting sick from eating too much funnel cake.

    The political party, in keeping up with the metaphor, is like a mirror in the haunted house at the carnival. To live in the American democracy is to live in tension between the individual and the collective. The Anthem portrays a dystopic society in which the collective completely overtakes the individual. But in the American democracy it is not as if each individual reigns supreme, and diversity is a coveted characteristic. In fact, the American democracy does not actually care about the individual, so long as they cough up their money to pay for rides and food, as it is a capitalistic democracy after all. Diversity is celebrated insofar as the bearded lady can serve to make the carnival money. In an American democracy, the individual actually has to compromise for a collective: the political party. The political party claims to represent the individual. But like the mirror in the haunted house, the political party does not produce an honest reflection, an accurate representation of the individuals who, with their forward looking, encourage the mirror’s becoming. The mirror is designed to distort their image, in its own self-serving purpose. It is a tool for the carny operating the haunted house.

    The question thus becomes: why do individuals go to the carnival in the first place? Thomas Frank might argue that they do so because they like the distorted image that they see in the mirror at the Clinton home. I would argue some might not be conscious of the fact that they are at the carnival—it is all they have ever known, and that mirror might be the only place they see themselves, however distorted, in the greater carnival. Others are likely attracted by its empty promises. And still others are career carnies.

  5. Democracy works as an ideal. The purpose is to allow for the rule of the majority with projection of rights and needs of the minority. Ideally there would be equality and equal opportunity, everyone’s voices being heard, and the government and society would be willing to change with the changing needs and desires of the people. In order for this ideal to come about, people would need access to unbiased information and be willing to inform themselves to the best of their ability, and be equally willing to consider the common good when placing their vote.
    Of course the ideal is inevitably susceptible to corruption when put into practice. Modern American democracy faces major issues of both purposeful and unintentional misinformation of the public. The same internet and social media that allows everyone free access to information also allows satire and misinformation to spread quickly. Information is distilled into catchy memes and hashtags which go viral without being fact-checked. People who are not as internet savvy are especially susceptible to basing their vote or political stance on a topic they don’t fully understand if they are unaware of how to distinguish real information from that which is manufactured solely for “likes.” Even those who are internet savvy can easily fall into echo chambers and avoid learning in depth about opposing arguments.
    Another side effect of democracy is its tendency to devolve into a popularity contest, which has worsened over time as voters have more and more access to media. Decades ago, the introduction of television into the democratic process gave more attractive candidates an edge. In the more recent elections, memes and social media posts provide an inexpensive and efficient way to appeal to voters’ emotions, rather than focusing on the arguments for the issues at hand.
    Ideally, a representative of the people should be one of the people, and should present an honest, straightforward account of the issues as well as their own views on those issues. Originally, the role of politicians in the U.S. was viewed as a part-time job so that the person could maintain their “ordinary” status and stay in touch with what everyday citizens want and need. Unfortunately, with modern politicians voting for their own pay raises, accepting campaign gifts and donations, and entertaining lobbyists, there is too much room for corruption and the system has found itself a little bit out of control. In local politics there has been a recent increase in ordinary people throwing their name in the ring and getting involved. However, the further up the ladder one goes, the more it is about connections and campaign funds. Really, any job or career path plays by the rules of “it’s all about who you know,” so perhaps the career of politician is just an unfortunate extension of that. But there really needs to be an overhaul of the entire system in order to get back to an American democracy that truly cares about its people.

  6. A democracy is supposed to represent the needs and ideals of the people, where every vote holds the same weight and the people have a say in how the government is run. If this week’s readings have told us anything, it is that unfortunately that is not what is happening in Washington. Big money is holding more power in Washington and influencing individuals in office of all parties and the policies they hope to put in place. As Mark Leibovich discusses in This Town, the term ‘public service’ is almost synonymous at this point with the ‘self-service’ mentality of Washington. Washington seems to have morphed into a race to the top of all the political and economic elite in the wealthiest city in the United States instead of a stomping ground for individuals elected to represent the needs of the people from their district.

