A political conservative and liberal go head-to-head on different issues
This week’s topic: What is the greatest threat to American democracy?
In America, we have never been more polarized. We see those who think differently than us, behave differently and live differently as stupid or lesser than. The Pew Research Center reported that 85% of Americans believe that debates have become less fact-based, less respectful and less focused.
That’s why we’re here. We have chosen one person who tends to lean politically right and another who leans politically left. After being given a prompt and asked to provide their take, they must come together, in the end, to come up with a solution to the problems they see.
Conservative: Abigail Faulkner
The most worrying thing that happens in American politics is lobbying. America’s largest corporations and industry have far too much say in the bills that get passed and aren’t regulated enough.
Big tech, which for this article I want to specify I am referring to Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook is a huge threat to the system that decides which bills pass and which bills don’t.
For example, these companies mine and sell our data and information. Their sites often can facilitate racism, sexism, bigotry and conspiracy theories. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that things like the anti-vaxxers and other harmful theories wouldn’t be long-lived if it wasn’t for these sites.
And on top of that nastiness, the amount they spend on lobbying and lining the pockets of Congressmen and women is ridiculous. For a more detailed report on what exactly gets spent and who is spending it I highly recommend checking out the report published by publicspending.org. I will just be outlining some of the highlights.
First of all, and most troubling, 94% of congressmen that have handled antitrust bills have received money from Big Tech. If you don’t know what an anti-trust bill is, I would describe it to you as a bill that prevents companies from amassing too much power and control over the market. It prevents monopolies.
As a result of all these factors, politicians aren’t being swayed by the needs or desires of the American people but it’s far more likely that they are going to be swayed by the green.
Big Tech also spent 124 million dollars on lobbying which broke its election record on money spent. Of the top 10 lobbyists in Washington, five are from big tech.
That being said, Big Tech is far from the only industries that need more regulations, they are just the newest players. Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma and the meat and dairy industry are all guilty of the same crime. The crime of using their profits to convince members of Congress that don’t benefit them.
I believe that if lobbying wasn’t a factor and it was disbanded, we would begin to see the American people have a lot more trust in the system and our elected officials. We would begin to see more bills favor the green movement and work to solve climate change. We would see policies passed that help people that need it and not put the responsibility of helping those in need on for-profit companies.
Liberal: Delaney Halloran
The biggest threat to our democracy is our nationalistic tendencies. Notably, nationalism, which is the assertion that one’s nation and interests are above those of other nations, is not at all the same as patriotism, a love of one’s country. Americans certainly have no problems with wearing the flag on everything from t-shirts to fanny packs, what we do have a problem with is self-reflection.
Nationalism takes America past the proclamations that “This is a great country,” to ones that say “This is the best country,” and in many ways, America is not the best country.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has us listed at 30th in education, 46th in healthcare, 121nd in peace and 25th in the standard of living. Despite how low these numbers are for a nation of our wealth and influence, many people still insist that America’s the greatest country in the world.
Importantly, America has better education, healthcare, peace, happiness, standard of living and even violence than many countries. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to ever improve our country when everyone is constantly insisting we’re already the best.
America’s gun violence mirrors countries that we deprecate for being ‘crime-ridden,’ but we refuse to change these things because we see gun ownership as inherently American. More American than guns, flags or religion is actually fighting against the establishment, something we have seemed to forget.
From the colonizers who took America, to the founding fathers who broke away from England, to our best American heroes who marched for their Civil Rights and their right to live, America’s greatest moments have been the ones towards progress, not the ones where we dug our heels in for the sake tradition.
Nationalism is a blinding force that keeps us from seeing that we are an imperfect nation, and that’s okay as long as we do something about it.
In his book “Social Stratification and Inequality,” Harold Kerbo discussed research that showed Americans are more likely than their counterparts in other industrialized nations to falsely believe that the amount of inequality in the U.S. is not only less, but when it is present, they are also more likely to believe it is deserved.
Nationalistic tendencies keep us from moving forward, they keep us from seeing truths that to many other nations seem blatantly obvious and they keep us from being truly American. If we want our democracy to remain intact, and avoid the serious destruction that nationalistic countries of history have faced, we need to recognize where we have room to improve.
Delaney, I definitely see your point pertaining to nationalism and how ultimately it can be more harmful than helpful. I completely agree that we do have changes we need to implement to make this country a better place and I think that should be a bipartisan belief. We should always be shooting to do better and accomplish more.
We should be striving to cut down on gun violence, make jobs available to all, treat everyone equally and help people who need it. There is definitely a folly when it comes to blind nationalism.
I am grateful to live here, happy to live in a country where I can practice Christianity and speak about it freely. At the same time, it’s not lost on me that not everyone has the opportunity to do so in America. Historically, people of other faiths, Muslims specifically have been discriminated against for their beliefs and that’s not right.
The idea that I am grateful to live in this country and we have room to improve are ideas that can coexist.
Abby, honestly, I have little issue with seeing an end to lobbying in politics. I don’t think funding should be what makes or breaks either the bills that get passed or the political candidates who get elected. Having industry, and as you mentioned ‘big tech,’ being able to decide the political landscape of this country is deeply concerning.
In a way, I can see the threat you see and my own going hand in hand. Oftentimes, it seems many Americans are quick to criticize when candidates of the opposing party accept funding from less-than-reputable sources but are happy to ignore when individuals of their own party, or those they see as serving their interest, do the same.
If we only criticize the actions of those who we see as disagreeing with us, we become hypocrites incapable of recognizing that much like our nation is a work in progress, politicians and policies are most certainly not infallible either.
More than this, I would love to see an end to lobbying coming from media sources. When the individuals feeding the messages about candidates are the same ones funding those candidates, our information loop is closed to criticism, which can certainly become dangerous.