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Full text: The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2022

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-03-28 13:46

II. Hollowed-out American-style Electoral Democracy

Political donations have made American elections a game for the rich, alienation of two-party politics has turned into polarized politics, and American democracy is losing its foundation in public support. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once said political bribery has tainted the U.S. political system. "It's just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being at the essence of getting the nominations for President, or to elect the President," Carter said.

Money in elections has set a new record. American elections are at the heart of its democracy, powered by money. Election costs have soared since donation limits were lifted in 2010 and again in 2014. According to an analysis published by OpenSecrets, the total cost of the 2022 state and federal midterm elections was nearly 17 billion dollars, the most expensive election in history. Federal candidates and political committees spent 8.9 billion dollars, while state candidates, party committees, and ballot measure committees spent 7.8 billion dollars, both of which set all-time records. CNN reported on Dec. 8, 2022, that the five most expensive Senate races of 2022 have seen nearly 1.3 billion dollars in spending across the primary and general elections. Leading the way is the Pennsylvania Senate race, where nearly 375 million dollars have been spent on the race this cycle.

Political donations create an oligarchy. U.S. politics has been kidnapped by capital and there is a stable "money-return" relationship. "Of the people, by the people, for the people" has become "of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, and for the 1 percent," as the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement says: "We are the 99 percent, but controlled by the 1 percent." Helene Landemore, a political theorist at Yale University, wrote in an article published by the Foreign Policy magazine in December 2021 that American democracy lacks "people's power," and that only the very rich, a very small part of the population, can use their very high economic status to push for a set of policy priorities that serve themselves.

"American billionaires spent a whopping 880 million dollars on the elections by the end of October, with the final total likely approaching an astronomical 1 billion dollars. That's a game-changing amount of money that undoubtedly influenced the electoral outcomes we are now seeing," Fortune magazine wrote on Dec. 9, 2022, in a report, titled "Billionaires had an extra 1 trillion dollars to influence the midterm elections. Save American democracy by taxing extreme wealth."

Billionaire wealth has been, as Americans for Tax Fairness Executive Director Frank Clemente put it, "drowning our democracy," the magazine reported. Billionaires made up 15 percent of all federal political itemized donations from Jan. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022, up from 11 percent in the 2020 election cycle, Reuters reported on Nov. 9, 2022, adding that Financier George Soros was the top individual donor, spending more than 128 million dollars to support Democratic campaigns. With plutocrats using their money to control the outcome of elections, U.S. elections are increasingly out of line with the nature of democracy.

Dark money donations secretly manipulate the direction of elections. Dark money has been invisibly influencing U.S. elections. The Brennan Center for Justice reported on Nov. 16, 2022, that four party-aligned dark money groups pumped almost 300 million dollars into this election cycle by giving to sister super political action committees (PACs) or buying cleverly worded ads. There are hundreds more politically active groups pouring secret money into the elections.

A billionaire secretly transferred 1.6 billion dollars to a Republican political group, the largest known political advocacy donation in American history, according to a report titled "Billions in 'dark money' is influencing US politics" by the Guardian on Aug. 29, 2022. In 2020 alone, more than 1-billion-dollar worth of dark money flooded around weak disclosure rules and into America's elections. Heading into the 2022 election, the situation is getting worse. The two parties' major Senate and House Super PACs are all being funded by anonymous dark money groups that are not required to disclose their donors. Dark money has secretly captured the U.S. political parties and government, and the majority of voters have become tools of political games.

Multiple tactics and manipulation of election results. Many Americans have completely abandoned the idea of equality, and it is often these people who reject the idea of equality who set the rules that others have to follow, said J. R. Pole in his book titled "The Pursuit of Equality in American History." Laws restricting voters' eligibility to vote are frequently introduced. According to the study published by the Brennan Center for Justice on May 26, 2022, 18 states passed 34 restrictive laws in 2021. For the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers in 39 states have considered at least 393 restrictive bills, which have disproportionately affected voters of color by setting up a series of voting obstacles. As many as 200,000 voters could be at risk of having their registrations canceled after Arizona enacted a law regulating the provision of documentary proof of citizenship for voter registration. On Aug. 4, 2022, the Global Organization Against Hate and Extremism published a report titled "Americans' Fears Suppressing Participation in Democracy," which said that 40 percent of Black people and 37 percent of Hispanic people very worried being denied the ability to cast a ballot. Strict voting eligibility laws blocked nearly 16 percent of Mississippi's Black voting-age population from casting a ballot. Mississippi has one of the highest concentrations of Black people in the country, yet has not elected a Black person to statewide office in well over a century, reported The Guardian on its website in an article entitled "The racist 1890 law that's still blocking thousands of Black Americans from voting" on Jan. 8, 2022. The National Urban League's release of the "2022 State of Black America: Under Siege the Plot to Destroy Democracy" on April 12, 2022, showed that in 2021 alone, 20 states have leveraged census data to redraw congressional maps. These means of manipulating elections have deprived a large number of voters of their voting eligibility, leaving equal voting rights to exist on paper only.