    If the problem is a culture of big money in politics, how can big money be removed when everyone is involved in perpetuating the problem? Would electing a Bernie Sanders as president or an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the House actually make a difference? What if the voter doesn’t believe that big money is actually the problem? Digital and social media, corruption, and big money are all treats to democracy but it is entirely possible that the greatest threat of all is an uneducated voter. The voter holds the power (at least for a minute), but what if the voter doesn’t see what is true? Considering the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, it is easy for the public to be swayed by the media of any political leaning in to believing the ideas of the company (held for a personal or economic agenda). Blind acceptance of a candidate or a party regardless of the actions or beliefs perpetuates the problems and maintains the hierarchy and the “club” mentality of Washington.

    The more money that goes in to Washington the more the average voter loses his or her influence. If the power is to be truly redistributed back in to the hands of the voter, the voter needs to decide that a problem actually exists and a candidate needs to be nominated from and truly representative of the average voter. Pay attention, sheeple!

  7. I’m going to have to have to agree with Genna here regarding campaign finance reform. The most interesting article that I stumbled across this week relates to the big money associated with the current administration’s immigration policy. There are numerous examples of politicians listed here (https://news.littlesis.org/2018/07/05/which-politicians-are-taking-money-from-immigrant-detention-profiteers/) who oppose immigration policy but who benefit from companies who take funding from (or fuel funding into) ICE. If you bank at Wells Fargo, for example (guilt and attempting to reorganize post divorce), you are participating in funding schemes associated with immigration policy that is less than humane. The ACLU recently declared Jess Sessions’ current directive to detain or deport “impassible families,” (families without proper identification documentation or without proof of asylum status) automatically and without pause to be in violation of human rights, however, the organizations outlined in this briefing continue to funnel money into detention centers carrying out these practices at the border. This brings us to a larger issue. Democracy is increasingly about money. Individuals who have access to money, who have knowledge about where it is going, and who have time to research and understand how money affects policy are one step ahead, at least on terms of being able to participate wisely in the system. But the majority of average citizens don’t have (or don’t take) time to participate in democracy. Between work, raising families, and attending school or taking care of debt, etc. many average Americans are too exhausted to take time to learn about the way our capitalism affects our political policy. So where does this leave us? It leaves us, at least, with incentive to organize and to learn. Campaign finance reform can only truly affect democratic processes when a majority of citizens are aware that it needs to exist.

  8. What does it mean to live in a democracy?

    Between our readings of Anthem by Ayn Rand, the excerpt of Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank, and Mark Leibovich’s article This Town Melts Down there is a general anxiety concerning power centers. There is the question of who has the power and who does not. In Anthem it is the “we” the collective wisdom of the crowd, which is portrayed as the lowest common denominator of competencies. Listen Liberal is concerned with the Clinton family as a power center of the democratic party and the changes they have brought to the American democracy. Finally, This Town Melts Down examines the current United States presidency and the atypical behavior of the highest office in the United States government.

    There is a tone of anxiety and a sentiment to each of the three pieces read that our democracy is under attack, though there is no consensus of what it is under attack from. Each presents a valid fear—conformity / group think (Anthem), hypocrisy (Listen Liberal), and the rapid decline of political processes and norms under the Trump administration (This Town Melts Down). Personally, I find all a bit concerning.

    The rise of social media—which is really the rise of the internet for the masses—has had unintended consequences. The new mediums collectively known as social media have facilitated an echo chamber effect that has taken hold and led to increasing extremism on all sides of the political spectrum. Coupled with the decline of news media, particularly print publications, which has led to massive work force reductions, corner cutting, and—in far too many instances—the invasion of questionable revenue models, such as “advertorials.”

    This is increasingly problematic as politicians seem quicker than ever to bend to whatever populist demand is in vogue, incorporating the rhetoric that will get them elected or reelected. The democratic and republican parties are now shifting rapidly in their positions and few individuals seem to be able to reasonably articulate why the prefer one candidate over the other. “He sounds like me,” was a common rhetoric of blue collar Trump voters unphased by the lack of other similarities. Likewise, grand promises—free universal healthcare, massive minimum wage increases and free college/university tuition for all—by Bernie Sanders and later adopted by Hilary Clinton makes one murmur the idiom, “if it sounds too good to be true…”

    Perhaps democracy is always under attack from the inside requiring constant reinforcement and protection from itself.

  9. The first three questions listed: what does it mean to live a democracy, really? What is government doing, really? And finally, whom do elected officials and political parties represent? I found these questions to be particularly thought provoking.

