US Democracy ?
"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object." Thomas Jefferson
It is only in the public sphere, through voting, voicing, and mobilizing, that our fates become our own." Samantha Power's preface to the Origins of Totalitarianism: Hannah Arendt
U.S. "has no functioning democracy": Jimmy Carter (7/18/2013)
In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it. Gilens and Page
"The people who dominate the political economy at present are determined to use their considerable resources and influence to prevent the development and expansion of democratic infrastructure. Indeed, at many turns, they consciously seek the actual deconstruction of that infrastructure. And they will work harder to do so as the social pressures created by technological change, automation and joblessness are felt more acutely." Robert McChesney and John Nichols book: People Get Ready
Conyer's report on the Constitution in crisis
Managed democracy is a powerful solvent for any vestiges of democracy left in the American political system, but its powers are weak in comparison with those of Superpower. Superpower is the sponsor, defender and manager of American imperialism and militarism, aspects of American government that have always been dominated by elites, enveloped in executive-branch secrecy, and allegedly beyond the ken of ordinary citizens to understand or oversee. Superpower is preoccupied with weapons of mass destruction, clandestine manipulation of foreign policy (sometimes domestic policy, too), military operations, and the fantastic sums of money demanded from the public by the military-industrial complex. (The U.S. military spends more than all other militaries on Earth combined. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion; the next closest national military budget is China's at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.) Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism: Sheldon S. Wolin
For decades, mainstream political scientists and other apologists for the existing social order have tried to transform practically every deficiency in our political system into a strength. They would have us believe that the millions who are nonvoters are content with present social conditions, that high-powered lobbyists are nothing to worry about because they perform an information function vital to representative government, and that the growing concentration of executive power is a good thing because the president is democratically responsive to broad national interests. The apologists have argued that the exclusion of third parties is really for the best because too many parties (that is, more than two) would fractionalize and destabilize our political system, and besides, the major parties eventually incorporate into their platforms the positions raised by minor parties (which is news to a number of socialist parties whose views have remained unincorporated for more than a century)." Michael Parenti, Democracy for the Few
“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
"The central American myth is that democracy is the American way of life. Democracy, however, requires an educated public. The sad reality we face is that the prospect of a public educated to issues and alternatives is perceived as threatening to the privileges of the minority that hold most of our wealth and power, so virtually all of our institutions work to disarm this threat. Operating with an effective confusion of "information" with propaganda, our media, our schools, our corporations, and our government support information technology and produce an increasing flood of its product. Through what I call "the strategic use of trivia," members of the public are under the illusion that the "information" they receive is educating them on subjects that matter. In fact they are by and large being fed what the institutions that perpetuate the power of corporate America wish to feed them." Myth America: Democracy Vs. Capitalism By William H. Boyer
It was always a mirage to imagine that you could have a political democracy expressed in elections and not also have an economic democracy. It's really simple. If you allow an economic system in which 1 percent of the people have more than half the wealth and the other 99 percent have to share the other half, then the 1 percent are not going to be so stupid as to not realize that one of the ways you secure yourself is to control the political system. Occupy the Economy, Challenging Capitalism: Richard Wolff pg 85
...when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans. The vast discrepancy I find in government responsiveness to citizens with different incomes stands in stark contrast to the ideal of political equality that Americans hold dear. Although perfect political equality is an unrealistic goal, representational biases of this magnitude call into question the very democratic character of our society. Martin Gilens
When the rich and poor disagreed about an issue, policy hewed closely to the preferences of the rich, and was "wholly unrelated" to the preferences of the poor. The same was true, more or less, when the opinions of the rich differed from those of median-income Americans...."influence over actual policy outcomes appears to be reserved almost exclusively for those at the top of the income distribution. Martin Gilens "Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness"
