The US Is Not ‘Losing’ Its Democracy, It’s Already Long Gone

| Educate!

The notion that citizens of the United States don’t actually live in a democracy has been picking up steam for decades, with scars from economic, social and political decay inflicting themselves ever more deeply into our psyches as the years move on.

You would think that, with the rise of science and technology, we would have been able to build a far more prosperous nation. Instead, we have seen a vast reduction in our standard of living, and are being forced to work longer and harder in increasingly menial and unfulfilling jobs across the board. We are ever more being subjected to the control-hungry vicissitudes of mega-corporations that are swallowing up American entrepreneurship and prosperous self-employment.

The notion that we as individuals are failing ourselves as a nation, and somehow have earned the massive and growing national debt as a result of our own poor decisions and ineptitude, is only valid if you still believe that we are living in a democracy, where the majority of individuals directly make policy. If in fact the United States ever fully operated this way, the least we can say is that our democracy is currently broken.

Of course, if you are in the small coterie of economic elites at the top of the pyramid, you don’t feel that anything is broken. In fact, in the back rooms where all the important meetings take place, you likely spend part of the time congratulating each other because things are going exactly according to plan.

Princeton Study

A study by two political scientists at Princeton and Northwestern, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, analyzed 1,779 recent policy outcomes found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” while average citizens “have little or no independent influence.”

The research had two parts: First, they measured the amount of political influence various groups have in America. Then, they checked this against some technical definitions of democracy, oligarchy, and other forms of government.

In our latest episode of The Collective Evolution Show on CETV, Joe Martino and I discuss this study and the broader notion of whether the system itself is simply broken and can be fixed, or if we should start thinking about how we can move away from it altogether. The opening clip is below, and for the full episode and hundreds of other inspiring shows and interviews, you can start a free 7-day trial on CETV today.

The Wealthy Have More Influence

The chart below shows how much political influence different groups have in America today. Not only do the wealthy have the most influence, ordinary voters have basically none.

To have “political influence” in this case means that Congress responds to you by passing the laws and policies you like. Low influence means you’re ignored — Congress passes laws that have no relationship to what you want.

Special interest groups also have sway over public policy. The researchers divided them into two types. “Mass” interest groups, which represent large groups of organized citizens, have a small amount of power. Business groups, like trade associations, have a moderate amount, likely because they can afford to spend more on lobbying and political donations.

None of this means that ordinary people never get what they want from Congress. Sometimes public opinion data matched up with things Congress actually did. However the vast majority were also outcomes favored by the wealthy and business interests. Statistically speaking, the government doesn’t care what 90% of Americans think.

America Is an Oligarchy

The authors defined four possible systems we might have: (1) democracy, (2) oligarchy, or semi-democratic systems dominated by (3) interest groups generally or (4) business groups especially. You can look at the chart below and judge for yourself: America in 2014 matches mostly with the oligarchy model — an oligarchy of wealthy individuals. In fact, the general public has even less influence than it does in a typical oligarchy model.

The problem here isn’t the existence of wealth, or that wealthy Americans have political opinions. It’s that the government is representing only 10% of the American people. Everyone else is living with something less than democracy.

The authors make the following observations: Organized groups regularly lobby and fraternize with public officials; move through revolving doors between public and private employment; provide self-serving information to officials; draft legislation; and spend a great deal of money on election campaigns.

At its heart, this is a problem of corruption – caused by money in our political system. Such corruption is fundamentally opposed to the ideals of our republic because “the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own interests than any feasible alternative.”

The Takeaway

While some might argue that introducing new campaign finance laws as well as anti-corruption legislation is the answer, we have to remember that the foxes remain in charge of the hen house, and there is always resistance from lawmakers to introduce, implement, and enforce legislation that will reduce their power and ultimately find them guilty of having obtained their power through corrupt means. More than likely this problem will only get solved when we amass the collective will to walk away from this system, and create one that is more aligned with our values and aspirations.

  • Agree – “…problem will only get solved when we amass the collective will to walk away from this system, and create one…”

  • voza0db

    I’m always saying this “What democracy?”…It seems that it is once again TIME to show what is the current ORGANIZATION of our lovely degenerated civilization.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/513506d24b1d0aac0b5280046c8f2de8bad82a78ca9edbd0a19611b4e3ef7ae6.jpg

    At least this author is EQUALLY NEGATIVE!

