US Democracy ?
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
"The Democrats in Congress have done absolutely nothing to tell the president he is not a king and we do not live in a monarchy. They are allowing him to trash the Constitution because most of them know nothing about the Constitution and are concerned only with making headlines about minor issues and getting themselves reelected." -- Bruce Fein, Link
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" from Don Peck's book Pinched. pg 147Market 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.
Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose Is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only if he first "scared the hell out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people Is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congresses and presidents that it pays for In an arrangement where no one Is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media. Now, with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase, Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn International courts, We strike unilaterally wherever we choose. We give orders, to the United Nations but do not pay our dues. We complain of terrorism, yet our empire is now the greatest terrorist of all. We bomb, invade, subvert other states. Although We the People of the United States are the sole source of legitimate authority in this land, we are no longer represented In Congress Assembled. Our Congress has been hijacked by corporate America and its enforcer, the imperial military machine. We the unrepresented People of the United States are as much victims of this militarized government as the Panamanians, Iraqis, or Somalians. We have allowed our institutions to be taken over In the name of a globalized American empire that is totally alien In concept to an our founders had in mind. I suspect that it is far too !late in the day for us to restore the republic that we lost a half-century ago. from Gore Vidal's book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.
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.)
GOP's Sabotage of Democracy (12/23/2012)
Conyer's report on the Constitution in crisis
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
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.
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.
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.
Corporations have become the controlling interest of government. (This is also, by the way, the definition of Fascism.) All of the regulatory agencies are dominated by industries that are supposed to be regulated. The military has become a security force for multinationals, especially oil companies.
'Privatization' is a tool that removes public functions from accountability.
It is clear now that political parties can over-ride Constitutional checks and balances. Their commitment to empire is likely to destroy our republic.
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 recently an accelerating militarizing of all aspects of civil life. It has also spawned an arms race that is inherently very 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.
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.
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 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.
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, fiscal irresponsibility, neglect of health issues, response to concerns of the public are just a few of the categories that our current crop of candidates mostly fail.
We should vote for the agenda, not for the candidates. The effort would be a team activity in which there is no doubt of the goals.
It is all about people having the ability to determine our direction. It is clear that our steering mechanisms are extremely weak.
Question from David Barsamian: "In Hegemony or Survival, you say that there is a “severe democracy deficit” in the United States.
Answer from Noam Chomsky: "I’ve discussed this in more detail in a later book, Failed States, running extensively through public opinion studies and actual policy. There is an enormous gap between public opinion and policy. In 2005, for example, right after the federal budget was announced, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which also studies domestic issues, did an extensive poll on what people thought the budget ought to be. It turned out to be the inverse of the actual budget: where federal funding was going up, an overwhelming majority wanted it to go down. The public opposed increases in military spending overall and supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, which is going up even more now. Where the budget was going down—social expenditures, health, renewable energy, veterans’ benefits, the United Nations—right across the board, the public wanted spending to increase.
I asked a friend to see how many newspapers in the country reported this. Apparently not one. This is extremely important news. The population is radically opposed to government policy. Isn’t that important news in a democracy? What does that tell us about American democracy? (From Noam Chomsky's book "What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World)
See some ideas for reform.
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
The 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