Market theology and unelected leadership have been displacing politics and elections. Either democracy must be renewed, with politics brought back to life, or wealth is likely to cement a new and less democratic regime--plutocracy by some other name." Kevin Philips, Wealth and Democracy 422 (2002)
Our current president has gone to war and has symbolically marched back into "the city" wearing his commander-in-chief persona and has declared that our nation is - until further notice - in a permanent state of war, which will likely last for the rest of our lives. He implies that this permanent state of war justifies his unilateral reinterpretation of the Constitutions in ways that increase his power as president at the expense of Congress, the courts and every individual citizen. Indeed, he has even partially militarized domestic law enforcement by ordering uniformed military personnel to commence surveillance within the country on American citizens, businesses, and civic organizations that, in the view of the military, might pose some threat to our nation. In times past, this was unthinkable, but it has been met with very little protest. From Al Gore's Assault on Reason. (2007)
The west is squandering authority on democracy and human rights: it fails to practice as it preaches. Kishore Mahbubani, The Guardian, Friday March 28 2008
"...Democracy in America today is in deep trouble. Weak, shallow, dangerous, and corrupted, it is the best democracy that money can buy. The ascendancy of market fundamentalism and antiregulation, antigovernment ideology makes the current moment particularly frightening, but even the passing of these extreme ideas would leave deeper, longer-term deficiencies. It is unimaginable that American politics as we know it will deliver the transformative changes needed." The Bridge at the End of the World: Gus Speth (2008)
"Democracy ? The people's representatives? How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, almost religious attitude toward security and the U.S. military." The United States of Fear: Tom Englehardt
"You can see this Republican approach today in voter suppression schemes, aggressive gerrymandering of House districts, expansive use of Senate filibusters, and nasty media outlets that rely on disinformation and propaganda, rather than facts and reason." Consortium News. (This leaves out the self-imposed fiscal crises designed to make the economy crash, dirty tricks, and packing of the courts.)
The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations." Noam Chomsky
"...gerrymandering remains a massive stumbling block to the realization of American democracy...continues to protect minority rule in the United States, just as malapportionment once did." On Democracy's Doorstep: J. Douglas Smith
"Our democracy has been beaten up pretty badly. The political influence enjoyed by big-bank CEOs and their high-priced lobbyists is shameful. When people talk to me about how broken Washington is, I really can't argue with them: it's a mess, and too often its priorities are all wrong. But I hope - I fervently hope -people won't give up." Elizabeth Warren A Fighting Chance pg 163
"People know jaw-droppingly little about politics" Robert Luskin 2002
Infrastructure of Democracy
Democracy requires an informed
electorate, fair elections, transparent
government, but It is getting weaker fast.
As U. S. physical infrastructure is deteriorating, so is the
infrastructure of democracy: declining education outcomes
have resulted in wide-spread illiteracy; traditional media like newspapers and magazines are facing
poor financial prospects; broadcasters feel no public obligation and
increasingly sell time to advertising, trivia, sports, and propaganda;
elections are fueled by big money and results are suspect; government
does not act as people,when polled prefer,
and has embarked on a program of universal
surveillance but acts more and more in secret.
It is difficult to see how we can avoid dystopia.
Billionaire Republicans won the 2016 election. They want big tax cuts for themselves, strong policing and expanded military to protect and enhance their wealth, and a working class in servitude. They are keen to bust unions, pile heavy debt on students, fund religion, and shred the social safety net. They are ready to revoke affordable healthcare, trim Social Security, voucherize or block grant social programs. As much as possible they are inclined to privatize schools, government programs, or even public lands (the better to exploit them). Deregulation will allow continued fossil fuel pollution, worker exploitation, media consolidation, and exacerbate our fundamental problem: income inequality. Trump cabinet appointees, like other hard-right Republicans, support these policies.
Corporate control of government is fascism.
It appears we cannot break our addiction to militarization and
the forever war for empire. There was
recognition when the Constitution
was written that a large standing
military is the enemy of democracy. Trump's appointment of generals
to senior positions is ominous.
Every empire in history has been destroyed, often by its own
dysfunction, but sometimes by total destruction. Now that there is
world-wide ability to deliver nuclear weapons, and no sign that they
will be banned (the U.S. opposes a ban). We now have a strong
man, head of State, who can initiate holocaust with the touch of a
button...on his own. Ready ?
