The United States is not a Democracy

The United States is not a thriving democracy in 2016. The will of the people and the results of the government are completely unrelated. Goldman Sachs Builders And Innovators Summit, 10/29/13:

HILLARY: I want to get back to having a two-party system that can have an adult conversation and a real debate about the future.
MR. BLANKFEIN (CEO of Goldman Sachs): Yeah, and one thing, I’m glad — I’m proud that the financial services industry has been the one unifying theme that binds everybody together in common. (Laughter.)”

You see? Elections, issues: they’ve been conning us. Take a look at this email from John Podesta: Here we see folks close to the DNC and HRC routinely corrupting democracy who know from personal experience that the Princeton study of democratic outcomes is real and they know why. Producing the results found in the study is their bread and butter.

I learned this year 2016: 1) the democratic party is a fraud and I was a sucker for supporting a party run by creepy clowns like John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and 2) the United States is not a democracy. Go Jill Stein.

Who can I thank for this new information? More than anyone, Wikileaks. Now we know. John Podesta gets some of your pledges to NPR, in case you were wondering. Even heroin overdoses are a field for Democratic party corruption. This crooked crap. I can’t keep up. Even Saturday Night Live is in the tank. Laws? Those are for peasants. So many crimes. Back in the Watergate days, the Republicans abandoned their crooked leader. If only Democrats had that much integrity now. Back then, the press was interested in confronting power, not courting it.

My wife just caught me donating $25 to Wikileaks. She said we don’t have money for that. Oh yeah? I said. What about your $7 a month to the New York Times? They are in the tank. The “journalists” fall in line and repeat what they are told to say. Ha! I gave Wikileaks the money. They deserve it. Good job people. Much respect.

I found that recognizing and internalizing the fact that the United States is not a democracy changes the way you understand fiascos such as this election. Some but not all basic elements of a democracy are missing from the US system. There are internationally accepted standards of democracy today and the US currently doesn’t meet them. A simple hard truth makes the sad state of affairs more palatable.

The fact that this latest round includes classified information that was indeed hacked proves the FBI is in the tank. Saudi Arabia funds Isis, and Hillary exposes operational details of the invasion of Mosul. Media, FBI, silent. A whole lot of tank. The whole thing is in the tank.

I mean, the evidence that Clinton trumped up Trump to distort the process is disturbing. Not nice to be punked, both Republicans and Democrats got played. That’s just a trick, but on top of everything else?

In the 1960s and 70s, the shaggy dissendents said the Vietnam was was ridiculous and immoral while the mainstream concensus was the domino theory and we lost China and a lot of other nonsense that didn’t stand the test of time. In 2003, a million of us were on 5th Avenue protesting the Iraq war. The New York Times, Hillary Clinton and Bush said we were wrong. And, the verdict of history is…?

Now, some of us, a few million useless leftist, say that the stolen primary of 2016, plus the evidence of Wikileaks, means we do not live in a democracy and this Democrats/Republicans thing is a con. A vote for Hillary is a vote for war, so the comparisons to Iraq and Vietman are valid, just we don’t know which pointless war Hillary will start yet, but when she said she was sorry for her Iraq war vote, that was just her public opinion. Blame Arbaham Lincoln for that. Look at her current advisors in the always fabulous Intercept (can I get a horray for these intercept patriots?).

Meanwhile, the mainstream press and all the respectables are calling us deplorable. Well, we have a pretty good track record of being right. This is supposed to be the most qualilfied person ever to run for president? Right. And if Vietnam goes communist, next thing you know… we’ll be listening to disco. Better kill 30,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese to stop that horror. Fuck the hippies.

The statement “the US is not a democracy” does not mean that the country must therefore be living under a dictatorship, or in an authoritarian system, or whatever particular term you come up with. We can call our current situation an oligarchy, a pseudo-democracy, a crony capitalist: what to call the current situation is another issue.

What’s in a name? A shitty system by any other name still smells lousy. We see a type of leader today, Putin, Erdogan, and a few years ago Chavez, that has popularity, actually wins on election day, while corrupting and undermining democracy.

In Poland the government took over and made partisan the public television and radio networks. In Turkey Erdoğan took over the main newspaper and turned it into his own mouth piece, and that was before the coup. Afterwards, the law went out the window. In Russia, journalist have been killed and serious opposition figures jailed or killed. In Uganda, the opposition was denied the right to assemble. In Venezuela, opposition leaders have been jailed. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte in the Philippines is pretty explicitly autocratic with no respect for the rule of law.

