Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and a political analyst on Brand X with Russell Brand. You can follow him at http://www.twitter.com/matthewstoller .
Every election cycle, Americans are greeted with a bevy of condescending lectures from well-heeled political elites about the importance of voting. It’s your duty. People died for right to vote. And so forth. This year, a far more compelling message about democracy is coming from miners in Spain, who, beset by austerity measures imposed by both political parties, are shooting at riot police with homemade rockets and slingshots.
These miners – who live in a country that was until recently considered a wealthy Western democracy – have the right to vote. But in spite of their right to vote, politicians and bankers in Spain are threatening their families with endemic poverty and powerlessness. These miners feel that they may have a vote, but they have no voice – as one of them said, their democracy is just dictatorship by another name. And so they are doing what people have done for thousands of years when confronted with a series of indignities from their political leaders – they are rebelling.
Before examining similar unrest could occur in America, let’s go to our own leadership’s attitude towards voting. This cycle, the award for cynicism in civics goes to Obama advisor turned millionaire banker Peter Orszag, who wrote an editorial for Bloomberg in June arguing we should make voting mandatory. Just six months before arguing for mandatory voting, Orszag wrote a column in the New Republic subtitled “Why we need less democracy” , arguing we need “depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions”, most likely in order to cut social spending programs on which normal Americans not in the political class rely. So on the one hand, Orszag