by Open-Publishing - Monday 5 October 2009

Democracy Governments


In what Thomas Paine christened The Age of Reason, democracy supplanted the royal monarchy as the government of choice for enlightened nations. There was much discussion in those pivotal times of human advancement concerning the inherent Rights of Man. Borrowing from England’s Magna Carta, the British philosopher John Locke and the French philosophers Jean-Jacque Rousseau and Francois-Marie Arouet (aka Voltaire), Thomas Jefferson immortalized the universal human rights in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Many attempts have been made to identify and innumerate the universal Rights of Man but none yet has succeeded in finding a general consensus across the divergent cultures of our planet. Some nations, held back by centuries of tradition and religious belief, have not yet accepted the basic tenets of individual liberty. Others like our own have failed to move beyond the most basic of rights and liberties. Some would say we have done a poor job of ensuring and protecting even those fundamental rights and I would count myself among them.

There is something to be said for the conservative approach to enlightenment. We cannot expect primitive societies governed by witchdoctors and tribal warlords to be transformed into functioning democracies overnight. We cannot expect nations carved in the earth by foreign occupying powers to embrace ideals of governance they have neither discovered nor devised for themselves. All societies must be allowed to evolve according to their own levels of consciousness by their own methods.

But we in America pride ourselves as a bastion of civil liberty. We never tire of proclaiming ourselves leaders of the free world, a shining city on a hill illuminating the way forward for all of humankind. It hardly matters that we have so often failed the test by sponsoring military dictatorships and coups or allowing the disenfranchisement of minority voters to overturn elections, we have an obligation by our own proclamation and self-aggrandizement to forward the cause. We have a responsibility to lead the world because we believe ourselves to be the world’s leader.

Despite our flaws and failures we have often found our way to push forward in critical times not by summoning the lost voices of our founders but by recognizing their substantial shortcomings. Our founders did not acknowledge the rights of women but the nation found a way. Our founders did not recognize the rights of minorities or the poor but succeeding generations righted those wrongs.

It is time we moved forward. It is time we understood once and for always that for every right our founders committed to law they got something wrong. They were profoundly flawed men even if enlightened for their time and we have no obligation to be bound in perpetuity to their shortcomings.

The recent national debate (if it may be called that) has brought to light several of our shortcomings in the fulfillment of human rights. When angry white men bring automatic weapons to political protests it should not escape anyone’s attention that the right to free expression is compromised by anyone who does not agree with the armed protestors. It is not by happenstance that the founders placed the right to bear arms in the context of “a well organized militia.” They had no intention of validating the spectacle of an armed mob intimidating their fellow citizens.

What are we afraid of: that a subversive element will take over the government? I would suggest that the subversive element is the angry mob itself and that recent history has already recorded the takeover of our government through electoral fraud. But the remedy was and is in the ballot box, not in armed mobs issuing thinly veiled threats before the television screens.

It will take time but we must curtail the right to arm in order to protect the greater right to freedom of expression and freedom from the inevitable violence that will ensue if this trend continues. We must elect officials who are sworn to take no money from the gun lobby that zealously blocks gun control legislation to prevent unstable individuals from purchasing automatic weapons and wielding them in public. We must eventually change the political equation that will not allow anyone to become a Supreme Court justice unless they agree to ignore the language of the second amendment in favor of an unfettered individual right to bear arms. Barring that we must amend the constitution.

The national debate on healthcare reform has brought to the fore the unfulfilled right to decent and affordable medical care for all our citizens. Indeed, all human beings, even those here illegally or as guests, should have the right to medical treatment without fear of penalty or deportation.

America is so far behind the curve on this issue that it alone places us in the second class of nations on the fulfillment of human rights and respect for human dignity. Every American should be ashamed that we alone among industrialized nations fail to ensure universal healthcare to our people. We are so blind to our own interests that we allow an industry that is motivated by profit and profit alone to dictate the terms of so-called “healthcare reform.” The corporate monoliths that provide millions in political contributions and millions more in a public relations offensive summon the uninsured and unhealthy masses to decry real reform as socialism and (unbelievably) fascism and the masses fall in line. It seems not to matter that fully 65% of the people do not buy the corporate propaganda and remain steadfast in supporting the public option as critical to the reform effort, it only matters that the angry mob on the television screen opposes it.

