Democracy Is Dead, Welcome to 'Vetocracy'

Thomas Friedman says special interests rule because government can't act

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 22, 2012 5:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – The US isn't a democracy anymore. It's a "vetocracy," with a system designed to prevent anyone from doing much of anything, Thomas Friedman argues in the New York Times. The constitution's system of checks and balances "assumes—indeed requires—a certain minimum level of cooperation on major issues," he observes. But today's America is distressingly polarized, and lawmakers' every move is broadcast online or on cable news, "making back-room deals less possible and public posturing the 24/7 norm."

That's especially problematic because new roadblocks, like the Senate's increasingly routine use of the filibuster, have rendered even united majorities impotent. In vetocracies like ours, special interests "can, like a multi-limbed octopus, choke the life out of a political system." We need to clear out the rules holding the majority back and preventing us from making bold decisions. "I know what you're thinking: 'That will never happen.' And do you know what I'm thinking? 'Then we will never be a great country again.'"

The Capitol Building is seen the night of April 7, 2011, at a time when lawmakers were frantically negotiating to avoid a government shutdown.
The Capitol Building is seen the night of April 7, 2011, at a time when lawmakers were frantically negotiating to avoid a government shutdown.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
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We can’t be great as long as we remain a vetocracy rather than a democracy. Our deformed political system — with a Congress that’s become a forum for legalized bribery — is now truly holding us back. - Thomas Friedman

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