If you have "no place to go," come here!

Here's the study that nukes "Make me do it," "lesser of two evils," and every other legacy partisan talking point

I forget whether I gave this article its own post, but it certainly deserves it. Allan J. Lichtman in The Hill (of all places):

A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

This study should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government. To reclaim the promise of American democracy, ordinary citizens must act positively to change the relationship between the people and our government

The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level." [Emphasis beyond italics mine. Does blink still work? Alas, no.] he analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.

So there you have it. That makes electoral politics 100% kayfabe with respect to policy[1], no?

And that takes care of every legacy party apologist talking point you've ever heard, including "Make me do it," "lesser of two evils," "he has to say that," "his heart is in the right place," "more and better Democrats," "war on women," "but what about the Supreme Court?" and all the rest. There is clearly politics being practiced, and there's plenty of conflict (along the co-operation and collusion) at the elite level, but the elite are playing their own game, and it has nothing to do with you.

I find that perspective rather freeing, to tell you the truth.

NOTE [1] I'm adding the qualifier "with respect to policy" because the social capital of networking, even in the broken context of party politics, is still valuable. So is the insight into policy that ought to be passed. But, as I keep saying, the legacy parties need to be destroyed, and I don't care which of 'em goes first. That's the only way I can see to exert a more, er, direct influence on the elites.

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BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

It takes a movement to stand up to elite vested interests. "Roots" alone, whether grass or net or what have you ... is not enough if not connected to a movement that does not depend for its livelihood on those same elite vested interests.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

Now we are getting into sufficiency and necessity questions. Kewl.

Now, I've never spearheaded a successful revolution, or even been hanging around when it was happening ...

... so this is just spitballing and/or from reading history ...

... but I'd reckon it takes a movement to build those structures.

Submitted by lambert on

But we haven't had a movement did that, although Occupy certainly tried. There's a farm in my area called "Fail Better"....

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

Yes, change is hard, because most efforts fail even if you are on the right track.

The realization that major reform has rarely been accomplished in this country without a movement behind it leads a lot of people to try to build a movement, or to call what they are doing anyway a movement ...

... but a status quo establishment is made up of institutions that have many ways to continue reproducing itself and many ways to defend their vulnerable points ... that's part of how they came to be part of the status quo establishment.

So, yeah, the number of "movements" that aspire to be movements probably outnumber the ones that establish the institutions to reproduce themselves to actually become movements ...

... and of the movements that get past the "failure to launch" filter, a large share would get astray, getting diverted away from the serious pursuit of their original goal.

And the ones that stay the course, a lot of them attract sufficient attention from the defenders of the status quo because they are fighting the good fight that its the vulnerability of the movement that is uncovered and the movement taken down rather than the status quo.

So the odds of success for efforts to establish effective movementss to achieve fundamental reform are very low. Seems to me that those are better odds than the odds of success from not trying.

Submitted by lambert on

... and then there would be the failure to achieve orbital velocity (Occupy) or land successfully (Tahrir Square).

But I could also wish for a metaphor that respected the complexities (obfuscatory or not) or the systems we are dealing with.