Democracy is in peril. This election season is different than those before it. We now have Citizens United, which is a game changer. While citizens are still allowed to vote (at least most of them), the information by which we learn about the candidates and issues is hopelessly compromised. In this country of capital worship, the election most often goes to the highest bidder. In turn this makes the average schmoe feel like their vote is a joke – why should they even disrupt their day? Democracy is a dead man walking.
The Citizens United ruling is so much of an issue, our democracy is shifting to shareholders. The owners of corporations have more and more power over the rest of us, and now they can decide whether or not they want to pull the puppet strings of our pseudo-democracy. The shareholders of Bank of America and 3M will vote on a referendum whether or not to use the company money to wade into the fray of politics. The difference between their corporate democracy and our “We the People” democracy, is that their main mission is to make money, ours is to secure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.”
Our best bet is that the threat of boycott for a political misstep will cause shareholders to eschew political meddlings. Our democracy is at the mercy of the corporations.
Thomas Jefferson knew that democracy was a farce if the electorate was not informed and the candidates were not honest. Corporations have no reason to present us (via their ads, marketing, and SuperPAC donations) with anything “true”. No “facts” need enter the picture to get a candidate nominated or an issue passed. The press is bought and sold by special interests, our airwaves – leased in good faith of informing the public – are filled with a macabre mix of entertainment, bluster, and fear in order to move us to the polls and vote in someone else’s interest. It is doubtful that Jefferson would certify our government as democratic.
Naysayers will quip, “but we’re not a democracy, we’re a democratic republic”, true enough, but the idea is the same – the people need to be informed to choose appropriate representatives and they are not. Folks that whinge at the word “democracy” likely are reacting to the fact that they don’t like the prefix “democra-” because it sounds too much like a political party and too patriotically American.
As corporate influence rises, individual voters drop out. The feeling is, “what’s the use?” Especially in tough economic times, the gross overspending on political issues is obscene and off putting. Our $20 donations don’t even qualify as drops in the bucket compared to the huge streams of cash spent by corporations. Sadly, all of this money mostly goes to media owners like Rupert Murdoch, Bain Capital, Disney and a small handful of others, which only accelerates the metamorphosis of democracy into plutocracy. Italy was ruled by its largest media owner, Berlusconi, for 17 years until finally last year he resigned amid a collapsed economy, sex scandals, and corruption. The people literally danced and sang in the streets after his departure.
Just because one can acquire power and money does not mean they can govern a People.
The spate of Voter ID “solutions” that have arisen are thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression. Many more lost votes can be traced to the privatization of vote counting than can be traced to actual voter fraud, that is a person misrepresenting who they are with malicious intent. A case in point is this brave 93 year old who is suing the state of Pennsylvania because she is no longer eligible to vote due to their voter ID laws. She does not have a birth certificate and it cannot be helped. A baby born in the US without the correct paperwork is still an American citizen.
As a People, we are not being vigilant and we are losing our democracy. It is still important to vote, but in times of crisis, you have to up your game, you have to wade a little deeper into the issues and let your voice be heard. Bernie Sanders, our only unaffiliated Senator, has a petition going to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, he also has lots of great information about it.
Democracy is dying in our “great experiment”. The powerful and wealthy are using their power and wealth to change our make up – it’s hard to resist helping themselves to more power and wealth. Now is not the time to dress in black, pull the shades, and deliver last rites, now is the time to get the defibrillator paddles out and do CPR- we need a jolt back to life.
Reversing Citizens United, booting secretive corporate vote counting out of our elections, campaign finance reform, requiring free broadcast media time on the people’s airwaves to candidates, and fostering civilized discussions – these are the ways we can claw our way back to democracy.
So go vote, remind your friends to do the same, then figure out how else you can help. I’m not ready to give up, are you?