Suppose We Had a Real Democracy in the United States? A Time for Imagination

In a speech given at the University of California at Irvine (UC-Irvine) on January 28, 2004, OSI Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs Gara LaMarche discussed why he thinks the country’s democratic system is severely flawed and offered suggestions to improve it. LaMarche’s remarks, part of UC-Irvine’s Social Science Distinguished Speaker Series, focused on the institutionalized disenfranchisement of minorities, the poor, and other marginalized populations throughout the country. The ever-rising influence of money in the political system, he argued, has further entrenched power among an elite that has little incentive to further expand the democratic process and share resources. Moreover, LaMarche argued, the health of a democracy depends on measures beyond elections, including openness and diversity in media and protection of civil rights and liberties—respects in which the United States is also seriously deficient.