FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American Democracy, a Lesson for Cubans

by Nelson P. Valdés

On the 22nd of April of this year USAID announced its yearly cycle of seeking proposals for its “Outreach to the Cuban People” Program for 2002. (M/OP-02-916). Since 1996, USAID has awarded more than $15 million “to support Cuba’s transition to democracy.” The United States government has been so concerned with “democracy” in the island that it has spent over $1.00 for each Cuban child, adolescent and adult in the island.

The “successful applicants”–says the request for proposals- is expected to “increase the flow of accurate information on democracy, human rights and free enterprise to, from, and within Cuba.” Each applicant can received anywhere from $400,000 to even one million dollars.

Although the taxpayers’ money ends up in the pockets of Cuban exiles, we have decided to write this piece and publish it in a Cuban newspaper, without charging anyone. We certainly hope that this piece will contribute to a thorough understanding on the part of the Cubans on how “democracy” operates in the United States, where I live. Moreover, maybe the US Interests Section in Havana will distribute this information to all those Cubans who visit them in order to learn about the American democratic system and “free market economics” (i.e. capitalism)–which is a stated goal of American policy.

A fundamental aspect of democracy is elections. You should know that in our democratic system presidential contenders have a limit on how much they can spend–if they receive federal funding. Yes, the federal government can finance candidates (but only if they obtained a certain % of the votes on a previous election. You might think that such practice is not fair for new political parties, but as President Jimmy Carter stated, the world is not fair.)

In the 2000 presidential election the Federal Elections Commission (it writes the rules on expenditures) established that if a candidate for president accepted funding from the government, the candidate could spend $40.5 million in order to obtain the nomination for his respective party (Democrat or Republican). In the United States the political party does not select a candidate, rather candidates propose themselves to the party–and that costs money. Once the political party selects someone as its candidate, then the party candidate can spend up to $67.5 million during the presidential election. Moreover, each of the two political parties is also allowed to spend up to $13.6 million for its respective nominee. Each party can spend as well as $13.5 million on each of the two party conventions. Overall each candidate has a spending limit of about $122 million. If one agrees to public funding you then get another $122 million for each candidate from the federal government.

In other words, each candidate could spend the modest amount of $244 million to become president of the United States. You might think that is a lot of money, but as W. C. Fields said once, we in the United States get the best presidents that money can buy. However, you should know that spending limits are not applicable if a candidate decides not to accept federal funding, then the sky is the limit on how much you can spend on your campaign.

Although this is a fascinating aspect of market democracy, it is not the fundamental concern of this report. Nor do I want to discuss the “inefficiencies” of counting votes. You probably heard about that during the last presidential elections. Let me just note that besides uncounted votes, in the last election 5 million votes actually disappeared. This is one of those unexplained phenomena that our scientists have not been able to comprehend or explain, it just happens. We know though that it is easier to trace the path of neutrinos than to capture the invisible hand of democracy.

This report, however, is going to discuss demographics. And we are going to concentrate on voter registration and voting in the presidential elections of two years ago (2000). For those who might doubt the information provided here it should be noted that the material comes from the US Census Bureau report issued on February 2002, entitled Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2000: Population Characteristics.
In the year 2000 there were 203 million Americans of voting age (Over age 18). Of those, 186 million were US citizens and had the right to vote, only 130 million registered to vote.

Yes, in the US it is not an automatic right to vote, you have to activively do the necessary paperwork in order to become a “registered voter.” So, 56 million never registered to vote. Of those who registered to vote (130 million), 19 million did not vote either. Thus, 56 million plus 19 million= 75 million people who can vote just did not do so. Out of 186 million Americans who can vote, 111 million do –although 5 million votes magically disappear. In as sense they vote but are not counted, so we end with 80 million Americans who are not a part of the American democratic experience.

In the last presidential election only 27.5% of “Hispanics” (Cuban Americans are included here) who were citizens voted. Out of every 100 Hispanos 42 were not registered. Sixty percent of all the U.S. unemployed who had the age to vote did not do so, and only 51% of the employed decided to participate. In our market democracy, voter participation closely follows income. The more income you earn, the more people vote. 72% of those with incomes of $50,000 or more voted. But, if income was less than $10,000 then 62% just did not vote.

 

There is a correlation between income level and registration as well as voter participation. The poorer Americans are, the less they are involved in the democratic process. Moreover, you should know that the rate of participation in elections in the US consistently has dropped since the 1960s. So we have 80 million Americans that should be involved in elections but are not. They are United States citizens. In fact, in the last presidential election only 49% of the American who could vote did so.

So, the question that you might wish to consider is this: How come the U.S. federal government is so concerned with democracy and elections in Cuba? After all, Cubans are not American citizens. Why spend about $1.00 for each Cuban, regardless of age, to promote “democracy”? I guess less than 6 million Cubans are more important than 80 million American citizens.

You are lucky, we are not.

Nelson Valdes is a professor of sociology specializing in Latin America at the University of New Mexico. He can be reached at: nvaldes@unm.edu

 

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail