I read an interesting article about the difference between corporate America and political America. In a nutshell, corporations’ bottom line is with the public. Politicians’ bottom line is with their donors.
Today, ironically, it seems that corporate America is more beholden to and therefore more sensitive to public opinion than politicians are. This makes sense. Corporations deal directly with the public. They function in more of a true democracy than politicians do.
Politicians have a huge and powerful layer of lobbyists, special interests and large donors that shield them from the will of the people. Or at least the vagaries of public opinion.
The result of this is dramatic. For example, Roseanne Barr makes some egregious racist and conspiracy theory tweets. Within 24 hours, her show is canceled by the ABC Network. That was done in response to and in fear of the outcry by an outraged public. The network has to placate their viewers or risk losing them.
On the other hand, Trump has frequently tweeted awful, racist and conspiracy theory comments. Each one worse than the last. Yet there have been no consequences for him. Despite great public outrage. He is protected from the effects of public opinion by his loyal Republican base and his congressional supporters. In turn, the Republican congressmen are bolstered by their large donors, including lobbyists and special interest groups. They don’t have to pay attention to the negative reactions of over 60% of the general public.
So, our political system is, in some ways, less democratic than our corporate system. Starbucks closed their stores across the country to hold a nationwide racial sensitivity training session. This was done in response to public pressure after some racist incidents at a few of their stores. Again, public opinion had a direct and immediate effect on the company’s policies and actions. In contrast, there are layers of buffer between politicians and their constituents. At least between elections.
Elections bring politicians a bit closer to their constituents, at least temporarily. But it’s still not the direct connection that corporations enjoy. You either buy the corporation’s product or shop in their store or you don’t. There is nothing between your checkbook and the company you are buying from. Even at election time, special interest and donor money can shield a politician from his voters. And can have disproportionate influence on the politician.
Take the NRA. The NRA has only five million members. Public opinion is over 80% in favor of reasonable gun control. That’s over 200 million Americans who support gun control legislation. But somehow those meager five million people wield huge sway over a majority of politicians. That’s because the NRA throws an outrageous amount of money at politicians. No matter what a politician’s constituents think or want, the NRA will get the politician’s vote if the price is right.
The Electoral College is another buffer zone between Presidential candidates and the American voter. The popular vote does not determine the president. That would be the pure democracy that corporations have to deal with.
Local politics in certain ‘swing’ states have a disproportionate influence on presidential election results. And the voters in those states have a disproportionate influence on elections. That leaves the rest of the country out in the cold.
Lately, it seems like we’re getting even farther away from the concept of democracy. Now, we have never been a pure democracy. But it seemed that the ‘will of the people’, at some points in our recent history, had more sway. Maybe I’m being idealistic. Maybe public opinion never had a major influence on elections or on politicians once in office.
But I would love to live in a country where public opinion could have a direct effect on our country’s policies. Like Roseanne losing her show within 24 hours – I would love to see meaningful gun control regulations enacted 24 hours after public opinion goes nuts over yet another fatal school mass shooting.
I don’t believe that that will happen anytime soon. But maybe if Democrats can motivate people to vote who usually don’t vote, public opinion might be able to overwhelm the ‘money talks’ bias of the political system. At least I can nurture that dream for the next five months!