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A third theory predicts that business groups such as the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and the National Beer Wholesalers Association carry the day. A fourth theory holds that policy reflects the views of the economic elite. Gilens and Page tested those theories by tracking how well the preferences of various groups predicted the way that Congress and the executive branch would act on 1, policy issues over a span of two decades. The results were shocking. Economic elites and narrow interest groups were very influential: They succeeded in getting their favored policies adopted about half of the time, and in stopping legislation to which they were opposed nearly all of the time.
Mass-based interest groups, meanwhile, had little effect on public policy. As for the views of ordinary citizens, they had virtually no independent effect at all. Outlets from The Washington Post to Breitbart News cited this explosive finding as evidence of what overeager headline writers called American oligarchy.
The most breathless claims made on the basis of their study were clearly exaggerations. Yet their work is another serious indication of a creeping democratic deficit in the land of liberty. The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. Only over the course of the 19th century did a set of entrepreneurial thinkers begin to dress an ideologically self-conscious republic up in the unaccustomed robes of a democracy. Throughout America, the old social hierarchies were being upended by rapid industrialization, mass immigration, westward expansion, and civil war.
Egalitarian sentiment was rising. The idea that the people should rule came to seem appealing and even natural. The shifting justification for our political system inspired important reforms.
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In , the Seventeenth Amendment stipulated that senators had to be elected directly by the people, not by state legislatures. In , the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote. The once-peculiar claim that the United States was a democracy slowly came to have some basis in reality. That basis is now crumbling, and the people have taken notice. People who are asked how well they are doing economically frequently compare their own standard of living with that of their parents. Until recently, this comparison was heartening. At the age of 30, more than nine in 10 Americans born in were earning more than their parents had at the same stage of their lives.
But according to eye-popping research led by the economist Raj Chetty and his co-authors, many Millennials do not share in this age-old American experience of improving fortunes. Among those Americans born in the early s, only half earn more than their parents did at a similar age. Americans have never loved their politicians or thought of Washington as a repository of moral virtue. But so long as the system worked for them—so long as they were wealthier than their parents had been and could expect that their kids would be better off than them—people trusted that politicians were ultimately on their side.
Not anymore. The rise of digital media, meanwhile, has given ordinary Americans, especially younger ones, an instinctive feel for direct democracy. Compared with these digital plebiscites, the work of the United States government seems sluggish, outmoded, and shockingly unresponsive. As a result, average voters feel more alienated from traditional political institutions than perhaps ever before.
For good reason, they are growing as disenchanted with democracy as the people of Oxford, Massachusetts, did. The politician who best intuited this discontent—and most loudly promised to remedy it—is Donald Trump. The claim that he would channel the voice of the people to combat a corrupt and unresponsive elite was at the very core of his candidacy.
Donald Trump won the presidency for many reasons, including racial animus, concerns over immigration, and a widening divide between urban and rural areas. But public-opinion data suggest that a deep feeling of powerlessness among voters was also important. I analyzed data from the American National Election Studies. Trump has no real intention of devolving power back to the people. His biggest legislative success, the tax bill, has handed gifts to corporations and the donor class. A little more than a year after America rebelled against political elites by electing a self-proclaimed champion of the people, its government is more deeply in the pockets of lobbyists and billionaires than ever before.
To avoid further damage to the rule of law and the rights of the most-vulnerable Americans, traditional elites should appropriate even more power for themselves. But that response plays into the populist narrative: The political class dislikes Trump because he threatens to take its power away. It also refuses to recognize that the people have a point.
America does have a democracy problem. Two decades later, the U. Too old and weak to travel to Washington to collect the money himself, Trist hired a prominent lawyer by the name of Linus Child to act on his behalf, promising him 25 percent of his recovered earnings.
Congress finally appropriated the money to settle its debt. But now it was Trist who refused to pay up, even after his lawyer sued for his share. Extreme as this case may appear, it was far from idiosyncratic. In her book Corruption in America , the legal scholar Zephyr Teachout notes that the institutions of the United States were explicitly designed to counter the myriad ways in which people might seek to sway political decisions for their own personal gain.