Americans who believe it is important for the US to maintain an active role in the UN (88%)
Support Net Neutrality (80%) Allow Government to Negotiate Drug Prices (79%)
Give Students the Same Low Interest Rates as Big Banks (78%)
Universal Pre-Kindergarten (77%)
Fair Trade that Protect Workers, the Environment, and Jobs (75%)
End Tax Loopholes for Corporations that Ship Jobs Overseas (74%)
End Gerrymandering (73%)
Let Homeowners Pay Down Mortgage With 401k (72%)
Debt-Free College at All Public Universities (Message A) (71%)
Infrastructure Jobs Program — $400 Billion / Year (71%)
Require NSA to Get Warrants (71%)
Disclose Corporate Spending on Politics/Lobbying (71%)
Medicare Buy-In for All (71%)
Close Offshore Corporate Tax Loopholes (70%)
Believe in climate change (70%) Green New Deal — Millions Of Clean-Energy Jobs (70%)
Full Employment Act (70%)
Expand Social Security Benefits (70%)
Percent who think America is on the wrong track (61%) Abortion should be legal in all or most cases (56%)
Is In The Air (4/19/2016)
America is today the leader of a worldwide anti-revolutionary movement in the defense of vested interests...supporting the rich against the poor. Historian Arnold Toynbee (quoted in A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn et al)
How the two parties in the US exclude real debate: an example from Connecticut ("To be Green" video) http://www.the40yearplan.com/article_041107_To_Be_Green.php
The US has experienced a failure of
leadership and is no longer a democracy. Most of our institutions have failed us.
Extreme income inequality accelerates a vicious cycle where wealthy game the system to favor themselves at the expense of everyone else. Over time, this creates the boom and bust cycles of the economy seen dramatically in 1929 and again in 2008. Republicans are largely responsible for removing the New Deal economic stabilizers that damped down the business cycle for decades.
Concentrated wealth, also seen as income inequality, is not just unfair (for it can deprive large parts of the population of civil liberties or even life support), it is inversely related to democracy. That is why the US budget does not represent the wishes of people when polled, why lawmakers often do the wrong thing, why we have an oligarchy, and why we have lost our Republic
US Elections are thoroughly rigged, and reform is not even an issue. The 2000 election, decided by a partisan Supreme Court was more properly characterized as a coup, not an election. Clean elections are a prerequisite for democracy and we don't have them. Even if elections were honest and fair, candidates are not bound to do the people's agenda. Public policy is not much influenced by elections. Oligarchs rule.
Look closely at almost any issue
and you will find that large monied interests (usually represented by Republicans) oppose democracy:
Examples from heathcare, pharmaceuticals,
transportation, weaponry, pensions, wages, software, education, and
many other areas reflect class warfare and the wreckage from the
Supreme Court's Citizen's United
have become the controlling interest of government. (This is also, by the way, the very
definition of Fascism.) Regulatory
agencies are dominated by industries that are supposed to be
regulated. The military has become a
security force for multinationals, especially oil
companies. The National Security
State has taken resources that might have gone to the well-being of
people. The police have been militarized and are increasingly violent.
Like every empire in history, our fate is
Information streams are polluted. Media
are concentrated, exploitive spammers, managed by party hacks, cowed into submission,
infiltrated by psy-ops, spoon-fed the official line. Government is secretive. There is
an assault on the press. Except for official voices, there is silence
in the media. A diversity of points of view is essential for a
democracy, but concentration of media corporations and government
intrusion prevents the possibility of democracy.
Republicans, though they do not
represent a majority of Americans, control the agenda
now. Through dark money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, dirty tricks, election
rigging, media spin, have made the US a failed
state. They are consistently heading
us in the wrong direction. They packed the Supreme
Court with party hacks who are corporate supremacists. They have
been largely responsible for creating a secret,
black government that is unaccountable and is making important policy decisions
without oversight. They have secretly implemented universal surveillance that
robs us of civil liberties, privacy, and freedom. Even trade agreements are
drafted in secret.
Republicans cry for small government has been the excuse to transfer formerly public functions to the private sector. 'Privatization' is a tool for profiteers that removes public functions from accountability. The commons is everywhere under attack from the right.
