Democracy Inc.

All too true...

America has always portrayed itself as the absolute pillar and picture of democracy, a claim that has gone largely unchallenged since its inception. But how much of a democracy do we really have? This is a question many people don’t ask, but one that needs to be asked, particularly in light of the liberation the Egyptian people have just experienced.

So is the United States really all it claims to be? My answer is no. While we may claim to be the city on the hill to the rest of the world for democracy, we’re far from that lofty title. The truth is, many of America’s political systems (and politicians) have become strangled marionettes, with corporate America pulling the strings.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by such an extreme statement! But I feel totally justified in saying this. If you take a good, hard, honest look at the American political system, it’s one that has become ruled by private interests, PACs, and organizations like the NRA. Simply put, it seems that money has become the primary motivator in our political system, rather than any real desire for progress, change, or strong democracy.

In essence, the United States has what I’ll call corporate democracy. Those people, organizations, and companies that hold the most monetary might are the ones with the most influence on the political system. The rich and powerful of the country are the real ones in control, calling for yet more tax breaks to preserve their already monumental amounts of wealth, while state politicians endlessly scrape away at social benefits to the most needy. Even in D.C., Republicans are making a concerted effort to destroy President Obama’s hard-won health care bill.

And at the end of the day, those at the bottom of the food chain, the poor, minorities, and the down-trodden, have more or less no political power. Sure, they can vote, but who holds the power of advertisement? Campaigning? Hopping around the country in a private jet? It certainly isn’t any “hero of the people.” Running for president typically costs between one and two hundred million dollars, a sum that “Joe the Plumber” wouldn’t be able to scrape together in a lifetime. Typically, the people who get into the highest offices are the ones that are the most heavily subsidized and supported by the American elite.

Sadly, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about this, at least in the short term. Having a capitalist society inherently makes money a leading factor in making decisions, including political ones. So in a way, this is the nature of our democratic beast. But at the same time, small steps can and must be taken to level the playing field for the poor and the oppressed.

One of these steps involves tightening restrictions on campaign financing by big business, corporations, and large-scale organizations. One of the biggest problems present in our corporate democracy is the huge amount of money given to political campaigns and politicians. This creates a sort of “rent-a-democracy,” where our elected officials are propped up by so many special and private interests that they can do nothing without approval from their sponsors. A perfect example is one I alluded to in another post on the blog. I would of course recommend reading that post as well (I’m so subtle), but what I allude to is the NRA’s monetary stranglehold on the issue of gun control. So many members of Congress have been subsidized and supported by the NRA, and now they’re exerting their will not only in the form of bought politicians, but in lobbying as well. In this other post, I discussed the fact that the NRA has managed to get almost all support for gun research done by the CDC pulled out from under their feet.

I think we also need something of a philosophical shift in thought as regards our political system. We must be willing to challenge our leaders on who’s funding them and whether their decisions are really being made in the best interest of their constituents, or in the best interest of their special interests. After what happened in Egypt, it’s time America really took a hard look at its own “democracy.”

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