Has America Already Lost Democracy?
The upcoming American midterm elections have been a fascinating and horrifying thing to behold, but the thing that has struck me most potently is how undemocratic they have been. While it would be naive of me to state that playing politics has ever been particularly democratic, the tactics of the republican ‘tea’ party have been consistent with a goal to buy and destroy all the things that make the american government great. Put on your tinfoil hats, people, because the state of American politics in 2010 is one for the conspiracy theories.
It all started back in January, in the supreme court case “Citizens United”. The ‘wisdom’ of the supreme justices said that yes, the defenseless corporations were in need of first amendment protection, too, and they functionally removed any barriers to unlimited corporate donations being poured into elections to directly influence the outcome. In other words, the supreme court removed protections put in to prevent ‘the communists’ from weakening the government by golden parachuting sympathetic stooges into government. Part of this decision was the guarantee that this unlimited money would be untraceable before the election, quite literally allowing millions of dollars to be funneled anonymously into elections.
This majority opinion included Justice Thomas, whose wife is a leader of one of the tea party astroturfing groups who directly receives some of these unlimited donations. No conflict of interest there at all.
The minority opinion on this decision at least understood the consequences of this decision, with the long-serving Justice Stevens saying in the dissent:
At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
The fight for corporate interests has long been the central issue for the Republican party, and they are quite proud of this record. The Congressional Minority leader, John Boehner, for example, is notable for actually handing out checks from big tobacco on the floor of congress to Republican members before a vote on tobacco issues. That was back in 1995, mind you, but this year, he has been pretty clearly in favor of corporations, refusing to support tax cuts that would benefit over 99% of americans in the middle of a terrible recession, simply because that 1% wouldn’t get $100,000 breaks. Those breaks, keep in mind, would cost America 3.9 TRILLION DOLLARS (!!!), and Republicans have never offered any way of, you know, paying for them.
Then there is the Senate, which has been the most laughably useless branch of government in american history. Republicans, even with a minority in the house, have consistently obstructed the government, using a stupid ‘super-majority’ cloture vote that they have used more times in history. They’ve used this tool to deny unemployment benefits to out of work americans (the ’99’ers) They opposed financial and credit card reform, they obstructed meaningful climate change legislation , they destroyed the public option, and they opposed measures to mandate american companies to employ Americans.
Cue the 2010 elections. For those of you who have been paying attention, you’ve seen all manner of crazy shit getting thrown about, mostly from the insana-Tea party. The republican makeover has been making much press about their objectively insane stances on issues like abortion (pro rape and incest, anti-choice!?), gay and single woman rights, social security and department of education abolishment, and destruction of the IRS. The tea party bills itself as a ‘grassroots’ organization, but we can take a look at some of the people funding them to see where the money actually flows from. Let’s take a look at one such organization, the US chamber of commerce.
This pro-business organization is spending some 75 million dollars on the elections this time around, supporting dozens and dozens of Republicans and only 2 democrats. Much of this money is being used to fund smear campaigns on the democratic opponents. Most troubling, however, is the fact that the account used to fund these ads is the same account the chamber solicits unlimited donations from its foreign associates in such pro-america countries like Bahrain, China and India. To get donations, the Chamber of Commerce specifically points out how democrats would stop outsourcing american jobs to these countries, as if that is a bad thing. It should be pointed out that that is still illegal, but the worst part? Due to the aforementioned Citizens United ruling, there is no way we can know who exactly is showering these millions of dollars to influence the american elections.
Another typical insani-Tea party organization is the Karl Rove run “Americans for Prosperity”. This group, thanks to Citizens United, keeps most of its donors a secret, but of the 25% that we can investigate, 75% of that money comes from three billionares, notably the Koch Brothers. They’ve personally poured tens of millions of their own dollars to install candidates with their own interests in mind, and nobody can stop them from doing so. This is about as clear an indication that America’s democracy is fundamentally broken as I can find, and it scares me that they could win this one, and big time.
Americans, I don’t want to believe that you are corporate whores, so easily bought by these foreign interests and billionares. You still have a choice on November 4th, and I really, really want to believe that your democracy still functions despite the millions of dollars already spent that say otherwise. I’m Canadian, and while our system of government is far from perfect, I’ve never legitimately feared that our government have been taken over by foreign powers and business interests. I can’t say the same for your government as it exists today, which is why it’s vital that you (yes, you) must vote in the elections.
I wish it was an understatement that the fate of the free world rests in the decision you make on the 4th.