    More than likely this problem will only get solved when we amass the collective will to walk away from this system, and create one that is more aligned with our values and aspirations.

  • voza0db

    Since we, uman animals, are primarily visual animals – if not blind of course – this is what a simple image can show us about one of the Secular Ruling Families…
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/305906bf335af6b3f6df12a09ac5d5ec4c6eaa778077bf729a8ac531f2ec3a5e.jpg

  • voza0db

    The bottom of the Herd wants to reach our level. If the current MAIN SYSTEM remains in place and running good luck trying to convince them to “walk away from” it.

  • didactic1

    The two war capitalist parties and their media lackeys keep radical alternatives far from public awareness. Orwellian.

  • BILL ROGAN

    If the oligarchs are not forced out they are not going to leave. They will use the military if needed to crush resistance. Obama made using the military against us legal. The only thing that will work is a country wide shutdown of everything. People like Hedges, Nader, Chomsky and organizations like this must first make a list of demands then put in motion the shutdown. If we do not do it this way, it will eventually turn to violence. And don’t forget that they have divided the people, through propaganda.

  • RBluhm

    Trying to remember my psychology: B. F. Skinner did experiments with a dog he got to salivate by rewarding intermittently. The dog never knew when the reward would be presented but salivated reliably even without the reward. The public reacts similarly when given intermittent reinforcement by the bottom feeders who rise to the top of America’s convoluted political and economic systems.

    Let’s not mince words. The system is leading to our extinction. The governing structure that has devolved is the wrong tool for the job of creating a sustainable future. It’s too late for Incrementalism ( intermittent reinforcement ) to work. The Four Horsemen are at a gallop. Learn more at scientistswarning.org or keep salivating.

  • SupernaturalCat

    The source of the Patriot Act is the C.O.G. (continuity of govt) REX84 plans, and these were specifically geared towards a new, dictatorial form of govt by way of superseding the constitution. As cited twice by the 9/11 Commission, C.O.G. was enacted on Sept 14th 2001. It has has subsequently been re-signed into effect every yr since via presidential authority. Therefore, the US has been at a de facto Martial law status ever since 09/14/01. Congress has illegally avoided ending COG as quickly as possible because the shadow govt running things doesn’t want people to be aware of what’s happening. Most Americans haven’t the vaguest clue as to COG’s existence, nor what it’s in place for, or that it’s the direct source for the Patriot Act. To draw any attention to it would obviously create all sorts of highly unwelcome scrutiny and questions. And, because those political entities realize that, per ongoing war plans, Martial law will eventually be declared overtly, even though the militarized apparatus (NORTHCOM) has already been established throughout the US in countless ways as an apparent means of needed “security” from “terrorists.”

  • chetdude

    And in case you’re interested the framework for the conversion of the USAmerican political and socioeconomic system from the New Deal compromise to the present massively unequal Oligarchy is described in the Powell Memo of 1971. This document written for the U.S.Chamber of Commerce and that was used to guide the counter-revolution of the Plutocrat Class from 1971 until the present gained its author a seat on the Supreme Court from Richard Nixon as a reward.

    It has also rewarded the Owner/Donor Class a return on their few billion dollars of “investment” with tens of trillions of dollars of “wealth” – taken from the bottom 90%.

    The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations
    billmoyers dot com/content/the-powell-memo-a-call-to-arms-for-corporations/

    The Powell Memo (also known as the Powell Manifesto)first published August 23, 1971
    reclaimdemocracy dot org/powell_memo_lewis/

  • chetdude

    It was Pavlov’s dogs. Positive reinforcement can produce physical manifestation.

    B.F.Skinner was a fan of negative reinforcement. USAmerica is still holding the most extensive experiment in “Skinner Boxes” with a mass incarceration system including torture chambers and ceaseless negative reinforcement in the Gulag of prisons and jails of the criminal-injustice system. Hint: It doesn’t work.

  • chetdude

    What’s even worse is that if scarcities don’t exist, capitalism CREATES them in order to maximize profits…

    For instance, there is no intrinsic reason why USAmericans should have to work more than 20 hours a week to completely provide for everyone’s basic needs.

