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  • Writer's pictureOren Levin-Waldman

The Hollowness or Hypocrisy of the Words “Our Democracy”

We hear a lot of talk these days about “our democracy.” Progressives claim that is being assaulted by those on the right. Those on the right claim that it is being assaulted by the left. As a case in point, the leaked opinion on Roe v. Wade for the right, abortion aside, is about the right of the people to make policy decisions in their respective state legislatures. For Progressives, it is anti-democratic because the Court is ceding rights protection to the states. Therefore, the Supreme Court should be packed so that it plays the role of a super legislature. Well, here is a newsflash: the Court was never intended to be a legislative body involved in policy making. Moreover, the Constitution is a contract between the states and the national government; it is not a pact between government and the people.

This is just one example of how public officials and loud policy advocates — or those who make up our elites — are really out of touch with the public. There are many more. First of all, it is important to note that a majority of the public is of the belief that most public officials don’t really care what they want. According to data from the American National Election Studies following the 2020 election 60.4 percent indicated that they did not believe that public officials really cared what the public wanted.

For politicians daring to talk about “our democracy,” this is quite a statement. Democracy now means that public officials need not be attentive to the will of the public? Or does it only mean that they don’t need to be if it is contrary to the Progressives’ agenda? Ironically, however, among those who agreed somewhat, 76.5 percent were from blue states compared to 23.5 percent from red states.

Now we can talk about specific issues, which again Progressives and Democrats appear not to want to talk about, but which will not be going away before the 2022 midterm election. Immigration, of course, is still out there. 49.1 percent believe that it is somewhat likely that immigrants will take away jobs. But of this 49.1 percent 57.1 percent were in blue states compared to 42.9 percent in red states. And yet, Progressives have been talking about open borders, which does not appear to be what the public wants.

When asked about the effect of illegal immigration on the crime rate, 54.7 percent said that they believed it would increase crime, and slightly more of this percentage came from blue states. Were it the case, as Progressives have been alleging since the 2016 election that Trump and his Republican base were truly anti-immigrant because they are racists, we would expect more of this view to be expressed in the red states.

Most people (64.2 percent) favor providing a path to citizenship, with slightly more favoring such a path from blue states. But of those in red states, 63.6 percent favored it, compared to 18.2 percent who opposed it and 18.2 percent who neither favored or opposed. It is on the question of whether unauthorized immigrants should be returned to their native countries, we see more people from red states favor returning them while more people from blue states oppose. Still, overall, more people (35.8 percent) favor it while only 24.6 percent oppose it. Still, a path to citizenship is not the same thing as an open border. Nor is it the same thing as being opposed to strict border enforcement.

During Trump’s presidency we were fed the narrative that the evil administration was separating children from detained parents. 66 percent opposed separation, and again although slightly more in blue states opposed it, 68.2 percent in red states opposed it compared to 31.8 percent that neither favored or opposed. No one in red states favored it.

One still wonders to what extent public officials are listening to the public. When it comes to guns, there is more grey area than Democrats want control and Republicans stand by the Second Amendment. And yet, what we are seeing is that Progressives and Democrats are using the tragedies of the most recent mass shootings in both Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX to push through gun control legislation while Republicans hide behind the Second Amendment, which most likely does not mean what they think it means.

On the question of whether the federal government should make it easier or more difficult to buy a gun, 47.2 percent said that the rules should be kept the same compared to 45.3 percent who said that it should be more difficult. Although more from blue states than from red states thought that it should be more difficult, more from blue states than from red states thought that the rules should remain the same. So, is it really the case that the public wants new gun control legislation?

When asked how they felt about background checks, 81.1 percent said that they favored background checks. Again, more people in blue states than in red states favor background checks, but in red states 81.8 percent favor background checks compared to 9.1 percent who neither favor nor oppose.

If anything, the data on guns is perhaps a cautionary tale for Republicans who continue to argue that more gun control will not necessarily keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Here they may have a point, but it is beside the point. On the question of banning assault style weapons, 47.2 percent favor it compared to 28.3 percent who neither favor nor oppose and 22.6 percent who oppose. Here more people from red states than from blue states favor. When Republicans say they could favor “sensible” gun laws, maybe Republican politicians should listen.

The point here is this: if public officials really believe in the concept called “our democracy,” then they need to listen to what the public wants because the essence of democracy means being attentive to the will of the public. But as we know from the first question we looked at, most people do not really have much faith that democracy in the U.S. has any real meaning. Any number of studies of Congress bear this out. These studies show that members of Congress tend only to be responsive to those who are affluent, and not at all responsive to those in the middle and down to those who are poor.

When talking about being more responsive to the affluent, we are not just talking about individual voters who are affluent, but monied interests, which would include big interest groups that can pour lots of money into campaigns, electorally and legislatively. These studies have not found Democrats to be more responsive than Republicans. Rather, as members of an elite, they presume to know more about issues than the public. For the elites, democracy is really a pain in the neck. Democracy is only important when it can be used to bludgeon Republicans. Well far from being a democracy, that is the meaning of hypocrisy.

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