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Barack Obama has provided a lesson in American reality to
many people who once thought the Democrats were still in some sense like the
Democrats who passed Civil Rights legislation and earlier, the New Deal. That party died. It was murdered and its murderers kept
their crime a secret in order to benefit from their victim’s reputation.
With its destruction democracy in America as a means of preserving our freedom came to a (hopefully temporary) end. We need to get a handle on
what happened of we are to have a chance to regain our political freedom.
A free society exists when its citizens can obtain access to a variety of
opinions and positions on election day, in a process that is fair. This does not require that every
position be available at every election.
That would be overwhelmingly complex. But it requires that every position, so long as it grows in
public support, will find a chance to win voter support. By that standard democracy has now
departed the United States.
While examples do not quite constitute proof, they
illustrate the point. A majority
of Americans favored a tax cut for everyone but the ultra rich, and that
position had no chance to be heard.
A majority of Americans favored the public option in health care reform,
and that option had no significant voice at the table. A majority of Americans were hurt by
money given to banksters that would have been far better spent simply by
apportioning it evenly among all tax payers. A majority of Americans favor the Democrat’s stated agenda
on most social issues, and the Democrats do nothing about them while somehow
managing to serve bankers and corporations. We have entered into wars without popular approval, or with carefully manipulated news to create fake approval. These wars have been and continue to be obscenely profitable to the corporate and financial ghouls who fatten off of human blood and treasure. Every time our financial elite and corporate giants
interests are tested against the American people, the people lose whether the
party in power is Republican or Democratic.
These are not accidents. They are connected to corporate control of the media and to
our electoral rules. This post
deals with the electoral rules because they are most basic and ironically, the
most easily changed.
A major part of the problem rests with a fairly easily
corrected weakness in our electoral system.
For many years even though our electoral rules only made it
possible for only two main parties to exist except during times of national
breakdown (There were 4 main candidates in 1860) or during exceptional internal
splits (as when Teddy Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” party split from the
Republicans) outside the South Americans still had a reasonably free
society. This was because the
parties were mostly organized at the state level, and so were close to their
constituents. Their funding was
mostly at the local and state level as well.
Today our parties are centralized in much of their funding,
and the same interests fund both.
The financial elite is not monolithic, and there are differences between
them, differences that remind me of the old Soviet Union. The old Communist administration split
between “reds” and “experts” depending on which they argued
was most important. It was more
than roughly analogous to that currently existing between Republicans and
Democrats. Some put ideology first
(the Reds) and others put managerial competence first (the “Experts”). But both put the well-being of the
corporate and banking elite ahead of ideology and expertise.
Because our elections are won by plurality (whoever has the
MOST votes wins) rather than majority vote (whoever has a majority) we have a
system that allows only two viable parties. There are some purely ego driven parties like the Greens and
Libertarians who are no threat and under current electoral rules never will
be. Mostly they benefit the major
party farthest from them – which is why Republicans help fund Greens and I
would not be surprised that in some states the Democrats do the same for
libertarians, though I do not know.
In this way the third parties actually HELP the two main parties by
giving elections a patina of legitimacy while penalizing voters who actually
vote for them by assisting the main party farthest from their beliefs. Under
current rules they are a part of the problem.
The rules that prevent viable alternatives to these two
servants of our oligopoly are the most fundamental cause of our problem, and
are why today parliamentary regimes in Europe are so much more democratic than
the US. But we can not have a
parliament without a new constitution, and under current conditions a new
convention would be a disaster because it could be imposed on us.
There are only two real strategies for improvement open to
us. One is secession, which would
make the centralizers’ job much more difficult by making the scale of politics
more accessible to plain citizens and diversifying existing laws. It is no accident that big business has
been the most effective proponent of centralization because they can control national
government more easily and cheaply than they can control state government. (Someday libertarians will figure this
out, but not yet.) Further, as
Europe demonstrates daily, small democratic countries can be as prosperous as
big ones and freer as well. But
secession is messy and likely to kill people even if done right.
It is a last ditch effort, but current scholarship to the contrary, one mosl of our Founders would endorse.
Much more easy to accomplish would be ENDING plurality
elections and replacing them with majority elections with instant runoff. Under majority election a third party
could pose a genuine alternative to two major corrupt parties. It could win.
With majority elections you do not throw your vote away when
voting third party, then they might actually get competent leaders and offer
Majority vote elections can be implemented through state
ballot initiatives in many states – and that third parties have not sponsored
such initiatives is proof positive in my book that they are ego parties. I’d
devote a year or even much more of my life to such an effort if it had
Red vs Expert divisions did not make Russia free. As the old elite diversified Russia was
still a despotic state, although less brutal than under Stalin. The US today is in many but not yet all
ways an authoritarian oligarchy.
That its elites so easily endorse torture and universal surveillance of
Americans while increasing secrecy and calling people who expose their doings
“terrorists” is a hint of what they are capable of doing to all of us to
preserve their power. What our
oligarchy needs to cement its domination is a crisis allowing it to crush any
potential competition. But until
this arises it can make do with the sham political process we have today.
A movement for majority vote elections is a movement it
could not control, and once established would offer Americans the opportunity
to regain their political freedom peacefully.