No, America is Not a Democracy — It’s Actually This

Amanda Claypool
10 min readMar 20
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Washington is broken. But I don’t have to tell you that.

According to a 2022 New York Times/Siena College poll, 58% of Americans believe the system doesn’t work and needs to be completely overhauled.

The reason why Washington is broken is different from what you think.

Surveys like this often focus on big-name politicians like Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, just to name a few.

By focusing on a small minority of political players, they inadvertently gloss over all the institutions that make American democracy possible.

These institutions are formal — the Department of State or the Office of the President — as well as informal — think tanks, lobbying firms, and public sector consultancies.

For every prominent political figurehead that pontificates from the bully pulpit, there are thousands of employees supporting them in formal and informal government institutions. These employees — many of whom are administrative bureaucrats and entry-level workers — shape policies as much as individual politicians do.

Increasingly, average people from humble backgrounds can’t afford the cost burden of employment at these institutions. A 20-something from a rural farming community in Iowa doesn’t have the same financial resources or social capital to compete for a job that the child of a State Department diplomat from Northern Virginia has.

As a result, the policies crafted at the institutional level and propagated by politicians at the top reflect the whims of the upper echelons of our society rather than the needs of those in the middle and at the bottom.

With increasing structural socioeconomic barriers to employment in our nation’s capital, fewer and fewer outside voices are represented in the actual policymaking process.

This has turned America into a plutocracy. A country governed by the wealthy for the wealthy.

This essay is going to argue that the state of institutional jobs in DC limits access to employment opportunities, favoring the wealthy. This creates an echo chamber that peddles a narrow set of values and beliefs that are divorced from the socioeconomic realities many…

Amanda Claypool

I’m a writer & strategy consultant musing about the future of the world as it’s unfolding. Support my work: