Newsletter: US Democracy Crisis Creates Illegitimate Political System

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Above photo: From Alamy.

Two years ago we wrote that the task of the movement is to build national consensus. We have shown in previous articles that national consensus is being reached on many issues, but the government is not responding to the public consensus. We have also reported on research that shows the US is really an oligarchy operating in the worst democracy in the western world.

The government’s lack of responsiveness to the people and elected officials who fail to represent the people’s views are resulting in a crisis of democracy. This week the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs reported on that crisis. They found the legitimacy of US government has disappeared:

“Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.”

1occupyNinety percent! A near unanimous consensus about the lack of confidence in the US political system. The poll taken last month as the primary season comes to a close found “only 13 percent say the two-party system for presidential elections works.” The elections have left most Americans feeling discouraged with 70% saying they experience frustration and 55% reporting they feel helpless. Only 13% feel proud of the presidential election.

It is not just elections but all three branches of government are held in low esteem: “A quarter (24 percent) say they have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court and only 15 percent of Americans say the same of the executive branch. Merely 4 percent of Americans have much faith in Congress.”

The two major political parties are held in low esteem by their own registered voters: “Only 29 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in their party. Similarly, 31 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans have a lot of faith in the fairness of their party’s nominating process.” And, most members of both parties do not think their party is receptive to the views of rank and file voters, only 14% of Democrats believe their party is responsive and 8% of Republicans.Vote Nobody for President

These are the views of those who remain inside the two parties, record numbers have left the two parties. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 50% of people in the US consider themselves independents, and only 21% identified as Republicans and 29% as Democrats. A 2015 Gallup poll similarly found that a record high number of Americans—43%—consider themselves to be independents.

John Stauber, a media expert, describes the electoral system as “a farce” and explains why we are trapped in a corrupt two-party system: “The super-rich whose interests lie with Wall Street, the global corporations, and what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, own and control both the Democrat and the Republican parties and their candidates.  This shared monopoly prevents any anti-oligarchy party from emerging  . . . The corporate media is the recipient of the lions share of this money which they get for selling the TV ads . . . It’s a hell of a system, a total fraud on democracy, painted up to look like democracy.”

And, this frustration and lack of confidence are also shown by the high percentage of non-voters. Stauber says: “This is why even in an election year as controversial as this one, most Americans will not vote.  The majority of Americans have lost faith in what has become a charade that betrays their interests.” The sad reality is that with half of qualified US voters not registering and half of registered voters not voting, only 25% of the US public votes in elections. Winning 55% of voters is a landslide in a presidential race but in reality it is under 15% of qualified US voters.

Democracy not a market dictatorshipThe Views of People are Based on the Reality of US Government

There are good reasons to lose faith in the government. Every week we could point to how the government is out-of-step with the people’s priorities.

The US has become a carefully designed plutocracy that creates laws to favor the few. As Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissenting opinion in McCutcheon, American law is now ‘incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy.’ Or, as former president, Jimmy Carter said on July 16, 2013 “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.” And, then there is the devastating truth, as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), stated, about the impact of the big banks  on the Senate: “They own the place.”

The lost democratic legitimacy of the United States is proven in academic research. One study in Perspectives on Politics, which reviewed  1,779 policy issues, found: “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.”

Another studypublished in the Political Research Quarterly, found that only the rich get represented in the US Senate. The researchers studied the voting records of Senators in five Congresses and found the Senators were consistently aligned with their wealthiest constituents and lower-class constituents never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior. This oligarchic tendency was even worse when the Senate was controlled by Democrats.

1tppustr4This week the trade agreements demonstrated how oligarchy works in the United States and why people continue to lose faith in government. The Obama trade agenda was negotiated not only in secret, but also by government officials who are part of a revolving door between big business and the Office of the US Trade Representative. Michael Froman, a former Citigroup executive, has gone back and forth between big finance, US Treasury, big finance, USTR and in the meantime was a bundler of large donations from Wall Street for President Obama. He was given a $4 million bonus when he left Citi to become US Trade ambassador.

Emails released under FOIA show that Froman continues to have a chummy relationship with Wall Street and they had a major role in shaping the TPP to serve big business interests. One striking thing about these emails is how Froman has been consistently in touch with executives from Goldman Sachs who served in the Bush administration and went to Goldman during the Obama administration (the opposite of Froman, who went to Citigroup during the Bush era after being in the Clinton government and before the Obama government).

On top of all this, the official negotiations were conducted in secret with members of Congress, the media and public kept ignorant. Just as the weak US elections are used to give the illusion of democracy and veil oligarchy, the USTR appointed a “transparency officer” at the demand of Congress. But the purpose of transparency seems more to do with blocking information. As Rep. Lloyd Dogget (D-TX) says “The true function of whoever wears this hat is to continue engaging in as much bureaucratic obstruction as possible.” The person chosen to wear that hat was the general counsel at USTR who has defended secrecy and litigated to block FOIA requests.

1wto2And, if all of this is not bad enough, even after the US negotiates trade rules that benefit its trans-national corporate interests, they work to rig the system even more if they do not get everything they asked for. That was obvious in the recent act of the United States to block the reappointment of a World Trade Organization judge from South Korea because he ruled against the United States too often.

That is this week’s lesson in oligarchic government. The Obama trade agenda, as with previous presidents, is to advance the cause of multi-national corporations. The US will rig the system by negotiation with them for language that gives corporations what they want and they will continue to rig the system to keep protecting US big business interests. These laws impact everything in our lives – food, water, environment, finance, jobs, income, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, the Internet, energy and more – and yet they are negotiated without any input from the people. One more example of the US democracy crisis.

No doubt next week, the people will experience more acts of the oligarchs against the people. It is a regular recurrence which explains the poll numbers showing 9 out of 10 do not trust the US political process.

What if There was a Real Political Revolution?

Senator Bernie Sanders has made the term “political revolution” acceptable in US political discourse. David Swanson asks: What if people in the United States came to understand “revolution” as something more than a campaign slogan in a presidential election campaign?

1flood2We have been monitoring the growing popular movement since before the occupy encampments in 2011. The movement has grown significantly, we estimate tripling in size since the encampments were closed by a massive nationally-coordinated police force. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has won victories over police prosecution, the release of investigatory records and removal of prosecutors. The #FightFor15 movement has won battles for higher wages across the country. And, climate justice activists have succeeded in stopping pipelines and other carbon infrastructure. Student debt activists have also won victories. These are a few examples of many demonstrating a movement that is growing and succeeding.

We would not call it a revolution, but it is a series of uprisings that are setting their own agenda, developing strategies and tactics to achieve goals and building power.   Swanson focuses on an Egyptian activist who helped to ignite the Arab Spring. He tells how Egyptian activists stayed out of electoral politics in what they saw as a hopelessly corrupt system and took to the streets in fits and starts.Media don't trust the corporate media

They did remove the Mubarak government, which ruled as a dictatorship for thirty years. This was a tremendous victory but the system didn’t change and so two coups leave Egypt no better off today, more work needs to be done. We in the US can learn from the experiences of Egyptian revolutionaries. Swanson asks, “how would one duplicate that sort of organizing in a place as large as the United States, with the middle class spread across the soul-numbing sprawl? And how would it compete against the highly skillful propaganda of U.S. media outlets?”

The media problem should not be underestimated. As John Stauber points out “We are completely enveloped by the corporate propaganda system from the moment of our birth on, and it allows the oligarchy to control our minds and lives from cradle to grave, in seamless invisible fashion, via marketing, advertising and public relations, reinforced by the news media.  Few are able to admit and see this . . .” People in the United States are subjected to the most sophisticated propaganda system in world history. It keeps people ignorant of the facts, misleads people with false information and prevents many from seeing we are living in a mirage democracy, really an oligarchy, wearing a false democracy veil. Yet, even with this now 9 out of 10 people in the United States no longer trust the US political system. 

Many activists participated in the Sanders campaign and see the relationship between activism and electoral politics. The Sanders campaign has elevated the public discourse about important issues, activated more people and exposed the corruption of the Democratic Party. Others have worked in the Green Party, socialist parties and progressive parties and use independent politics as a movement tool to create alternative platforms and political structures. The history of transformational change in the US has required both an independent mass movement and independent political parties.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.28.16 PMThere are multiple offshoots from the Sanders campaign and people are trying to figure out how to build on its success, just as people built on the success of Occupy and the movements that followed. One opportunity that we support is the People’s Convention in Philadelphia, which will take place two days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.  They seek to lay more ground work for the next phase of a people powered grass roots movement, saying:

“The 2016 election cycle has revealed a deficit of democracy in our country and a failure of our major institutions to respond to the needs of the American public. As a solution to this dilemma, a grassroots coalition of organizers is sponsoring an inclusive gathering named The People’s Convention, to be held in Philadelphia on July 23, 2016. This event will bring together regular people ready to build a more sustainable, cooperative and democratic country together.”

Sign up, donate and participate in the People’s Convention. Join us in Philadelphia.

This and similar actions are antidotes to the democracy crisis in the United States, a crisis that impacts all aspects of our lives. We must organize and continue to build a mass movement as well as an electoral movement that challenge the two big business parties.

We’ll be at the People’s Convention but have two next steps we hope people will participate in:

  1. Join the #NoLameDuck uprising to stop the TPP from being ratified during a lame duck session of Congress. Already more than 1,800 have signed up, we hope you will too. Sign up here. And, if you are in Philadelphia, join us for the Stop the TPP contingent of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. The TPP is a battle between people power and corporate power. If the people win, it will be a message to the oligarchs that we are organized, mobilized and have power.
  2. Start planning with groups and networks you work with for the #NoHoneymoon revolt. The popular movement needs to stand up and tell whomever is elected that there will be no honeymoon for the next government. They will be held accountable to the people’s demands. And, there will be ongoing protests, organizing and mobilizing to make sure that the people set the agenda, not the oligarchs.

1speakThe public are with us by massive super majorities. National consensus has been reached on key issues. Our job is to ensure that the people are not only heard, but that politicians act on our behalf. The establishment, represented by the two parties, needs to know that the people are fed up with their plutocratic behavior on behalf of the wealthy as well as their corruption. Oligarchy is coming to an end.

  • DHFabian

    I’m not aware of any consensus. It has proved politically profitable to keep the masses deeply divided, pitted against each other. We’re rich vs. middle class vs. poor, subdivided by race. A chunk of the population, the poor (those who are worse off than min. wage workers) has no voice in the public forum, no representation in government whatsoever.

  • Al

    The People’s Convention is nothing more than a democratic party affiliated effort to elect more and better politicians to seek incremental social change.
    It bills itself as open to all parties and peoples but it’s clearly made up of Democratic party nominee Bernie Sanders supporters and attaching itself to the Democratic party national convention. They’ve got Bernie delegates (democratic party) on board and their “goal of this meeting will be to ratify a People’s Platform, with the potential to influence DNC convention outcomes.” And its foundation seems to rely on working through the current political system, i.e., politicians and political parties, to effect these changes. They want to do that by getting people involved but in the end its still about working through and reforming the current system and parties.

    The platform issues look like they’re directly from the Democratic party platform, or at least what Bernie (or his delegates) will probably insist on at the convention. Apparently its a work in progress but the initial list on their website shows this:

    •Getting Big Money Out of Politics •Racial Justice •Healthcare for All •Climate Change •A Living Wage •College for all and Student Debt Relief •Income and Wealth Inequality •Electoral Reform

    No where is war, imperialism, WWIII, New World Order, mentioned. I find it ridiculous that seeking a living wage, free college, or electoral reform of an unreformable political system are mentioned before the quest of our government and those who control it to Rule the World and start World War III to do it. Not just ridiculous, obscene. What the hell is going on?

    Not a word about abolishing the federal reserve and attacking the financial oligarchy, creating a new political system to establish a democracy, abolishing Wall Street, ending rule by the rich, boycotting this presidential election farce, boycotting the MIC, it’s all the same old thing by the same old people. Another dead end waste of time just like this Bernie “Be the Hope and Change” Sanders waste of a year presidential campaign while more people die and more and more are subjugated by the imperial machine. I agree with DHFabian, the only consensus I see is the knowledge that our government is FUBAR. And the only consensus I see from the People’s Convention, the People’s Revolution, and the People’s Summit is perpetuation of the Democratic party and the U.S. oligarchy.

  • History301

    Once more, Popular Resistance published a wonderfully informative Newsletter I’d like to see in media far and wide. Many thanks to Kevin Zeese and Dr. Flowers for operating this site.
    When it comes to the legitimacy issue of this government, I’m glad to see this site using available statistics, which more or less prove, it isn’t a government operating by consent of the governed, but rather, a cabal of oligarchs who own the system and use it to further their agenda. It could easily be argued, this has always been the case, and while the beginnings of what was once called a republic may be important to understand, what happens in the future could be moreso, or so I hope.
    It is heartening to see how many Americans have come to realize confidence in the status quo is misplaced, which is pretty amazing considering the 24/7 cycle of propaganda informing them otherwise. Disinformation which is, as pointed above, something which begins at birth and exists everywhere one looks, from public education, news broadcasts, TV and most everything else coming out of Hollywood. As George Carlin once noted, if people believe in the American Dream as depicted in media, and the system in general, they must be dreaming as in, something that happens while actually asleep.
    I’m reminded too that, Prof. Sheldon Wolin had it right when he called this system, “Inverted Totalitarianism” and was shunned by his peers for many years for his conclusions, ones now being explored as valid by people like Chris Hedges.
    Well, once again, many thanks for publishing a great Newsletter week after week and please know, there are so many who appreciate the work and commitment you folks display all the time.

  • kevinzeese

    You are not aware because you do not want to be aware. Look at the polls we link to. When over 75% of people agree it is a consensus. Sorry you do not want to see it, but not surprised your comments are always negative. It is getting boring reading your comments.

  • William Nemcik

    You still don’t get it, huh?

  • PaulK2

    “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to
    …”

    Guys, if you find that we’re reaching consensus that it’s the elections that have been corrupt for centuries, and that the Founding Fathers absolutely never intended for us to have exactly two corrupt parties, then it’s up to you, it’s up to us, to declare an entirely new election, and to use a corruption-resistant form of election when electing our servants. I typically point to the Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council form of election as an uncorrupted system.

  • gardensheila

    Another inspiring article from Zeese and Flowers. I hope it’s read far and wide.

  • Southernfink

    Great newsletter.

    Since many millions may decide not to vote in the 2016 US elections, are they not able to put their support behind the US Greens?

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  • Jon

    Write on! As the Declaration states, the sole criterion for the legitimacy of a government is “consent of the governed.” It is time for us to declare that they no longer have our consent. 4th of July is a great time to do that, with flyers to pare watchers everywhere! I recommend focusing on the Bill of Rights as a starting point, and pointing to positive options like Green Party which is non-corporate. Long live the REVEL-ution–the joyous dismantling of structures of oppression.

  • Jon

    Despair is not a winning strategy, yet you raise some useful points.

  • Jon

    Agree with Kevin

  • DHFabian

    Bill Clinton actually was right about one thing: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton launched a hell of a class war that has profoundly divided the proverbial masses, middle class vs. the poor, workers vs. those who have been left jobless after years of shipping out jobs out. Liberals spent another 8 yrs urging us to “Stand in Solidarity” to maintain the status quo of the bourgeoisie — and don’t let a crumb trickle down! We’re deeply divided, subdivided, and pitted against each other by class and race. The richest few rest easy and smile.

