There are many points in time during the last two generations that might be candidates, but I’m going to go ahead and call it: American democracy officially died yesterday, April 2, 2014.
You might have missed it. It was not the top story on the news, as it should have been. It did not spark outrage and drive citizens into the street in protest, as it should have done.
No, America trudged along quite as it has for some time in the wake of this news–and that, of course, is part of the problem: Our apathy and disengagement as a citizenry. As an example, I posted something about what an awful idea Taco Bell breakfast was on my Facebook and got twenty-seven likes and multiple comments. My post on the Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC earned not a single mouse click.
It’s that decision yesterday which removes all caps on individual campaign contributions that, when combined with the now infamous Citizens United decision, spells the death knell for what we have lazily continued to call democracy in this country. With no meaningful restrictions on campaign contributions remaining in a society that has become extremely stratified by wealth–with the gap between the richest few Americans and the vast majority of middle class and poor Americans now larger than at any other time in our history–there is literally nothing standing in the way of the .01% fulfilling Tom Perkins’ vision of wealthier Americans having more votes. Today, with mass media, money buys votes.
And the Supreme Court says that’s okay.
But it’s hardly front page news. It’s not worth getting upset about. It’s not even worth a click of the “like” button–as if that would mean anything. Now, a less cynical person might point out that Facebook is a social platform and people go to it to escape the world of politics and the stresses of the real world, so that’s why nobody would check out an article on the Supreme Court, even though they have time to imagine the in’s and out’s of fast food breakfast cuisine.
Again, I say, exactly.
We are too good at escaping. Too good at accepting the world as our moneyed overlords describe it to us.
A free society, they will tell us, is one without government pretending it knows what’s right for you. You should reject, as they have, the false lure of government “control.”
Republican and Tea Party fiend Charles Koch recently took to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal to argue exactly this. He’s not a bad guy, he insisted (though Obama is!). He’s just standing up for freedom! It’s the American way to be free…of government “control.”
Koch, in what can only be described as a bold-faced lie, also takes time to denounce “cronyism” and any kind of peddling of influence. Aside from the fact that his mere use of the word “crony” marks his worldview as hopelessly anachronistic (Gilded Age, anyone?), it is rank hypocrisy for someone who spends so much money buying politicians to promote his platform of anti-union and anti-regulation to pretend he’s opposed to the selling of influence.
His spurious defense continues.
Koch enlists the third president to his aide (which is surprising since his championing of separation of church and state usually makes Jefferson persona non grata among right-wing ideologues). He says that Thomas Jefferson warned us about exactly the sort of “collectivist” threat to our liberty that the Obama administration represents when he said, “The natural progress of things…is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
But Koch’s vision of society and government is so myopic that he fails to see the irony. It is the concentration of power in the hands of men like him that threatens liberty, not the people vesting too much “control” in the government that represents their will. That’s the real thing that men like Koch fear. For if we had a functioning democracy, then government “control” would mean that the people were really in control–not the elites. Then government could serve the interests of society as a whole, instead of handing out tax breaks and regulation exemptions to the likes of Koch while opportunities dwindle and infrastructure crumbles for the rest of the population in the wealthiest nation on Earth.
The Founders, in fact, were deeply concerned about the concentration of wealth and its potential threat to our freedoms, but they could never in their wildest dreams have conceived of the kind of amassed capital that lies in the hands of men like the Koch brothers, or in those of Republican sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson, who personally spent 92 million dollars trying to crown a President Romney, recently held a soirée in Vegas that was dedicated to promoting pro-Israel policies. What it turned out to be was an event where Republican hopefuls crawled to Adelson’s feet in order to cow tow to the billionaire’s agenda. That agenda, by the way, now includes a strenuous attack on Internet gambling. If Sheldon gets his way, this moral blight will be eradicated from America’s cybershores! Did I mention where Adelson’s billions came from? Oh yeah, he owns casinos. Like Koch, he’s a man of deep principles.
If you need any further proof that our democracy is dead and our “representatives” serve masters other than the electorate, consider this anecdote from Adelson’s event:
Governor Chris Christie was one of the many acolytes vying for Sheldon Adelson’s attention at this gathering. Christie, though, made the mistake of calling Palestine “occupied territory” in his speech.
Molly Ball at The Atlantic reports that after “Christie erred by referring to the West Bank and Gaza as ‘occupied territories’…[he] was summoned to the master’s lair, where he abjectly apologized—a penance Adelson reportedly accepted.”
One can only imagine he licked Adelson’s shoes as he pleaded for mercy.
Welcome to the Kleptocracy, my friends. Long live the almighty dollar.