All of those governments got more votes on election day. We need to be more broadminded when we think if something is “democratic” or “not democratic.”

I think Chavez left Venezuela a total mess after he died. But in the early years, with a high oil price, he was able to do things like give everyone free health care. I thought: what were the elites doing with the money before he came in? They were robbing and squandering so much that they could have paid for national healthcare they just didn’t bother? So a strong man comes in and does it for them.

Same thing could happen here. The next Trump gives the people half of what Bernie was talking about, and he is adorded. Then kiss your democracy (or the remmants of same) goodbye. If this Trump or the next one were to get Medicare for All passed, the left would be moribund.

That’s what our robber elites have done: hollowed this sucker out. The next Trump might not be so stupid as to be taken down by a hot mic. Trump 2.0 might win, put in policies that help the common people, and basically own the United States. The Democrats have left what was once our government system so creeky and weak, any demagogue could kick it down. A dumb demagogue is better than a smart one.

As far as proof that the system is not working here, there is the Princeton study. The results of this research show that the United States is an oligarchy. If we as voters are supposed to accept global climate change on the basis of evidence without doing original research ourselves, then why can’t we accept other conclusions on the same basis? There is no counter research showing that the people do get what they want. We can make cute videos of this study and share them on Facebook, or we can take seriously the implications of the study.

And the net effect of reading the excerpts of Hillary’s paid speeches is of a politician bought and paid for by bankers. And Hillary is hardly alone. The revolving door is alive and well.

What is a democracy? A democratic government must change to reflect the will of the people from time to time but can never repress the fundamental rights of any minority or dissident individual. The key elements are an independent judiciary, fair elections, equal franchize, protection of minority rights, rule of law and free press. That kind of thing.

We have some of those things. Maybe the US is not too bad in the areas of the independence of the judiciary. When it comes to rule of law, open government and elections, maybe the net result falls below the threshold of a democracy, let’s say a 50 on a scale of 1 to 100. We’re at about 35.

Elections fall far short of the standard of a transparent process, with one person, one vote with equal ability to campaign for all parties and factions. Some of the reasons could be changed in a straightforward way.

  1. Some candidates are denied widespread access to the media. The media environment is highly controlled, manipulated. The net result is that there is something other than a free press.There is no effective system for guaranteeing the right to vote to all citizens.
  2. There is no routine and transparent way for citizens to verify the results of elections.
  3. Unrestricted money means that candidates opposed to the accumulation of vast personal fortunes are necessarily at a disadvantage.
  4. The legislative process is opaque, slow and convoluted. Only special interests with professional lobbyists are able to maintain sustained oversight over legislation.
  5. Gerrymandering and winner-take-all elections means that a minority of voters can control the House of Representatives.

Those problems could be changed by simple legislation if somehow you could have a majority that works for the people. But, as we just saw, it’s pretty damn hard to achieve such a majority.

There is never a time when candidates have to answer any real questions. No process, other than hand-picked journalists and their softballs.

When clear evidence of lawbreaking emerges, the FEC (or anyone else) often does nothing. The Podesta emails indicate coordination between Clinton’s superpac and the campaign, which is illegal. (Not to mention all the legal bribery that politicians allow themselves.) The Nevada caucuses, the New York primary, Arizona: lots of suspicious behavior.

County election officials, a Republican and a Democrat, supervise elections in most places. This invites corruption in primaries and in no way assures the majority of voters, who are not members of either party, that there is impartial oversight.

As to the legislative process, it does not need to be complicated and slow. Rand Paul has proposed some ideas as to how to make bills smaller, easier to read, and available online prior to voting. These kind of ideas need to be discussed much more.

As far as the press, Glenn Greenwald has a new article today October 9, 2016 based on Guccifer 2.0 leaks that show that the DNC works with the corporate media to skew the news. Two of the New York Times reporters in that article put out the story of Trump’s taxes. That should give you pause that NBC and the New York Times are coordinating with one candidate to undermine the other.

The earlier DNC leaks went in one ear and out the other as far as the corporately owned media is concerned, of course, but the DNC was clearly manipulating media by sending out specific time-sensitive stories to the Washington Post and fabricating false Trump information and sending out specific time-sensitive stories to Reuters and discusses their relationship with the media and how to get better treatment and requesting a commentary segment discussing collusion between Clinton Campaign and DNC be pulled, and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz having an off the record meeting in MSNBC President Phil Griffin’s office and trying to create fake outrage over Donald Trump statement, attempt to reach out and introduce smear campaign on Spanish media and spreading false stories about Bernie Sanders supporters after the story was debunked.