  • To imagine reforming Capitalism — bottomless moral imbecility intensified by infinite greed, diabolical cunning and the limitless sadism of Nazi-caliber brute force — is to imagine one might have reformed Ted Bundy or Elizabeth Bathory or Hitler himself. .

    Because Capitalism is Pure Evil — just as Neoliberalism is the Pure Evil of Capitalism running ecogenocidally amok — its taint will always be with us.

    But the Capitalists themselves can most assuredly be isolated and thereby limited in their deadly influence: note for example the early years of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, likewise Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, etc.

    However if the Capitalists are to be properly caged and controlled, we must first recognize that they are all — every patriarchal one of them — quite literally the deadliest predators ever to prey on this planet.

  • Also we should be know the history of the Patriot Act and the identity of its prime author.

    Before the Reichstag Fire Rerun of 9/11 rationalized the act’s imposition, it was known simply as the Clinton Crime Bill, authored nearly in toto by Janet Reno, Clinton’s forcefully despotic, relentlessly Neoliberal attorney general.

    While I have forgotten the year it was introduced — 1998 I believe (but confirm that before you use it) — it was denounced in both houses of Congress as brazenly tyrannical over-reach and so defeated.

    Ergo sum — if 9/11 was either a deep-state job or had deep-state approval — the imposition of the Clinton Crime Bill as Patriot Act, its unstated core purpose to destroy forever the last effective remnants of USian democratic process, is surely an obvious motive.

    (Disclosure: a member of the working press in Manhattan and Northern New Jersey at the time the WTC was built, I regard the buildings’ collapses not as dynamically conspiratorial [i.e., demolitions and all obvious preparations they require], but rather as passively conspiratorial — that is, perpetrated by bribed officials’ tolerance of woefully substandard materials, precisely as was rumored at the time. Which of course would also explain why the post-collapse debris was hauled away under the highest security, with no forensic examination allowed.) .

  • Apropos “divided the people,” (and I say this not to be critical but to emphasize Mr. Rogan’s point — this is perhaps the understatement of the millennia.

    Never before in human history have we been so divided, not only by class, race and generational age, but by our species’ one and only biological building block, gender. Never have the genders been so effectively conditioned to distrust and even despise one another, with the resulting divisiveness assuring our Masters that — as I said in a recent blog piece, “Solidarity is for Never.”

    This to me exemplifies the extent to which we are sorely wounded.

    Yet how many times must it be said that if we are to save ourselves, we must first acknowledge just how horribly our Masters have already wounded us all — and that if we are to regain our freedom, the process must begin with ruthlessly accurate assessments of our present circumstances and of our enemies’ capabilities and intentions.

  • You are absolutely correct, Kelly Storme. Toward which, every human on this planet should be exploiting the secret-police-imposed surveillance systems (i.e., Facebook, Twitter ad nauseam) to organize a truly global general strike.

  • Mensch59

    Sure. “Pure evil” cannot be radically reformed.
    Every capitalist ought to be treated like society treats malevolent & psychopathic narcissists who also exhibit the other malignant characteristics of the “dark tetrad” of personality traits.
    Which capitalist shall we start with in terms of treating him/her like a serial killer?

  • I have no nominations — to me all genuine Capitalists are equally guilty — but I can surely think of a few remote islands where they might all be successfully housed. Wake Island comes to mind, as does Midway, and I suspect in either place there are old military barracks that could be readily converted to permanent housing.

    (For habitual recidivists, there may also be an uninhabited island or two in the infinitely harsher-climate Aleutian chain, though that I am not certain of.)

  • A global general strike, depending on how its structured and how long it can be maintained, could aid in producing solidarity and momentum for a new system. I do have concerns about using Facebook, Twitter, Whats App, etc. for organizing purposes; my reasoning is that if it is not already being used to create a database of malcontents, which I think it is, then it will be during and after a general strike. This database coupled with the new ‘preemptive’ crime laws proposed by W. Barr would be used to round up and eliminate movement leaders. By eliminate I mean either incarcerated or disappeared and in some countries, assassinated.

    We need to devise a more secure way of communicating – we need to protect ourselves as much as possible as we move forward in our campaign to effect a paradigm shift toward a people and planet focused system vs. the one we have now which enables greed and power for a few humans at the expense of all other people and all other life.

