The term “democracy” comes from two Greek words: “demos” (the people) and “”kratia” (power or authority). Theoretically, DEMOCRACY is a form of government that gives power to the people.
de·moc·ra·cy (dəˈmäkrəsē): a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
Nowhere is the word “democracy” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. But isn’t the United States government a democracy? Nope. You’ve been duped. The Founding Founders feared democratic rule. James Madison expressed this attitude in FEDERALIST #10: “…instability, injustice, and confusion …have in truth been the mortal disease under which popular governments everywhere perished…” In the late 18th-century, rule by the people was thought to lead to disorder and disruption. Yet a democratically-based government was seen as superior to the monarchies of Europe.
America uses an “indirect” or “representative” democracy. In this system, representatives are elected by citizens to make decisions on their behalf. The Founders preferred the term “Republic” because it described a system they generally preferred — the interests of the peopled were represented by more knowledgeable or wealthier citizens who were responsible to those that elected them. No, America did not invent this system. Britain has had a representative democracy since the seventeenth century. Members of the British Parliament are elected from across Britain and represent the interests of their constituents to the government.
If America isn’t a true democracy, has it devolved into a plutocracy?
plu·toc·ra·cy (plo͞oˈtäkrəsē): a country or society governed by the wealthy
Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent by wealthy citizens and corporations looking for favors.
Corporations seem to have unlimited freedom to merge and combine with little oversight, creating more powerful entities and less threats from competition. The lines have greyed between banks and investment firms, creating a dangerous environment for those of us without a financial cushion. And although capitalism technically is supposed to let the chips fall where they may, our government has deemed some industries “too big to fail” and stepped in with a more socialist form of aid.
No one dares question our military industrial complex, deeply entrenched by very wealthy companies providing support and logistics. Only Congress had the power to declare war, but today’s Congress has been reduced to debating wars that already exist. The current war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has already been underway for months whether Congress authorizes it or not. Someone is making a ton of money producing items that kill humans, and that profit center is showing no signs of waning.
Back to our most recent presidential election. Rising from a slew of many more experienced and qualified candidates, the victor achieved success through insults, lies, impossible promises, and fame from a reality television show. And, oh yeah, he’s supposedly a billionaire – but we’ll never really know if that’s true because he effectively decimated the tradition of presidential transparency by voluntarily withholding his tax returns and financial statements. What’s most frightening is more than 60 million of our fellow citizens actually believe this man and all his words. I supposed we shouldn’t be surprised, given the state of out-of-reach higher education and radical Christian fundamentalism that exists throughout our populace and government.
The United States of America has often touted itself as not only the beacon of democracy but as the model the rest of the world must emulate. In the seaside cafes of Beirut, the whole thing looks “like a bad joke.” To persecuted journalists in Burundi, it amounts to “a total loss of dignity.” The government-scripted press of Beijing diagnoses “an empire moving downhill.” And the spin doctors of the Kremlin see cause for pure and unambiguous delight. Debates devoid of issues and deep in the gutter of personal insult. Interference from foreign intelligence services. The U.S. presidential election — America’s quadrennial chance to showcase for the world how democracy works in the most powerful nation on Earth — has become instead an object lesson in everything that ails a country long seen as a beacon of freedom and hope. Adversaries have looked on with glee, surprised at how easily the country that casts itself as the greatest can be knocked off kilter.
America does have some pressing issues. Due to a fundamental shift in economics and technology, there aren’t enough good paying jobs to support the lifestyle most Americans are taught to expect. And due to imports, outsourcing, automation, and the economics of such things firmly controlled by plutocratic powerhouses, those jobs will never come back no matter what anyone promises. Our children are eclipsed globally in math, science, and engineering, yet that seems surprisingly acceptable to the masses. The Democratic idea of free or reduced price higher education was just shown the door in favor of enhancing the military. Affordable health care as a human right continues to be elusive, with insurance providers playing unfortunately legal and complex games with coverage and costs. A woman’s right to choose what happens with her own body will undoubtedly be governed by a loosely translated ancient Hebrew text rather than a document written by well-intentioned pioneers. And regardless of cause or fault, science will again be overshadowed by economics, as we shift the effects of climate change to citizens who will be forced to be born into a world our “democratically elected” leaders refuse to shepherd.
To simplify what just happened for those 60 million voters in words easier to understand – you’ve been duped. Nothing will get better for you. Opportunities for success will continue to dwindle regardless of anyone’s tax burden. You won’t be safer, you won’t be richer, you won’t be more proud. We’re not going to conquer any nations. We’re not going to control Islamic fundamentalism here or abroad. We’re not going to solve any problems by building a wall between the United States and Mexico. Drugs will continue to be a growing problem. Crimes committed by poorly educated Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and Caucasians will persist regardless of any new laws or adding more police. Allowing more people to carry guns won’t frighten potential perpetrators – what’s more likely is the perp will shoot anyone who looks like a gun owner first. And America will continue to be the laughing stock of the world.
Perhaps critical thinking is a curse. It sure is a lot easier and perhaps satisfying to be ignorant. Too late for those of us who took the metaphorical red pill. We’re all stuck in this sinking plutocratic ship for at least four trips around the sun, unless it is subsequently proven once again the sun does indeed revolve around the earth, resulting in a mindless world on which I wouldn’t want to live on. Countless educated and thinking Americans, while hoping for the best, feel stunned and depressed as we hopelessly plunge what was meant to be an example to the world into a complete reversal of civilization. And regardless of your will or hope there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it until 2020. If we’re still here.