Is Democratic Governance Slipping Away Essay

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1997 in the peer-reviewed journal the American Prospect. The authors (Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E, Brady) focus their attention on the theme of political participation and the growing inequality within that participation (e.g., people with money are more involved, which has potentially dire consequences for democracy). An argument can be made that this research presents a prologue to what has become a huge issue and problem in 2014. That is, because of the Supreme Court's 2012 "Citizens United" decision, which allows those with untold millions of dollars to spend their cash on campaigns without any accountability as to who made those contributions, there is a huge participatory inequality in 2014. That said, the scholarly article by Verba, et al., presents an in-depth analysis of why some people get involved in politics -- related to their socioeconomic situations -- and why some people do not get involved in politics.

Focus of the Article in The American Prospect

The realities presented in the article by Verba, et al., relate to the increasing importance of the amount of money that was being given to political campaigns in the late 1990s, versus the time that people spend volunteering for political campaigns in that era. What this all leads to, the authors contend, is that the electorate was shrinking (only 49% of eligible or registered voters showed up at the polls in 1996) in terms of who is voting and who is providing cash to political campaigns.

The thesis: this article sets the stage for an intelligent discussion among knowledgeable people -- or those who wish to become knowledgeable -- about the future of democracy in America; it is not about voting statistics and participatory democracy per se.

The logos style used by the authors is reflected in the logic and the straightforward materials presented. There are no gimmicks, there are no breathlessly eloquent passages, and no scary warnings about the future of American democracy, albeit a close reading of the materials should give pause to an alert student.

The ethos associated with this article is based on the quality and believability of the writing; these authors clearly have done their homework. By using the "Citizen Participation Study" (involving more than 15,000 Americans); by interviewing (one-on-one) 2,517 individuals from that study; by referencing data from twenty and thirty years earlier; by digging deeply into the dynamics of electoral politics; and by pointing to the inevitability of inequality in political campaigns, the authors have done a service to the education of all those interested in American democratic values and principles.

The pathos (emotional appeal) to be found in this article -- an important ingredient for readers to get a sense of value and importance from the narrative -- is presented without myriad descriptive passages and other narrative techniques. How can an alert reader go through this article and not be emotionally moved by the fact that the United States lags well behind other democracies "in voter turnout" -- and that those who are "well-heeled" and "well educated" are far more involved in electoral politics than the poor and uneducated? So, if Americans are becoming cavalier about their democracy -- which the authors point out by showing that only half of the eligible voters were going to the polls -- but money is becoming more important than hands-on volunteer support, that has an emotional message which is not positive for the future.

The tone of this article is informative in a low-key genre. Statements like this one on page 75 -- taken in the context of both 1997 and 2014 -- are matter-of-fact and relevant: "When money replaces time as the principal form of political currency, the playing field is no longer level" because the number of people who can make a difference "is diminished" (Verba, 75). Take that sentence out of an article in 1997 and put it into an article about political inequality in 2014, and it fits perfectly. So by presenting the facts as they are seen in 1997 the authors (unknowingly) have provided a glimpse of the future, and hence, this article is a foreshadowing of what was to come -- even more dramatic inequality

Instead of saying that because the…[continue]

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