The fault here goes to the heart of our democracy. Quite simply, our elected officials are on the take. Until we succeed in banning corporate contributions from dominating our electoral system, our officials will represent the wealthiest corporations first and spend most of their time trying to deceive the people into believing it is in their interest.

Perhaps they can explain how it is in our interest that international corporations have been granted all the rights of individuals and more while individuals have been denied the most basic right of democracy: the right to vote. If you don’t believe that is possible you should spend a little time reading the landmark Supreme Court decision Bush v. Gore 2000. If the courts were forced to recognize the right to vote they would find it difficult to ignore the massive voter disenfranchisement that allowed George W. Bush to steal two presidential elections.

How can we possibly believe that our president went to war to secure other nation’s rights to democracy when we have done so little to protect our own? The election of 2000 should have been the death knell of the Electoral College. Instead it fortified our standing as a second-class democracy. In any other nation the defense of archaic rules to justify the nullification of popular will would have been condemned for what it is: hypocrisy.

Compounding our shame, we have leaders who advance the notion that voting is not a right at all; it is rather a privilege. As a wise man once said: That is not only a lie but a damnable lie. If voting is a privilege then we live in an aristocracy and democracy be damned.

We cannot summon the founders on this one – not unless we want to go back to the days when the right to vote was conditioned on property ownership and neither women nor minorities were in the club. When the Declaration proclaimed, “all men are created equal,” it was a literal exclusion. The founders set up the United States Senate as a surrogate House of Lords to guard against the dangers of democracy. We can no longer defend such notions any more than we can defend slavery or the disenfranchisement of women.

The U.S. Senate has become the obstructionist body that thwarts the will of the people. It not only stands in the way of meaningful healthcare reform; it stands in the way of the advancement of human rights.

It is time we ended the archaic Senate rules that allow forty senators to defeat any major legislation. If they cannot do it or will not then we must elect senators who will. But we cannot find viable candidates for such a regal position who will represent our interests because the cost of a senate seat requires big money – the kind of money that only corporate monoliths can provide.

Here lies the linchpin of this thesis. It is the reason our government is incapable of advancing the rights of humankind. It is the reason we have not secured our right to vote. It is the reason we have not fulfilled the right to healthcare, the right to employment or the right to decent shelter. All our interests as citizens of the nation fall secondary to corporate interests because the largest and most powerful international corporations have a stranglehold on our political process.

They have the money and money rules – even when it has been provided on the public dole from our own pockets.

What we need now is a peaceful revolution, a mass movement, and a cause that supercedes all others. It is a cause that unifies disparate groups because it is simple and appeals to common sense. It would not prevent the election of fools and charlatans to office but it would end corporate dominance of our government overnight.

It is simply this: Only individuals (subject to the limitations set by our legislative bodies) shall be allowed to contribute to political campaigns.



Forum posts

  • "we cannot expect primitive societies governed by witchdoctors or tribal warlords to be transformed into functioning democracies overnight.."

  • And how does one plan to subvert the money machine powered by millions and millions and millions of dollars given by corporate moguls and death merchants into personal campaign coffers? Simply say, "Stop"?

    These ’limitations’ shall be set by the same legislators who currently growl, snap and slither around the feeding trough for the very money this ’revolution’ proposes to obliterate. A catch 22 it would seem.

    One thing this country must learn is that there is not a dimes worth of difference between red and blue:

    "The two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ’throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy." Carroll Quigley (historian for the Powers That Be), Tragedy and Hope.

    The sooner the nation wakes up to this fact, the sooner we can have some measure of hope, instead of the present "hopium"

    • Agreed. Throw them all out. Replace them with leaders who recognize the threat of corporate sponsorship. Whatever solutions you advocate, the goal must be to remove corporate funds from the political process. Limiting personal contributions must go hand in hand with that objective so that money does not determine who wins and loses elections. It is a long and daunting challenge but there is no other way.