American elections are accompanied by violence and intimidation. Its political history has not been short of violence and terror. Historically, groups such as the notorious Ku Klux Klan prevented African Americans from voting through violence such as beatings, lynchings, and assassinations, creating a sense of fear that continues to this day.

Voters may face intimidation at the polls and beyond from vigilante actors, the Brennan Center for Justice said in a report released on Oct. 28, 2022, adding that in Arizona, right-wing extremist groups have recruited volunteers to monitor drop boxes, some of whom often showed up armed and in tactical gear.

The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism said in a report on Aug. 4, 2022, that there is a growing sense of fear among Americans, with minorities particularly concerned about security at the polls and voters generally worried about safety at polling stations. Overall, 63 percent of those surveyed said they are "very worried" about such things as violence, harassment, and intimidation happening at their polling place. The psychological shadow of lynching and the atmosphere of fear became a great obstacle for voters to exercise their right to vote.

Two-party politics has become a polarized one. Political polarization, especially the polarization of two-party politics, has been one of the most striking features of American politics in the past three decades. The widening ideological divide and opposition between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have expanded the tear in American society and led to the idling of American politics.

Around 28 percent of Americans named "political extremism or polarization" as one of the most important issues facing the country, according to a survey by the U.S. poll tracker FiveThirtyEight on June 14, 2022, adding that 64 percent said they felt political polarization is mostly driven by political and social elites.

According to a report by NBC NEWS on Oct. 23, 2022, 81 percent of Democrats said they believe the Republican Party's agenda poses a threat that, if it isn't stopped, will destroy America, while 79 percent of Republicans believe the same of the Democratic Party's agenda. Seventy-one percent of voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction. "It seems like voters are no longer looking for a 'Contract with America.' They want a divorce," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.

Political polarization and social rifts have made it difficult to reach a democratic consensus, and election farce and post-election chaos have become prominent features of U.S. politics. The polarization of party contention and vicious rivalry has led to the collapse of political trust and brought serious governance crisis to the United States, wrote Marc J. Hetherington, professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, and Thomas J. Rudolph, professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, in their book, titled "Why Washington Won't Work: Polarization, Political Trust, and the Governing Crisis."

Government officials take advantage of their positions for personal gain. High-level politicians can in advance get access to a lot of sensitive information that could allow them to make profits. The reported net assets of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with her husband Paul Pelosi, are worth more than 114 million U.S. dollars, and a majority of their wealth is derived from investments such as stocks and options, The Hill said in an opinion piece on July 24, 2022. In March 2021, Paul exercised options to purchase 25,000 Microsoft shares worth more than 5 million dollars. Less than two weeks later, the U.S. Army disclosed a 21.9-billion dollar deal with Microsoft. Shares of the company rose sharply after the deal was announced. In June 2022, Paul bought up to 5 million dollars in stock options from Nvidia, a leading semiconductor company. The purchase came as Congress was set to vote on legislation that would result in 52 billion dollars in subsidies allocated to elevate the chip-production industry. During Nancy Pelosi's term as the house speaker, the Pelosis have made approximately 30 million dollars from trades involving big tech companies the former House speaker is responsible for regulating. Of the 435 House members, 183 traded stocks through themselves or their immediate family members from 2019 to 2021, Daily Mail said in an opinion piece on Sept. 13, 2022. It added that at least 97 bought or sold stocks, bonds, or other financial assets through themselves or their spouses that directly intersected with their congressional work. A Wall Street Journal investigation on Oct. 11, 2022, found that more than 2,600 officials at agencies from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department disclosed stock investments in companies while those same companies were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies. In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, former Pennsylvania judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted 2.8 million dollars in illegal payments from two for-profit lockups, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Aug. 18, 2022. Ciavarella pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to the facilities, the report added. Many top U.S. politicians were making empty promises to voters while profiting financially from their positions.

Public confidence in American democracy continues to decline. American scholars Thomas R. Dye, Harmon Zeigler and Louis Schubert pointed out in their book The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics that few Americans today still believe that government is run for the benefit of the people. Most see the political system as run by a few big interests for their own benefit, leaving the average person forgotten behind, the book added. Sixty-seven percent of Americans think the nation's democracy is in danger of collapse, said a poll by The Quinnipiac University Poll on Aug. 31, 2022. AP said in a report on Oct. 19, 2022, that there is a general despair over democracy in America which comes after decades of increasing polarization nationwide. Just 9 percent of U.S. adults think democracy is working "extremely" or "very well," while 52 percent say it's not working well, it added. PR Newswire reported on Nov. 4, 2022, that a nonpartisan More Perfect poll before the midterm election showed that 86 percent of voters said the U.S. democracy faces very serious threats. Seventy-two percent of American voters rated the health of American democracy as poor; 64 percent said there is too much money in politics; 61 percent believed U.S. politics is corrupt; and 58 percent thought there is too much-biased information and misinformation in American democracy. According to a survey by NBC News on Nov. 9, 2022, 72 percent of Democratic voters, 68 percent of Republican voters and 70 percent of independents agreed that democracy was threatened. Public confidence in American democracy continues to decline, reflecting that American democracy is losing popular support.

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