Can We Call Ourselves a Democracy Anymore?

August 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM 2 comments

Here’s a must-read from Illyse Hogue at The Nation about the potential detrimental effect the events of the past several months could have on our democracy:

Most of the endless rehashing of the debt deal has correctly focused on the fact that corporate interests and Tea Party politics have prevailed again, at the expense of the middle-class, children in poverty, students and the elderly. But in understanding the long-term impact of this drawn-out debate, too little attention has been paid to the blow it has dealt to the foundational principles of our democracy.


For months, poll after poll has showed that rank and file Americans of all political persuasion believe that revenues (the nice way to say taxes) should be a part of any deal to resolve our debt crisis. Seventy-two percent of Americans polled between July 14-17 said taxes should be raised on those making more than $250,000 per year, including 73 percent of Independents and a stunning 54 percent of Republicans. Fifty-nine percent of Americans wanted taxes raised on oil and gas companies, including 60 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans. Yet Republicans refused to vote for a deal that included any revenues at all, and Democratic leadership capitulated despite the fact that the position was exactly the opposite of what large majorities of Americans wanted.

In the week leading up to the vote, over 600 rallies were held around the country supporting the passage of a clean debt ceiling bill and protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts. alone made over 125,000 calls to Congress to support a clean debt ceiling raise. Coverage of all of these rallies was minimal at best. There was also one Tea Party rally, which despite the impressive resources of their corporate backers was sparsely attended. Yet the talk in Washington almost exclusively centered on what the Tea Party would accept.


This combination of factors—overlooked citizen action, disregarded citizen opinion, unheeded expert warnings, uncritical press coverage that ignores the facts in front of it and denigrates participation by ordinary citizens to boot—creates conditions for a broad-scale disengagement of Americans from the processes that nominally allow them to participate in governance. In short, people give up. In fact, when a Washington Post poll last week asked for single-word characterizations of the budget negotiations, “disgusting” was at the top of the list, along with “ridiculous” and “stupid.” Seventy-two percent of Americans polled responded with a negative word, and only two percent had positive feelings to offer. This is a far more disturbing trend then one that reflects anger and frustration. Anger moves people. Disgust and a view that government is stupid creates apathy.


In between we had the 2010 Citizens United decision, which rebuilt those gates around the capitol that the on-line revolution had supposedly crashed. Corporate cash, already omnipresent in lobbying, dominated the airwaves and 30-second ads, played over and over once again, drowned out the millions of organized voices crying for change. That led to the 2010 election of radical candidates representing a tiny minority of Americans who were more concerned about the federal deficit than they were about joblessness and the overall economy.

The debt deal’s final resolution to what essentially amounted to a hostage crisis by that minority represents a complete unmooring of official decision making from the will of the American people. The last few weeks could be the final straw that leads to a collapse of confidence not just in this government but in the American project of self-governance. When citizens don’t participate, democracy is in peril. At a time of so much great need in our country, sending the message that citizen involvement is futile is dangerous not just to the substance of one debate but to the core principles that allow us to call ourselves a democracy. Are we really prepared to risk that?

As you can tell, I almost cut and pasted the entire article.  It’s that good.  If you have time, I suggest you read the whole thing.


Entry filed under: Corporatocracy, Democrats, Including Blue Dogs & "Liberals", Dumbed Down, Fascist America, Repression, Republicans, Including Wingers & "Moderates", They Think We're Idiots/We ARE Idiots, We the People.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Annie  |  August 7, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    Jobs, economy, the debt, deficit, debt ceiling, budget or lack thereof, tax hikes, extending unemployment, health plan; yes all incredibly important and I’m sure I’ve left a few things out unintentionally.

    But, last time I knew ours was a government OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people. Not the other way around. Elected reps are to do OUR bidding. The people are to have an equal bidding as to how our lives are run. From where I sit, WASHINGTON has that bidding and you and I don’t have much of a say.

    Is it too late to return to our Charter or have we derailed and left Washington, Jefferson, Adams, at the altar? Will we fail them now? Say it ain’t so.

  • 2. Say It Ain't So Already  |  August 8, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Exactly right. The people we elect are our supposed to act as lobbyists on OUR behalf.

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