Something just clicked in my mind.
Facts that have been floating around in there, without making sense, suddenly have become clear.
Why is political and social reform so hard in the United States? The answer, at least partially, is because our social system is a semi-decentralized capitalist aristocracy.
Every town, every city, in the United States has it's political machine, and that machine is inevitably connected with the more prominent and wealthier members of the community. They're the ones who run for office and get elected.
They compose the power elite, per C. Wright Mills.
Over and over they're the ones who become the rulers, and it's just normal business. One has to either look at this and say that American life is extraordinarily corrupt on all levels, in every town, or say that this corruption is really a normal and intentional part of our social system.
I think the latter.
The social system envisioned by the Federalist Party, who framed the Constitution, was a blend of theories stating that only the better people should rule with ideas about free market economics that were relatively modern for their time, and its ideal was a society where commerce would flourish yet give rise to a stratified society where prominent people in business would rule towns and counties like the aristocracy in England.
Political power on the local level, on the State level, and on the federal level, isn't looked at by the machines as something open and abstract in and of itself, as something that can be fought over in an classical, open political arena. It's looked at as a thing people are entitled to because of their stature. In fact, high schools and colleges are oriented towards integrating young up and comers into the elite social strata. Half of the programs out there in colleges, making up all the business related programs as well as politics, are there to ensure that the right people make their way up the social ladder. We have a formal political system, but it's undermined by the socio-cultural world feeding people into the system.
America hasn't quite had a truly democratic revolution yet. Rather, we did, then we had a counter-revolution that overthrew it. We still exist in a nether world between true democracy and artistocratic rule.
When you start talking about taking on the system, you need to take on the entrenched power that fuels the machines, because this is the level where the real decisions are made...unlike formal politics, which for Americans is largely a fleeting pastime, especially at the local and state levels.
If we want true political reform we'll have to have true social reform as well, or else we'll end up with just another shadow show.