The overall picture here is one of coziness. Okay, say there is such as thing as “inside the beltway.” But it doesn’t end there. Legacy or corporate media is largely owned by a small cohort of extremely rich people. Even social media is controlled by rich corporations. Any concerted effort at changing the status quo as it pertains to inequality affects the owners of the media.

In most other countries, there is a state-supported media system alongside a private media system. In the UK, for example, the BBC is supported by a dedicated tax and the government does not have to approve or deny the funding to the organization. While there is a tiny bit of funding for PBS in America, tiny, this funding is subject to political debate. Thus PBS is a weak, mealy mouthed nobody while the BBC can, on occasion and when it wants to, speak the truth and damn the torpedos, full steam ahead.

We have other undemocratic problems that stem from the fact that our constitution was written in 1783. The stability of the US constitution has been a good thing but a document from so long ago is not exactly state of the art when it comes to government structure. Two senators per state mean that votes in Wyoming are worth 640 times more than votes in California. Even the House of Representatives is less than an expression of one person, one vote due to the requirement for each state to have one representative and gerrymandering.

Federal court appointments for life is increasingly a problem. And the electoral college, House of Representatives by state in the case of no majority issues with presidential elections also reduce dramatically the importance of some people’s votes as opposed to others. We take this “swing state” stuff for granted but it’s actually quite corrosive to the process.

These structural issues are extremely hard to fix. Given this background bias in the system, however, the foreground issues I noted above (money in politics, opaque legislative process, etc.) are magnified in their importance in undermining democracy.

We also take winner-take-all elections for granted. Every election in the US is winner-take-all. If there were a majority of 51 percent evenly distributed in all 50 states, all 100 senators would represent this majority and the minority of 49 percent would get no representation.

I am suspicious of identity politics, voting based on your ethnicity, gender, region, sexual orientation, etc. But ethnicity is a pretty good test of how well “minorities” are represented. If 35% of the voters are not white, for example, and not overwhelmingly concentrated in a few states or congressional districts, and if people more of less vote for someone of their own ethnicity, then we can see what happens to any minority in our system. The new Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male and 92 percent Christian. My beef here is not that we should have more black, female and non-Christian corporate stooges but that all minorities, including political minorities, such as those who think we should have a massive redistribution of wealth, are also vastly under-represented.

Since changing to a proportional representation system would be hard, we need to pay attention to primary elections. If 2016 taught us anything, it should be that primaries are not private functions of private institutions, parties, but a significant part of our democratic structure.

Closed primaries are undemocratic. Because the US has only winner-take-all elections, only two parties can exist over time, even if the parties may change. The number two is the result of the system of elections. Therefore, primaries are vital to assuring representation. While primary elections are paid for by all citizens through taxation, the lack of transparent, impartial oversight and the idea that primaries are private affairs of private organizations, means that candidates do not have equal access to the ballot. A closed primary plays a role like a loyalty oath prior to voting.

If both parties are not concerned with the interests of 99% of the people, and a takeover of the people is stymied by primaries that are not fair, then you can see we don’t have a democracy.

Conclusion on elections: given that we are saddled with an antique constitution and winner-take-all elections, it is vital that the problems we could change without deep structural change be addressed, those having to do with fair elections and open legislation.

The other problem that undermines US democracy are issues of rule of law. The persecution of whistleblowers, the failure to indict the rich and powerful in the banking collapse in 2008 and when Clinton broke the law in the email server scandal, the routine conviction of the innocent, finding themselves even on death row, and the illegal acts of war abroad all mean that Clinton was joking when she said she want to kill Julian Assange with a drone strike. But that’s another essay.

No compliance is right!

A new batch of Wikileaks dropped after I wrote this. There is the one about the Saudis funding Isis (classified info), or there is about how drug comanies and the Clintons make money off of heroin, there is the “where the bodies are buried” email, and there is this dozy. There is one about a private meeting between HRC people and Facebook. You get it.

“And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking — and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.”

Email to Hillary campaign manager John Podesta from Bill Ivey of Global Consulting Strategies, he served as Senate-confirmed chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Clinton-Gore administration, a trustee of the Center for American Progress, and was a Team Leader in the Barack Obama presidential transition, twice elected chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and is a four-time Grammy Award nominee, shill organization Center for American Progress, which, as you all know, is central in spreading the word of Correct the Record…despite writing about “progressive” issues

Bill Ivy wants “not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging” — just crib Bernie Sanders. And why not replace the whole crew with a bunch of new folks without y’all baggage?

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