  • BILL ROGAN

    Sir, a lot of people see what is going on and are at a loss, feeling “what are we to do”. I e mailed some of the people I mentioned to no avail. Hedges participated in non violent resistance and he is promoting it, in books and talks. We need to contact him and formulate a list of compliance. I also think that an extended shut down may be necessary as K. Storme suggest, however there is danger to innocent people in what we are proposing. Therefor we may want to start with a one day shut down. I am getting ahead of things. I think that some members of the Congress would go along with a shut down and perhaps even some police departments. Traffic jams in all modes of transportation would be crucial to bringing things to a halt. Most members of the congress have clearly violated their oaths of office along with president and vice president, and the AG. These people are criminals, and since they are the government we effectively are without a government. Below is a blog if you want I will provide my e mail There may be phone # for ” On Contact” It may be a long journey so we need to take the first step.

    We are Asleep! Wake up! It’s Free! Memoir’s of a Moron and The End of Conflict!

  • SupernaturalCat

    You’re alluding to the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, which became law in ’96 after the Murrah bldg false flag …on the day of, the state dept confirmed at least 3 additional un-exploded bombs inside the Murrah federal building, which was covered via live local news throughout the day (it’s available on Youtube) …yet within 24 hrs, any info not pointing toward the state’s lone nut theory conveniently went down the Memory Hole, and multiple bombs inside the building morphed into a single fertilizer truck-bomb.

    However, that aside, the true origin of this Omnibus Counterterrorism Act is the same as the Patriot Act–it stems from contingency COUP plans that were being devised throughout the 1980s by key figures working within the Reagan/Bush admin. Author, professor, activist, Peter Dale Scott, has impeccable research into this, and additional (condensed) info can be found in the 1988 doc film, Cover up: The Iran Contra Affair, available in full-length at Youtube. It has the clip of congressional hearings that briefly reveals this ongoing plot, which the state began working on shortly thereafter–note that the ‘terrorist’ attacks began in the ’90s, with bills like the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act greasing the skids exponentially toward what followed a handful of yrs later. In other words, the shadow govt realized they couldn’t re-make the US overnight, it had to be done a la tip-toe-totalitarianism over many yrs.

  • kevinzeese

    A lot of people feel that way. We see tremendous opportunities for positive change but it requires us to build an strategic mass movement. We produced an eight-part class on How Social Transformation Occurs to teach people about movement building and how to make change. You can view it at http://www.PopularResistance.org/school

  • BILL ROGAN

    Thank you I will go there and check it out. I would like to add something different to this discourse: I don’t think we can actually fix what is wrong in America and the world for that matter, but I do think we can mend it and we owe to ourselves to try. With very few exceptions the people that are causing much of humanities problems did not set out to do so. We cannot fix our problems because we really do not understand what is causing them. Humanity has made a wrong turn nothing else explains over 5 thousand wars with millions dead, even our gods are war mongers. Then there are millions dead from starvation, along with destroying what sustains us. Our claim as intelligent is not justifiable given our history and the condition of our planet. Nothing shouts out our moronity louder than, it is possible that we could annihilate ourselves because we are to stupid to get along. Then the cherry on top is that we have children knowing we can not give them a secure and nurturing environment in which to grow, passing down hate from one generation to the next. Einstein agreed, he said that “there are two infinite things the universe and human stupidity and I am not sure of the former.” The entire population demonstrates the Dunning-Kruger effect splendidly. With billions of confused and in despair we are facing an avalanche of ignorance and it is the educated that are in charge.

  • No, not the ’94 and ’96 measures, which were enacted. This was the International Crime Control Act, written primarily by Reno, introduced by Clinton on 9 June 1998 and later rejected by Congress — no rejection date found despite a five-hour Internet search — then resurrected as the Patriot Act.

  • Apropos secure communications technologies, Russian military intelligence — the always-formidable GRU (Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, tr. Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye) — has gone back to manual typewriters, mimeograph machines and small offset presses (similar to AB Dick 360s and Multilith 1250s) for un-hackable production and dissemination of classified documents.

    Trouble is — again thanks to the Neoliberals’ methodical destruction of USian public education — the Moron Nation youth of today are literally too ignorant to be able to learn the operation of these simple machines.