    How do you think this will all turn out?

  • DHFabian

    With each election, many scatter their votes among the array of third parties while many withhold their votes. The last time we had a president who wasn’t a D or R was way back in the 1860s. There is no way that those in power will allow a third party president.

  • DHFabian

    Maybe something of a consensus, sort of, among the middle class. That said, if we had a revolution, who would fight whom? We’re rich vs. middle class vs. poor.

  • DHFabian

    There’s the catch: Who are “we the people,” and what do they want? This isn’t the first time the US has been in this sort of mess, but this time the proverbial masses — poor and middle class, workers and the jobless — were successfully divided and pitted against each other.

    Today’s middle class is under 50% of the population, and they are split by ideology.

  • DHFabian

    Agree on what, that the rich are too rich? You probably enjoyed the luxury of not being aware of the consequences of this era’s war on the poor. Did you know that the overall life expectancy of the US poor has already fallen to age 60? Think a minute. The US shipped out a huge share of our jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. Not everyone can work (health, etc.) and there aren’t jobs fo9r all — 7 jobs for every 10 who still have the means to pursue one. What do you think happens to those who are left out? Hell yes, that’s “negative.”

    If having the audacity to mention the consequences of years of bad policies bores you — skip over my comments, stupid!

  • DHFabian

    The magic of discussion boards is that you are free to skip over comments that don’t agree with your own notions. I do understand that my comments can ruffle a few bourgeois feathers, but regardless, many do believe we need to look at the consequences of years of bad policies.

  • DHFabian

    The critical issue is: What should we do with those who have no means to provide for themselves? I’m not sure why this issue is so difficult for today’s generation to grasp. We already tried over 30 yrs of calling for job creation and waiting for trickle down. Without a large enough middle class, the US goes down. It’s impossible to save, much less to rebuild, the middle class without putting rungs back on the proverbial ladder out of poverty. These are lessons we learned from the Great Depression, and forgot since the 1980s.

  • DHFabian

    Despair is an entirely normal human response to hopeless/near hopeless conditions. There isn’t a chance of change unless people are able to freely discuss the critical issues. It’s impossible to fix problems if people don’t “get” what the problems are. Our only chance, I think, is to address those very factors that keep us deeply divided and pitted against each other — even if there are those who just want happy talk.

  • Jed Grover

    The super D preselection a year ago in addition to both Clintons being Bilderberg and Kissinger’s pick makes me skeptical. This global pack would not dare accept Trump. Democracy ………. dream on. I know that many will say that sounds conspiracy but it is a known fact. We have to think independent of both party affiliations if we are ever going to move out of the current corruption and in the meantime be honest and open about our system and how these outside corporate power networks are ruling our society. Good post.

  • I’m not seeing strong divisions on not consenting to oligarchy. Everybody wants different things, and they should be given equal weight of influence on the political sphere. I only will consent to a democracy, regardless of the outcome of the public will. I don’t consent to an oligarchy, in fact we don’t even need to reach consensus on that last one, international standards would already justify force. Assuming of course it was an organized response, claimed to speak for those who did not consent to oligarchy.

  • I don’t know what middle class means when you use it, the majority of Americans are working class not middle class.

  • Agree’d third parties are a dead end, we don;t have democracy it;s time we accept the reality of what that means.

  • Keep in mind, that’s always how they do things. They did that same playbook until the last second in Cuba, and WHAM all the divisions reduced to what they always were, special interest problems.

  • Thats not conspiracy jed, those are facts. The capitalist class has spoken clearly.

  • None of those you listed except the capitalist class has any representation.

  • deedee718702

    We need the REPUBLIC restored not a DEMOCRACY -Mob rule-

  • Prince

    America never has been a democracy…

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