Citizen Action Monitor

Not only is the US not a functioning democracy, it’s not a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word

“… there is no way to a decent future without a protracted and massive, death-defying popular uprising,” says Paul Street.

No 2503 Posted by fw, August 10, 2019

Paul Street

“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. … The most important decisions aren’t made by “We the People.” They are made by an insular elite of rich and powerful societal owners and directors, ‘with elections,’ as the astute Left analyst Carl Boggs writes, ‘reduced to a set of rituals and spectacles geared more to legitimation than actual decision-making.’ …. As nobody in the nation’s political class has the courage or desire to acknowledge, the problem is … ‘the whole damn system’ (WDS), Democrats included. … No serious change, no remotely substantive popular sovereignty, no protection and advance of the common good will be forthcoming without prolonged, organized, and massive nonviolent civil disruption – genuine popular resistance.”Paul Street, CounterPunch

Paul Street is an independent, radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois.

In this essay, Paul returns to the theme of American democracy. In a December 3, 2017 essay, which I reposted  under my title, Paul Street’s dynamite essay on how American democracy is trumped by a deadly complex of forces, he wrote that the passivity of Americans in the face of the outrageous Trump presidency is “chilling to behold.”

Below is my abridged repost of Street’s latest dynamite essay, featuring my subheadings, text highlighting and some bulletted reformatting. To read Paul’s complete piece on CounterPunch’s website, click on the following linked title.

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Nothing Less Than a Revolution Can Save Us by Paul Street, CounterPunch, August 9, 2019

America – the lethal and authoritarian land of gun massacres

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?

America – the society that claims to be a civilized, decent democracy — now home to sociopathic killers  

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.

How can this be when most citizens oppose such barbarian insanity?

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

If American were a fully functioning democracy, majority rule would lead to passage of gun control measures

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

Not only is the US not a functioning democracy, it’s not a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word

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.

Holding regular elections does not ensure legislative rule reflecting majority progressive opinion

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.

So-called democracy in the US comes down to citizens choosing among competing elites

The most important decisions aren’t made by “We the People.” They are made by an insular elite of rich and powerful societal owners and directors, “with elections,” as the astute Left analyst Carl Boggs writes, “reduced to a set of rituals and spectacles geared more to legitimation than actual decision-making.” It’s nothing new. C.B. Macpherson noted four decades ago that the nation’s so-called democratic politics was about subordinate citizens “choosing,” in Boggs’ words, “among competing elites…offering an illusion of democracy…an elite-legitimizing function.

Neofascist-in-chief Trump says there’s “no political appetite” in Congress for assault rifle restrictions

Fast forward to the red summer of 2019. Listen to the tangerine-tinted, white nationalist Neofascist-in-Chief speaking to reporters beneath the whir of presidential helicopter blades as he prepared last Wednesday to visit El Paso and Dayton, two cities recently hit by grisly assault weapon massacres, one (El Paso) inflicted by a psychotic racist inspired by Trump’s recurrent hateful statements about Latinx immigrants. “There is no political appetite” in Congress for restrictions on the sale of assault rifles “at this moment,” Trump said.

But poll finds majority of US voters, including Republicans, back national assault weapon ban

Let’s assume that Trump is correct that Congress has no political will to ban assault weapons. A Morning Consult/Politco poll taken between August 5th and 7th finds that 7 in 10 U.S. voters, including 54% of Republicans, back a national assault weapon ban.

Truth be told, it’s powerful elites that call the assault weapon “shots” in the US

Why does Congress lack “appetite” for banning assault weapons when most of the population supports such a policy? The top two reasons: (i) the extreme political power of the NRA, exercised via campaign finance, lobbying, and public relations; (ii) the constitutionally exaggerated and gerrymandered political power of rural red states and regions where guns are supremely prized possessions and where any restrictions of any kind on firearm sales are viewed as threats to American white-male identity.

What great U.S.-American democracy? What remotely functioning democracy? They don’t exist.

America’s founding fathers designed a system to protect property rights of elites against property-less, property-poor majority

This is so not new. Democracy, it is worth recalling, was the Founding Fathers’ ultimate nightmare. They designed a constitutional order meant precisely to keep popular sovereignty at bay, advancing a definition of “liberty” that revolved around the protection of property rights (the propertied elite) against the property-less and property-poor majority.

US electoral and party systems are irreversibly compromised

Politics in general is so badly over-identified with specifically electoral and candidate-centered politics in the U.S. as to become practically suicidal for the America populace. The nation’s oligarchic electoral, candidate-selection, political media, and party systems are gravely and irreversibly compromised by business and military power, making them lethally and pathetically inadequate as avenues of popular self-rule.

Even if the Democrats win in 2020, they will be captive to class rule

We will not achieve any serious gains through electoral-political business(-rule)-as-usual. Even if they win in 2020, the Inauthentic Opposition Democrats can be counted on to be so captive to the global corporate, financial, and imperial powers as to guarantee a right-wing white nationalist return to the White House in 2025 or 2029.

Nobody in America’s political class will acknowledge that “the whole damn system” (WDS) is the problem

As nobody in the nation’s political class has the courage or desire to acknowledge, the problem is (to use the wonderful phrase of anti-racist-policing activists) “the whole damn system” (WDS), Democrats included. The whole damn Trump-Pence-McConnell-Pelosi-Schumer-Goldman-Citigroup-NRA-Council on Foreign Relations-Koch Brothers-Tom Steyer-Sheldon Adelson-Donald Sussman-Richard Uhlein-Michael Bloomberg-Kenneth Griffin-George Soros-Stephen Schwarzman-Heritage Foundation-Center for American Progress-ALEC-Brookings-American Enterprise Institute-Rockefeller Foundation-FOX-MSDNC-CNN-Scaife-MacArthur-DeVoss-Pritzker-Pentagon-American Petroleum Institute-Tides Foundation-Obama-Bush-Clinton-Kissinger-Kasich-Cubs-Sox-MLB regime has to go.

Unless Americans develop an appetite for revolution, no serious change will be forthcoming

Do what you want in the now seemingly endless quadrennial extravaganza. Unless a widening circle of the American people develop an appetite for a people’s politics beyond the masters’ savagely narrow and time-staggered election cycle, and indeed for revolution, they are doomed to common ruin. No serious change, no remotely substantive popular sovereignty, no protection and advance of the common good will be forthcoming without prolonged, organized, and massive nonviolent civil disruption – genuine popular resistance.

“… there is no way to a decent future without a protracted and massive, death-defying popular uprising”

The WDS is rotten to the core, as much of the ruling class knows. Taking it down will be no walk in the park. Many will die, sadly; vicious regimes of class rule like ours don’t just disappear without a bloody fight. But there is no way to a decent future without a protracted and massive, death-defying popular uprising. The masters’ soulless profits system is pushing livable ecology over the cliff with startling velocity (the exterminist process is well underway and we have a decade at most to stop it), making gun violence and other terrible problems secondary by comparison.

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