Something of major importance happened in the recent presidential election, though it has its roots, of course, farther back in time. We are living through the degradation of democratic politics. The procedures of democracy remain intact, perhaps even improved, but the substance of democracy, popular participation, serious discussion, structured publics) is visibly shrinking. To look with dismay at
the recent election is not at all to sentimentalize the American past; of course we have always had hoopla, demagoguery, ignorance, deceit; but now there really is something new and ominous.
Politics has become largely a function of advertising, advertising an accomplice or branch of television, and television a power that tilts politics more and more into the hands of the rich. Back in the days when political electioneering depended at least partly on lung-power, there could be a rough sort of equality of opportunity among competing candidates of unequal wealth—at least sometimes. Today, money talks and talks—consider a congressional race in Westchester County, New York, where each candidate spent $2,000,000. How could an ordinary person, let alone someone with unorthodox views, compete?...
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