Dear Prof. Gilens,
My name is Yoram Gat.
I recently became aware of your new paper “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens ” expanding on your previous work (“Inequality and democratic responsiveness”, 2005).
I see the findings of this work, as I presume you do, as confirming the widespread public sentiment, consistently measured in many opinion polls and expressed for example in the 2011 “Occupy” protests, that the American system does not represent the majority of Americans (“the 99%”). I also presume that the American system is not unique in this respect: 2011 has seen protest around the world reflecting similar sentiments in other societies governed by similar systems.
I am writing to you to inquire whether you propose any remedies to the situation, and to propose one such remedy and ask for your thoughts about it.
My understanding is that the non-representativity of government is inherent in the political system we are familiar with. This system is usually referred to as the “Western democratic system”, despite the fact that, as your findings confirm, it is not democratic at all but is in fact elitist or oligarchical. Do you support some sort of reform that you think would increase the responsiveness of policy to public interests? Again, my understanding is that the only way to do so – i.e., to democratize the system – is to move away from the most fundamental feature of the Western system – electoralism.
It is a basic tenet of the Western political dogma that elections are a democratic – the democratic – institution. In fact, they are the opposite. They are an oligarchical institution producing a ruling elite that is very different from the typical citizen, and therefore holding a very different world view and serving very different interests.
The democratic alternative to the electoral system is sortition: selecting Congress as a statistical sample of the population using standard random sampling techniques. A Congress that is statistically representative of the population (along every conceivable dimension: education, income, gender, race, ideology, age, religion, etc.) can be expected to pursue public policy that would reflect the world views and interests of the 99%. This would create a truly responsive government, a democratic government.
I would be very interested in your opinion on this matter,