Nothing Less Than a Revolution Can Save Us

By Paul Street

August 09, 2019 "Information Clearing House" -  Is there no limit to the lethal and authoritarian absurdity of America, land of mass gun massacres like Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, and now El Paso and Dayton among other pockmarked sites?

Here is a society that claims to be the beacon to the world of civilized decency and democracy yet permits its lurking army of faceless, anomie-afflicted sociopathic killers to join countless deranged others in readily purchasing military-style assault weapons.

The permission stands in defiance of majority public opinion since most U.S. citizens have the natural intelligence and common sense to oppose such barbarian insanity.

The spectacular mass shootings are a distinctively U.S.-American problem due above all to the simple fact that military-style weapons of mass destruction are so insanely/widely available in this country.

The public opinion numbers on behalf of banning military-style weaponry and passing other strict gun control measures are extremely high.

In any functioning democracy, such measures would be easily passed in accord with the elementary democratic principle of majority rule.

But that’s the rub. The United States is not a functioning democracy. It’s not a democracy at all. Not on guns. Not on health insurance. Not on mental health policy. Not on union organizing rights. Not on social welfare. Not on taxation. Not on wages. Not on climate. Not on school funding. Not on “border security: and immigration. Not on criminal justice. Not on “defense” (military empire) spending. Not on the distribution of wealth and income. Not on anything, really.

Don’t take it just from a supposed “radical extremist” [1] like me. Take it from distinguished mainstream political scientists like Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton). As Page and Gilens showed in their exhaustive 2017 study Democracy in America?:

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans…have…little or no impact on the making of federal government policy. Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups—especially business corporations—have…much more political clout…the general public [is] … virtually powerless . . . The will of majorities is…thwarted by the affluent and the well-organized, who block popular policy proposals and enact special favors for themselves . . …Majorities of Americans favor specific policies designed to deal with such problems as climate change, gun violence, an untenable immigration system, inadequate public schools, and crumbling bridges and highways . . .Large majorities of America favor various programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes. Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs] (emphasis added).”[2]

Mammon reigns in the United States, where, Page and Gilens observed, “government policy . . . reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the pre-approved, money-vetted candidates for federal office” (emphasis added).

Conventional wisdom holds that regular elections that generate competitive contests for citizens’ votes are all that is required for a nation to be a democracy. The conventional wisdom is wrong. The mere holding of such elections does not remotely ensure popular self-rule. Majority progressive public opinion is regularly trumped (no pun intended) by a deadly complex of interrelated and mutually reinforcing culprits in the U.S., the self-declared homeland and headquarters of democracy: the campaign finance, candidate-selection, lobbying, and policy agenda-setting power of wealthy individuals, corporations, and interest groups; the special primary election influence of extreme right party activists; the disproportionately affluent, white, and older composition of the active (voting) electorate; the regular manipulation of voter turnout; the widespread dissemination of diversionary, baffling, deceptive, and inaccurate information, images, and narratives; woefully unrepresentative and explicitly anti-democratic political institutions including the Electoral College, the unelected Supreme Court, the extreme over-representation of the predominantly white rural population in the U.S. Senate, and the severe partisan gerrymandering of the House of Representatives’ electoral districts; constitutional and related partisan government gridlock and the fragmentation of authority in government.


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