Many forms of lobbying were banned throughout the 19th century.
Over the course of the 20th century, lobbying gradually lost the stench of the illicit. But even once the activity became normalized, businesses remained reluctant to exert their influence. As late as the s, major corporations did not lobby directly on their own behalf.
Instead, they relied on collectives such as the U. Chamber of Commerce, which had a weaker voice in Washington than labor unions or public-interest groups. Powell Jr. All of this began to change in the early s. Determined to fight rising wages and stricter labor and environmental standards, which would bring higher costs, CEOs of companies like General Electric and General Motors banded together to expand their power on Capitol Hill. At first, their activities were mostly defensive: The goal was to stop legislation that might harm their interests.
Of the organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business. Steve Israel, a Democratic congressman from Long Island, was a consummate moneyman. Over the course of his 16 years on Capitol Hill, he arranged 1, fund-raisers for himself, averaging one every four days. Now it is beyond broken. A model schedule for freshman members of Congress prepared a few years ago by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee instructs them to spend about four hours every day cold-calling donors for cash. The party encourages so many phone calls because the phone calls work.
Total spending on American elections has grown to unprecedented levels. From to , reported federal campaign spending doubled. Big donors and large corporations use their largesse to sway political decisions. The people we spend time with day in and day out shape our tastes, our assumptions, and our values. The imperative to raise so much money means that members of Congress log more time with donors and lobbyists and less time with their constituents.
The problem goes even deeper than that. Democrats might have risen through the ranks of local trade unions or schoolhouses. Republicans might have been local business or community leaders. Members of both parties lived lives intertwined with those of their constituents. While some representatives do have strong roots in their district, for many others the connection is tenuous at best. Even for those members who were born and raised in the part of the country they represent, that place is for many of them not their true home.
After stints in law, business, or finance, or on Capitol Hill, they move to the hinterlands out of political ambition. Once they retire from Congress, even if they retain some kind of home in their district, few make it the center of their lives: They seem much more likely than their predecessors to pursue lucrative opportunities in cities such as New York, San Francisco, and, of course, Washington. By just about every metric—from life experience to education to net worth—these politicians are thoroughly disconnected from the rest of the population.
The massive influence that money yields in Washington is hardly a secret. But another, equally important development has largely gone ignored: More and more issues have simply been taken out of democratic contestation. In many policy areas, the job of legislating has been supplanted by so-called independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Once they are founded by Congress, these organizations can formulate policy on their own. In fact, they are free from legislative oversight to a remarkable degree, even though they are often charged with settling issues that are not just technically complicated but politically controversial. The range of crucial issues that these agencies have taken on testifies to their importance.
From banning the use of the insecticide DDT to ensuring the quality of drinking water, for example, the EPA has been a key player in fights about environmental policy for almost 50 years; more recently, it has also made itself central to the American response to climate change, regulating pollutants and proposing limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from new power plants. While independent agencies occasionally generate big headlines, they often wield their real power in more obscure policy areas. They are now responsible for the vast majority of new federal regulations.
A article in the California Law Review noted that, during the previous year, Congress had enacted public laws. In the same year, federal agencies had finalized 2, rules. Such rules run the gamut from technical stipulations that affect only a few specialized businesses to substantial reforms that have a direct impact on the lives of millions. In October , for example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau passed a rule that would require providers of payday loans to determine whether customers would actually be able to pay them back—potentially saving millions of people from exploitative fees, but also making it more difficult for them to access cash in an emergency.
The rise of independent agencies such as the EPA is only a small piece of a larger trend in which government has grown less accountable to the people. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Federal Reserve won much greater independence from elected politicians and began to deploy far more powerful monetary tools.
Most of these treaties and agreements offer real benefits or help us confront urgent challenges. Whatever your view of their merit, however, there is no denying that they curtail the power of Congress in ways that also disempower American voters. This same tension between popular sovereignty and good governance is also evident in the debates over the power of the nine unelected justices of the Supreme Court. Since the early s, the Supreme Court has ended legal segregation in schools and universities.
