League of Women Voters

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Is the United States Becoming an Oligarchy? Threats to Democracy and What We Can Do About It

On-air date: 
Mon, 12/08/2014
Listen to or download this episode here: 

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Another mid-term election and more dismal news about the state of our democracy.  Voting participation, always low during mid-term elections, was lower than ever.  Even here in civic-minded Minnesota, participation, while higher than the national average, fell below turnout in 2010.  Meanwhile, campaign spending reached record proportions.  So called “dark money”—campaign contributions that are made anonymously—played a key role in both local and statewide races around the nation.  Here in Minnesota, outside money flowed into rural legislative races—and according to many experts, were a critical factor in the DFL loss of control of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

And what did all that money buy?  In too many cases, misdirection and triviality: the political equivalent of empty calories.  Meanwhile turnout declines as voters tuned out—and who can blame them?  There is a direct relationship between the decline of political participation and the increase in economic inequality.  And while members of today’s oligarchy don’t wear black hats and smoke long cigars, the result is the same. More power for the few—less for the rest of us.