    Attacking the first question, I mean, we run our government through elected representatives so sure, we live in a democracy. However, more and more, votes seem to be being marginalized. It’s almost like, the more things change, the more they stay the same—Leibovich mentioned this self-perpetuation. We elect officials but it’s rare to see surprise candidates win and when they do…too soon? How much control do we really have? And do we truly believe that these people have our best interests in mind? Often, as Thomas Frank said of former president Bill Clinton, officials end up “body slamming the people who got [them] elected.” I tend to see more protection of the political establishment on both party lines, and personally, I don’t know how to change it.

    But what is government doing, really? I just mentioned it; they’re protecting themselves and their membership in “The Club” as stated by Leibovich. Look at the International Women’s Day back in 2015 that was mentioned in the Frank excerpt. There’s always a problem when you have such a discrepancy on stage with “hard working women of color and authoritative women of whiteness.” Politicians, particularly Democrats, always attach a “non-controversial goodness” to many of their platforms. Being a registered independent, I see it on both sides. When are policies actually discussed? These questions are constantly avoided. And when they are addressed, are solutions found to our problems? Political speak: if it’s going to get them into trouble, it’s avoided at all costs. “First, I protect myself, then I protect my establishment.” How can I stay rich? This thought seems to be in the forefront of the minds of elected officials. For instance, Democrats often preach more wealth equality, yet like Frank mentioned of the Clintons, many times that’s the exact opposite of what actually happens.

    The Traub article pits not the left against the right but the sane against the mindlessly angry; what a terrific way to put politics today. With Brexit, Trump, and rising far-right political sentiment, I don’t know what to do with myself. Our democracies seem to have weaponized the far-right and far-left which, in my opinion, isn’t good for anyone. We seem to have forgotten how powerful the “mindlessly angry” are in today’s world. Middle America, another point made by Frank, has also appeared to have fallen by the wayside. Are we looking at the downfall of the two-party system? Is all this just the result of politicians preying on, and taking advantage of their constituents? It’s hard to argue against that. By the minute, I’m starting to believe that our political landscape will see more changes in the future. Pushing individuals to the periphery is not the answer and I hope we see some positive adjustments soon.

    “You know you’ve made it in D.C. when someone says that ‘it isn’t clear what he does’.”—Mark Leibovich

  10. As we begin our journey to explore Democracy, we start by taking a look at what it means to live in a contemporary democracy. This week’s texts paint a vivid depiction of self-interested politicians and businesspeople in a heavily bureaucracy laden political climate. This is not a portrait of a classic democracy in the conventional sense. We do not see a system that values all voices equally and legislation to honor the majority of the populous. Rather, we are given a picture of a nation run by special interest groups and lobbyists. Political parties are governed by self-interest and big business simply for the endorsement and to fill politicians’ pockets. People no long go to Washington DC for public service but rather pursue a career in the nation’s capital for capital… money in their pockets.

    These political parties run on the grounds that they will protect the economically elite and help the economically poor. This leaves the largest part of this nation’s population without appropriate representation with their best interest in mind… the working middle class. The working middle class no longer has a political party. Just as it is outlined in This Town that people now pursue Washington DC for lucrative careers, Listen, Liberal speaks to the influence of big business and the economic elite in this country. Whom do elected officials and political parties really represent? It is the economic elite and their respective big business. The government has developed into a machine to not only protect these industries but help the rich get richer and the poor exist in poverty.

    Anthem helps to paint a picture of what the world, what this nation, could become if the value of individuality and the independent voice is abandoned. We must operate as a nation, a collective, of individuals acting and advocating for interest of the people. If we value the individual and the self, we must realize that, in bucketing an entire country into two political parties, we are silencing the voices of millions and inhibiting the growth of a nation. However, we are approaching a crux, a turning point, in the rhetoric. Regardless of the outcome of the most recent election, we saw something very unique. We witnessed two individuals whom were unaffiliated with the political parties under which they ran emerge on the ballot of the general election. Yes, part of this is a flawed two-party system that only allows for contenders under one of two political parties to be successful in Washington, but this also shows that the people of this country want a change from the status quo. We may be facing obstacles through a tumultuous and difficult time, but if we are to evaluate how to improve the system, we must question it. We must challenge it.

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