We vote for candidates (all quite different, none exactly on the right
message), instead of voting for an agenda.
Our public servants should be working for peace, using the best diplomacy, protecting the environment, providing everyone healthcare, and directing the economy toward productive purposes...not to weaponry that could be used only for Armageddon. An office holder not vigorously pursuing the people's agenda should be unceremoniously booted.
The WTO, an instrument of globalization, can overrule in secret any local law. This is governance by multinationals. The agenda is toward economic restructuring, union busting for cheap wages, and the imposition of the will of the global elite. There is no regard for the condition of the environment, or the well being of people. Corporations rule... or more accurately...misrule.
Massive military spending required by empire results directly in a shift of the economy to armaments, and an accelerating militarizing of all aspects of civil life. It has also spawned an arms race that is inherently unsafe. Not only is militarization incompatible with democracy, it makes civilized social programs such as healthcare unaffordable. As Nazi Germany demonstrated: a country determined to use all of its resources for empire can do so only by total disregard of its own people and, in the end, was reduced to rubble.
Dissidents beware: Our communications of all types are now under complete surveillance. Whistleblowers prosecuted. Suppression of dissent is an important part of new "security" measures. Peace activists or protesters of the SOA are now considered terrorists. Academic opinion is subject to policing through cutoff of government funds. Higher education is funded heavily for military purposes. Courts have ruled that it is ok for media to lie.
The Patriot Act was but the visible part of an assault on the Bill of Rights. Telephone, internet search records, library borrowings, and commercial sources have all been used in massive databases for data mining without any oversight. Call that democracy ?
The events surrounding 9-11 were not
examined in a responsible way, yet the Bush administration used them to justify
its own agenda. People would never have agreed to these actions had they been fully
informed. The Press and the Congress failed to do due diligence in
the lead up to the War in Iraq, and time has
shown that the basis for war was a lie. No one was held accountable.
The future of the US will be marked by poor relations with the rest of the world, financial instability, overpopulation, energy crisis, environmental catastrophe, inflation, and endless war. There will be little employment security, rising costs, declining wages, deteriorating infrastructure, expensive corporate healthcare, increasing surveillance, more intrusive government, higher taxes, and a continuing race for the bottom. It will meet the same as the fate of every other empire.
There is speculation that the secret government controls the agenda, selects the President,
and is placing us on a path to destruction. If nuclear holocaust does not make civilization impossible, then climate change will.
It is clear now that political parties can over-ride Constitutional checks and balances. Their commitment to environmental destruction, war profiteering and empire is likely to destroy not only our civil liberties, republic, and eventually the habitability of the planet.
If the US had real democracy,
candidates would be bound to do what
people want. How well they do it would be the criteria with
which they are evaluated. Torture,
renditions, secret government, broad surveillance, fiscal irresponsibility, neglect of health
issues, response to concerns of the public are just a few of the
categories that our candidates mostly
We should vote for an evidence-based agenda, decided in a public, transparent process in which sensible, publicly sanctioned goals are established. Candidates would be bound by them.
Agreements that we have signed in the past, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the
Geneva Conventions, the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Agreement, the Prevention of Weapons in Space, the Laws
of War as agreed at Nuremberg, and others should be respected as
law... It seems the U.S. does not have virtue required to join
the International Criminal Court.
It is all about people
having the ability to determine our direction. It is clear that our steering mechanisms
are extremely weak.
See some ideas for reform.
Infrastructure of Democracy: all being substantially weakened by Republicans.
Enemies of Democracy: all being substantially strengthened by Republicans.
Democracy For Realists, Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government:
Christopher H. Achen & Larry M. Bartels
For the Few: Michael Parenti
John Nichols and Robert McChesney
The Silenced Majority: Amy Goodman
Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement: David Graeber
When the People Speak: James S. Fishkin
Moyers on Democracy: Bill Moyers
Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street: Jeff Gates.
Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy: Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
How Democratic is the American Constitution ?: Robert A. Dahl
Failed States: Noam Chomsky
Crisis of Democracy: Report to the Trilateral Commission (1975)