The United States is a plutocracy (government by and for the wealthy) not a democracy. And here are four lines of evidence to support that.
First, a recent study shows that campaign donations from banks are correlated with votes on legislation that regulates banks. Specifically, a donation of $100,000 from financial institutions increases a politician’s odds of voting to deregulate financial institutions by about 14%.
Second, a study looked at the relationship between voter opinions on an issue and how congress then voted on that issue. In a functioning democracy you’d think that relationship would look something like a positive 1:1 relationship, if nobody in the population wants something there would be zero change that legislation would pass it, if 50% of people people want something there would be a 50% change it would pass, and so on. Well, based on data from over 20 years there is no such pattern, no relationship at all in fact. But, if you look just at the opinions of the wealthiest 10% of the population there is then a strong positive correlations. So the views of the general public play no role in shaping politicians’ actions but the wealthiest 10% play a huge role. Sounds like the definition of plutocracy to me.
Third, politicians on both sides of the isle openly admit they are corrupt and that the wealthy run the political system in Washington. Some quotes:
“Now [the United States is] just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. … So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors …” — Jimmy Carter
“I think many people have the mistaken impression that Congress regulates Wall Street. … The real truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress.”— Bernie Sanders
“I think it is because of the corrupt paradigm that has become Washington, D.C., whereby votes continually are bought rather than representatives voting the will of their constituents. … That’s the voice that’s been missing at the table in Washington, D.C. — the people’s voice has been missing.” — Michele Bachmann
“Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Ted Cruz
And fourth, polls consistently show that the general population thinks that money in politics is a problem. A 2015 New York Times poll showed that 84% of people thought that money played too big a role in politics. Polls over the years on similar issues all agreed: 80%, 77%, 78%, 75%, 70%, 57%, 73%. Other polls found that political corruption was by far voters’ largest fear in 2016, and millennials rank money in politics as a major issue that influences both parties.