This morning when I went to dailykos.com, I was greeted by a petition to reform the filibuster. The current effort isn't to forbid a tiny minority from holding the majority hostage by reading the phone book aloud at the Senate podium until the majority submits - it's merely to require that the tiny minority actually must go to the podium and read the phone book. That may be better than letting the minority hold the country hostage without going to the podium, but it's just one baby step when there are so many restrictions on our democracy.
Efforts for positive reforms within the system shouldn't be ignored. However, we need to recognize the system makes this harder than it should be, harder than is fair or reasonable. Back in the 1700's when the US was founded, its political and legal structure was progressive compared to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, it wasn't really fair to average Americans.
* There was slavery.
* Women couldn't vote.
* Some states had voting restrictions based on religious affiliation and property ownership.
* US Senators were not directly elected by the voters.
* The president is chosen through the Electoral College which doesn't always select the candidate with the most popular votes.
And so on.
The original Constitution and laws were chosen by a slim minority that was permitted to vote. Over time, those who were permitted to vote have made some amendments to the Constitution and changed laws in some ways that reduced some injustices while continuing other limits on our democracy.
* Presidents are still not elected by popular vote.
* Each state is allowed 2 US Senators, rather than a number based on population.
* Former prisoners can still be denied the right to vote.
* Although poll taxes (charging high fees to vote) is forbidden by a federal law, the Constitution still does not outlaw it.
* The wealthy have disproportionate influence through lobbying, political contributions and giving cushy jobs to politicians and officials after they leave office.
* A minority in the Senate can prevent a vote using a filibuster.
* Big business still extorts from the government with threats of moving their operations or otherwise harming the economy.
* Scientists have proposed - but the government has ignored - voting systems that more accurately reflect the majority's wishes. For instance, by letting voters indicate the most preferred candidate and the candidate they'd prefer if their first choice didn't win.
* At best, the Constitution lacks a clear provision permitting the federal government to produce goods and services when it is in society's best interests.
* Citizens can't directly pass federal laws through ballot referendum as can be done in some states.
* Elections don't give true democracy if voters don't know what the candidates truly stand for. The phrase "campaign promise" is widely understood to mean what a candidate says to get elected but may not intend to do. Misleading voters during a campaign should have legal penalties, but it does not.
* Gerrymandering is used to reduce the voting influence of regular Americans.
* After Watergate, Pres. Ford gave Nixon a blanket pardon. Presidents should only be allowed to pardon for specific crimes. (That is, they should not pardon for unknown crimes as they might choose not to pardon it if they knew of it.)
* After VP Agnew resigned, Nixon appointed Ford as VP. Then Ford pardoned Nixon. A hand-picked successor should not be allowed to pardon the person who chose him.
In the abstract, it may be a good idea that a country's constitution can't be changed back and forth every time public preferences shift 1 or 2 percentages. However, amending the US Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House, and then the approval of 3/4 of the states on top of that. Even if the wealthy didn't have disproportionate influence on government today, if our elected officials really represented regular Americans, we'd be faced with needing more than 66% of the people wanting to change parts of the Constitution that were enacted when only a minority were allowed to vote. That's just not what most Americans think democracy means.
In real practice today, if 80% of Americans wanted the Constitution changed to limit corporate influence on government, we wouldn't have 80% of Congress willing to lose their corporate support by voting for that amendment. 80% of the population might not be enough to change something created by a minority!
The system has imposed unfair aspects to our laws and Constitution. Various tricks are used to minimize the influence of the 99%. Politicians are indebted to the rich. And then there are immense hurdles required to amend the founding minority's Constitution. If we can get the 80% or so of the population needed to make changes through the electoral process, OK. But democracy doesn't mean needing 80% to overturn a minority. We need to use demonstrations, boycotts, strikes and other forms of popular action to bring majority will into practice.
The fact the Senate considers it controversial whether a minority must speak at the podium to block the majority shows how far our politicians are from moving us towards fuller democracy if we simply work within this biased system.