BY: Bill Johnston| March 20, 2020


As I recently listened to a Trump Administration crony drone on about “American democracy,” I sarcastically recalled  President Obama’s lecturing Raul Castro on democracy while visiting Cuba. This occurred at the same time Republican officials in Arizona and several other states were working to block as much citizen access to the voting booth as possible. When it comes to promoting “democracy” around the world, the United States government has a dreadful record. Our role in assisting the overthrow of elected governments is ongoing, be it Iran in 1953  or Honduras in 2009. As usual, there is not a whisper from the corporate media. As pointed out by political theorists, “media” is simply the propaganda vehicle for the dominant ideology.

The democratic republic established by our constitution in 1789 muddles along as a shadow of what it aspired to be. We are not a democracy. We have become an oligarchy (i.e., ruled by the rich). Many Americans blame Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing bribery in our political system. The court has blessed a corrupt system, making a mockery of democracy and giving the green light to the rich to buy politicians at every level of government. In a real democracy money does not count as freedom of speech.

Take a look at how we “elect” the president of the United States. The people don’t elect the president. Rather, the Electoral College selects the president—using the total number of representatives and senators from each state and at times the perverted legal logic of the U.S. Supreme Court. Clinton received 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016, but Trump is “elected” under a system designed to give slaveholders more power when the Constitution was ratified in 1789.

How about Congress? For starters, take the United States Senate. In the 2018 election, the Democratic senatorial candidates won twelve million more votes than the Republicans, yet the GOP controls the Senate. Thanks to Senate rules and the filibuster, Senators coming from states making up only one-fifth of the total population of the country can kill any legislation. Consider that Wyoming has a little over half a million people while California has nearly 40 million, yet both states have two senators. Additionally, California ranks as the fifth-largest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product of $3.155 trillion compared with Wyoming’s GDP of $39.6 billion as of 2019.  The voting power of Wyoming citizens is 67 times greater than that of Californians. Would anyone in their right mind call this equal representation or democracy?

Consider the House of (so-called) Representatives. Thanks to Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts in 2011, millions more Americans voted for Democratic candidates than for Republicans, only to have the Republicans take control of the House in 2012. In Pennsylvania, for example, in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 congressional elections, Republicans won 13 out of 18 districts, although the statewide vote was roughly even between Democrats and Republicans.

And this was repeated all over the country. The Democrats took control of the House  in 2018 only because they increased their popular vote by almost 10% over the Republicans. They need to increase turnout even more in 2020 to keep the House and retake the Senate. Trump and Republicans don’t care about majority voting; that is why they put all their effort into keeping their right-wing base in the states that gave them a minority victory in 2016.

Take a moment to review our “democracy”: a congress that does not even begin to represent a majority of the people, a campaign “contribution” system that operates on bribery, a media owned by a half dozen corporations concerned only with profits, and a professional military (opposed by the founding fathers) that has replaced a citizen army. We have more people in prison than any other Western country—and we torture suspects. Election laws are written so only two parties have a chance at being elected. The constitutional right of the working class to join a union (First Amendment right of association) is in peril, and industrial democracy is gone.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Image: Lorie Shaull, Creative Commons (BY-SA 2.0).





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