It has ended and then reintroduced the death penalty. It has legalized abortion. It has limited censorship on television and the radio. It has decriminalized homosexuality and allowed same-sex marriage. It has struck down campaign-finance regulations and gun-control measures.
It has determined whether millions of people get health insurance and whether millions of undocumented immigrants need to live in fear of being deported. Now that the Court has started to lean further right, these views are rapidly reversing. Take Citizens United. By overturning legislation that restricted campaign spending by corporations and other private groups, the Supreme Court issued a decision that was unpopular at the time and has remained unpopular since. In a poll by Bloomberg, 78 percent of respondents disapproved of the ruling.
It also massively amplified the voice of moneyed interest groups, making it easier for the economic elite to override the preferences of the population for years to come. Donald Trump is the first president in the history of the United States to have served in no public capacity before entering to the White House. He belittles experts, seems to lack the most basic grasp of public policy, and loves to indulge the worst whims of his supporters. The antidemocratic view gets at something real. But if there was a fight—where would it end? Where should it end?
How do you know when to fight? Those questions became more complex as racism took on insidious guises, he said. Miles Davis, he told me, believed in only two categories of thinking: the truth and white bullshit. I wondered what his interest in publishing a book was, given that the music business had modelled itself on book publishing. Contracts, advances, royalties, revenue splits, copyrights: the approach to intellectual property that he abhorred in record labels had its origins in the publishing industry. His face lit up. The singer Judith Hill was playing on the soundstage that evening.
He disappeared for a moment to call his driver, hoping she would take me back to the hotel. Apparently, she was already engaged. I followed him out of the conference room and into an elevator. Bouncing on the balls of his feet, he punched the button for the bottom floor. The elevator opened into a dimly lit basement, and Prince led me out to the garage, walking briskly toward a black Lincoln MKT. Climbing into the passenger seat, I noticed a fistful of twenty-dollar bills in the cup holder.
Turning out of the complex, his posture straight, he picked up speed and resumed our discussion on chains of distribution: who controls a piece of intellectual property, and who makes money on it. In the portico of the Country Inn, he put the car in park. When it came time to sell and promote the book, Prince wanted to deal only with people who accepted that he had his own business practices. I watched him idle at a traffic light in front of a bank, beside a dirty snowdrift. For some reason, sighting him in the wild felt even stranger than riding with him.
What was he doing? Interviewing another writer? Running errands? She would pick me up. In a high-ceilinged room adjacent to the soundstage, Jakissa Taylor Semple, who goes by DJ Kiss, was spinning records on a plinth surrounded by couches and candles. After a while, Bekure left and returned holding a bundle of coats.
The Book of Prince
Prince regularly arranged for private after-hours screenings at the nearby Chanhassen Cinema. Prince arrived just after the movie began, slipping into the back row. She went out to fetch some. We watched as the animated panda ate dumplings and relegated evildoers to the Spirit Realm. I heard Prince laugh a few times. As the credits rolled, he rose without a word, skipping down the stairs and out of the theatre, his sneakers shining laser red in the darkness.
Many Prince associates have a similar story: they were never officially hired. Prince simply told them to show up again, and they did. I arrived on Tuesday, February 16th, the day of his first show, at the State Theatre. His bodyguard, Kirk Johnson, was staying in the room next to mine at the Crown Towers hotel. I liked how obviously, almost defiantly, fictitious the name sounded. Its comic-book gaudiness was in keeping with some of his past alter egos: Jamie Starr, Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco.
Around twelve-thirty, the phone on my bedside table lit up. Peter Bravestrong was calling. In the early eighties, Prince and Matthews had fallen in love, and Prince had tapped her to front the group Vanity 6. Long tiers of candles burned around the piano, light poured in a velvety haze from the ceiling, and fractals purled and oozed on a screen at the back of the stage. There was something wintry about the concert that reminded me of people huddling for warmth against the cold.
