Checks and balances established in our constitution are failing.
By: Todd Smekens
What caused me to start-up Muncie Voice back in 2011 was our locally owned Gannett newspapers poor local press coverage. They were covering a Republican mayor at the time who was grossly unqualified for the position, but the press coverage was very slanted in her favor. Time and again, I would attend government meetings and see her in action, and then I would read the newspaper the next day. I wondered if we were even in the same room. I started to research the media and found we had drifted into the realm of yellow journalism.
As a result, I became a muckraker who pointed out sensationalism in our press. What I found on this journey was it went well beyond my local newspaper. The Fourth Estate, as it has been called, is essential in a functioning democracy. Our society was established with checks and balances. As Benjamin Franklin spoke when writing our constitution, we were a democratic republic or a constitutional republic. They both mean essentially the same thing. His concern was American’s ability to maintain it – a relevant concern.
For this country to maintain its delicate balance between the many different actors and institutions, the press’s role is to hold our government and the men and women serving in our public realm accountable to the people. The press was considered the Fourth Branch of government, followed by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches.
Once again, capitalism was our economic engine, but it requires significant regulation. This is done by our local, state, and federal governments. Our public sector is supposed to implement checks and provide balanced interests between capitalists and the working class. The role of the press is to hold those in government accountable.
But, what happens when those roles aren’t functioning well? What happens when the press doesn’t hold our government accountable? What happens if the government isn’t holding the capitalists accountable?
Well, from my research over the past several years, we are heading for a lot of dysfunction or as some would diagnose, a lot of diseases (not at ease).
If we look at the EIU’s Democracy Index:
The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories. The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Based on their scores on 60 indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy; flawed democracy; hybrid regime; and authoritarian regime.EIU’s website, 2020
Since the United States of America has the largest military globally, “spreading democracy in every corner of the planet,” we would expect to see the USA in the Top 3 democracies in the world. Our score has been steadily declining for years to the point that in 2019, we are classified as a flawed democracy, ranking 25th. Western European countries occupy nearly all top ten slots. Canada is ranked 7th.
If we aren’t a democracy ourselves, what is our Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) spreading worldwide or defending? Why are we a flawed democracy? What pieces of the delicate system of checks and balances aren’t functioning? Is this why we are experiencing so much chaos in the world?
These are critical questions that we will be addressing in the coming articles. We’ve definitely drifted as a country, or we wouldn’t be ranked so low internationally. We wouldn’t be experiencing so much chaos. We definitely wouldn’t be asking questions to both political party’s presidential candidates about transitioning power from the loser to the winner during a debate. We’d also be trembling because neither party candidate would answer that question. How could the loser of an election refuse to leave office? That should raise major red flags for every single voter, our allies, and especially foreign powers we don’t get along with because we are a nuclear power.