Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Fundamental Contradiction of American Society?

The pie chart captures the total national media coverage (including online content) of the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates from the FDA's 7,921 data points (Foundation for Democratic Advancement, 2012).
It has become clear to me through my research at the Foundation for Democratic Advancement that American society, as an example and not exclusive to this society, functions with a fundamental deficiency, which likely prevents the society and country from attaining the highest public good.

On the one hand, the free market system is entrenched in American society, whereby "uncompetitive" economic practices are illegal and deterred. The American Sherman Anti-trust Act (1890) establishes the legal framework for uncompetitive practices in the American marketplace. From the 2012 FDA Electoral Fairness Audit Report on the United States:

U.S. antitrust laws are rooted in the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), which provides remedy against monopoly or attempt to monopolize. The Act does not necessarily ban monopolies; it bans monopolies, which stem from anti-competitive conduct such as price fixing, bid rigging, or agreed market allocation by competitors (U.S. Department of Justice, 2012, and Wikipedia, Sherman Antitrust Act, 2012)

Interestingly, the U.S. legal system does not ban oligopolies and monopolies except in instances perceived as uncompetitive practices. The U.S. national television market, for example, is currently in a state of oligopoly with the three major television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, with 82.2 percent television news market share in terms of the primetime news audience. There is no claim of uncompetitive practice against this oligopoly (FDA U.S. Media Study, 2012).

On the other hand, the U.S. federal electoral system is rooted in an oligopoly of two parties which is linked to uncompetitive practices. There is no mention of "uncompetitive" practices in the U.S. election legislation. Yet based on the 2012 FDA Audit Report on the United States, there is significant evidence that the U.S. electoral system functions from uncompetitive practices in the form of election laws which favors a two-party system:

Examples:

A. No expenditure limit on congressional candidates and privately funded presidential candidates: this provision favors candidates who are better fund raisers and encourages influence by wealthy special and minority interests.

B. Contributions are unreflective of U.S. per capita income: this provision favors wealthy citizens who can afford, for example, the $46,200 limit on contributions to multiple candidates.

C. No cap on contributions to independent third-parties: this provision favors wealthy individuals, corporations, and labor unions, and provides a means for special and minority interests to influence election discourse, and thus, election outcomes.

D. No cap on personal contributions by congressional candidates and privately funded presidential candidates: this provision favors wealthy candidates.

E. Expenditure limit on publicly funded presidential candidates and cap on personal contributions by publicly funded presidential candidates are unreflective of U.S. per capita income: this provision favors wealthy, publicly funded presidential candidates and candidates who are better able to fund raise, and thereby, potentially allows for influence by special and minority interests on these candidates (2012 FDA Electoral Audit Report on the United States).

F. No legislation to prevent gerrymandering may impact the voice of voters in electoral districts if those districts are set up to favor particular parties.

All these provisions favor the major political parties due to their entrenchment in the U.S. society and political system. In addition, there are no provisions to encourage competitive multi-party elections.

2. U.S. media legislation favors the two major parties by having no ownership concentration laws or code of coverage during electioneering periods. In addition, U.S. legislation on national debates is set up again to favor the two major parties by only requiring two parties in the debates and creating a high barrier entry of 15 percent of popular support. 

All these provisions favor the two major political parties due to their entrenchment in the U.S. society and the political system. In addition, there are no provisions to encourage competitive multi-party elections. 

Evidence of Uncompetitive U.S. Election Process:

1. The result of the U.S. federal electoral system is competitive between the two major parties, and no competition from any other party. This lack of competition from third-parties is illustrated by the media coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election, in which Obama and Romney received 98.75 percent of coverage in the last 32 days of the campaign, while all other parties received 1.25 percent (FDA U.S. Media Study, 2012).

2. The top five candidates have raised over $1 billion in direct campaign contributions - not including any money from super PACs. Mitt Romney raised $413,141,499 in direct campaign contributions, while Barack Obama raised $644,613,946. The top three third party candidates raised about $3.3 million combined (ProCon.org, 2012).

3. 2012 U.S. Popular vote and Electoral College votes are also evidence of uncompetitive multi-party electoral process:

Popular Vote Results:


ACTUAL RESULTS - POPULAR VOTE






Barack Obama


65,464,068

50.95%
Mitt Romney


60,781,275

47.31%
Gary Johnson


1,272,558

0.99%
Jill Stein


465,766

0.36%
Virgil Goode


121,114

0.09%
All Other Parties/Candidates


371,376

0.29%









128,476,157



Electoral College Vote Results:

Obama: 332 votes

Romney: 206 votes

All other presidential candidates: zero votes. 
 
Underlying the uncompetitive nature of U.S. elections barring the two major parties, the representatives in the U.S. Congress comprised of Republicans and Democrats pass the federal election laws. Based on the electoral system they have created, it is clear that they have no interest in a competitive election process for all registered parties. The leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties likely justify the U.S federal electoral system on grounds of healthy electoral competition between the two major parties, while ignore the lack of competition from any other party.

I can only conclude that the two U.S. federal parties have authoritarian streaks (rather than democratic streaks). If unchecked, these streaks may continue to undermine the American public good, in terms of the legitimacy of the federal electoral system and resulting public policies and laws, and continue to act as a fundamental contradiction in American society.

Consequences of the U.S. Federal Electoral System's Uncompetitive Nature:

1. Limitation on electoral discourse (rooted in uncompetitive processes)

2. Limitation on electoral choice (rooted in uncompetitive processes)

These two limitations impact American federal policy and legislation, and governmental leadership of the country with the American populous facing the repercussions. With less electoral competition, the better candidates may not be getting elected. (It may be argued that the primaries are inclusive of various candidates, but the primaries are limited to the two major parties. So any candidates who are not part of these parties, are left out.)

The premise behind these points is that fair competition, whether fair competition in the marketplace or in an election period, yields the best results as compared to other ways of interaction like selected competition or unfair competition.

For further discussion on these consequences, please listen to the Brian Seaman Interview:

Brian Seaman Issue of the U.S. Media and Two-Party System



 




Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director




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