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The same force seemed to be moving him during this performance. Johnson conferred in private with him and then pointed me toward a desk in the main room. A legal pad had been filled with about thirty pages of pencilled script, with many erasures and rewrites. It also verged on illegible. Sometimes she would squint them like she was about 2 tell U a secret. Eye found out later my mother had a lot of secrets. He summoned up his first kiss, playing house with a girl in his neighborhood. He described the epilepsy he suffered as a child. He wrote about the sometimes physical fights between his parents, and about their separation, when he was seven.
After his mother remarried, in or , Prince went to live with his father, a day he described as the happiest of his life. Eye remember already standing by the car waiting 4 him, crazy with anticipation. Calling back 2 mind the whole experience reminds me 2 do the best Eye possibly can every chance Eye get 2 b onstage because somebody out there is c-ing U 4 the 1st time.
Ellen G. White Estate--Conflicts in the Last Days
Artists have the ability 2 change lives with a single per4mance. The bond we cemented that very night let me know that there would always b someone in my corner when it came 2 my passion. My father understood that night what music really meant 2 me. From that moment on he never talked down 2 me.
We touched on a few spots where I had been confused or wanted more detail.
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- The Book of Prince | The New Yorker.
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We hung up. Had I spent twenty-three hours in the air to talk to Prince over the phone? Fortunately, following the show that night, he invited me to join him at an after-party in a waterfront lounge swathed in purple light and chintzed out with faux-crystal chandeliers. He strutted in through the back entrance—he was holding a cane, which enhanced his royal aspect—and invited me across the velvet rope into the V. We sat on a plush couch with a marble tray of chocolate-covered strawberries in front of us. I might just release it. He sat forward and gripped his cane with both hands.
He was wearing black leather gloves with his symbol on them. Convince them that they need to put everything behind me.
Tell them I trust you. Or—you can just type it yourself. We left the club through the kitchen. An Audi S. Prince and I sat in the back in silence. I found I had nothing to say that was worth breaking it. Make the winner tell their own story. The car pulled into Crown Towers through a special entrance that snaked below the hotel to a bank of underground elevators. I told Prince that I liked the quiet of hotels at this hour. There was something weirdly appealing about wandering their long carpeted corridors late at night. Prince gave a sly smile.
Left Behind - Wikipedia
What I thought would be a simple handoff became a two-hour conversation. There were a few packs of hairnets off to the side. I liked the idea of framing the memoir as a kind of handbook. You have to give back. My dad came to Minneapolis from Cotton Valley, Louisiana. He learned in the harshest conditions what it means to control wealth. Prince wanted to teach readers about Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a wellspring of black entrepreneurship that flourished in the early twentieth century.
After the Civil War, freed blacks flocked to the booming city and bought land. Segregation forced them to the Greenwood neighborhood, where their proprietorship and ingenuity created a thriving community. Soon, Greenwood boasted more than a hundred black-owned businesses, as well as nearly two dozen churches, several schools, and a public library. Prince loved reading about that amassing of wealth. Hundreds died; about ten thousand lost their homes.
Black Wall Street was decimated. Prince agreed, though he saw that the philosophy could be seductive. Supremacy is about everything flourishes, everything is nourished. It was more powerful to hear them from other people. He wanted to find some formal devices that would make the book a symbiosis of his words and mine. It had gone viral. Of course it had: his lips in a gentle pout, his eyeliner immaculate, every hair in his mustache trimmed to perfection, he seemed to be daring the customs officials of the world to give him a kiss instead of a stamp.
We need this to get weird. There was a process of elimination. You know a lot more words than I do. He stood and we walked to the door of his suite. Suddenly, my nose was in his hair. I spent the rest of the day catching whiffs of his perfume. At one point, he called Chris Jackson, his editor, at home, and asked if they could just publish the book without contracts or lawyers. Prince wanted to reserve the right to pull the book from shelves, permanently, at any time in the future, should he ever feel that it no longer reflected who he was.
On a Friday, after a three- or four-day volley of offers and counteroffers, they settled on a figure, and Prince hopped on a plane. At p.