    (Disclosure: as one of the earliest Occupy Tacoma activists, I repeatedly urged my fellow activists to consider resurrection of these old but absolutely secure technologies. The response was that it was just “too much trouble” — especially since “you get ink all over your hands and it makes you look dirty.” Such is the carefully conditioned, hopelessly selfish, therefore hopelessly anti-revolutionary attitudes of today’s cell-phone spoiled, Ayn Rand brain-warped youth.)

    But you are absolutely correct about the dire need to utilize more secure means of communication. And those means already exist. But today’s younger activists can’t be bothered to get ink on their hands, much less acquire the requisite mechanical skills.

    (Second disclosure: I myself am a tech-school trained printer, a skill I acquired to supplement income from freelance photography and writing while I was finishing college, and I worked in the field off-and-on until I finally got my BA degree in 1976, 18 years after I began my mostly self-financed — and therefore oft-interrupted — quest for it.)

  • RBluhm

    Thanks.

  • ANTONIO

    THREE STAGES OF ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOCRACY. There has been a lack of understanding over the relationship between democracy and socialism as shown in the language that many leaders have used. They declare themselves to be revolutionary and qualify other progressive left forces as democratic forces, as if a radical revolutionary did not have to be at the same time a radical democrat. Instead of vindicating democracy,
    in their speeches and propaganda they emphasize the dictatorship of the proletariat.The traditional Marxist Leninist left has underestimated the subject of democracy. By justly denouncing the limits of representative or formal democracy, they wound up denying the value of democracy itself, forgetting that democratic victories are not a gift of the bourgeoisie, but the result of historical struggles by the popular movement, such as; the right to vote, women’ s rights, union organizing right, etc..Not always a clear distinction between formal democracy and real democracy has been made, in its
    mutual relations, and that which has to be rejected and that which has to be saved. If anything positive came out of the military dictatorships of the 70s and 80s, it was to allow the left to see the value of a democratic regime, subject to the rule of law, no matter how limited it might be.A new organization must raise high the banner of democracy, because it understands that the struggle for democracy is inseparable from the struggle for socialism.

    Democracy has three basic aspects:
    1.- The problem of representation and citizen’ s rights.
    2.- The problem of social equality.
    3.- The role of people’ s participation and the people as protagonists.

    The first aspect of political democracy or representative democracy refers primarily to politics, and emphasizes the freedom to choose one’ s governors, and the civil rights of all the citizens. This democracy that proclaims itself to be the government of the people, can be, and is, in the case of bourgeois democracy, a democracy that favors the minority sectors of the population. That is why it is called representative or formal democracy. It contains first and second class citizens.The second aspect is expressed in realdemocracy which is substantial and social, whose fundamental aim is the solution to the problems of the population : bread, the land, jobs, education, housing, and all the things that allow society to advance in an egalitarian way. In practice democracy does not necessarily have
    to function in the traditional Western style of representative democracy. The third aspect is participatory democracy. Besides putting in practice transformations that tend toward
    greater equality (social democracy), there must be some sort of systematic citizen’s representation. It is not about abolishing representative democracy, or delegate participation, in favor of direct participation. Far from excluding it, it complements and enriches it. One cannot govern without dedicating the work of governance to the people’ s representatives. Direct democracy is viable at a local level in smaller communities, but it cannot be exercised at the national level, except in very exceptional cases (plebiscite, referendum). The technique of representation seeks to assure real representation and a system of control by the electorate over those who represent them. The left must
    concern itself that minorities are represented and protected at the state level, assuming that they do not do anything against the national interest, of course. The new society must also have instruments to defend itself from bourgeois electoral campaign demagoguery where everything is promised and nothing is carried out, and it must adopt the basic
    principle that this representation must carry with it the mechanism to remove all power from representatives who are no longer carrying out the electoral mandate. Term limits must be imposed to avoid what has occurred in most of the socialist countries where terms are for life, which is something absolutely foreign to classical Marxist thinking.* Marx saw the bureaucratic function as something in transition, and something to be rotated.The most characteristic aspect of socialism must be the practice of participatory democracy, where people are the real protagonists in the building the new society; where people’s self-organizing is stimulated and respected, without trying to make them submit to the party or to the state. Socialism cannot separate itself from democracy; it can only be the a greater and more intense expression of democracy, and an enormous expansion of it in relation to the more limited bourgeois democracy. The banner of democracy belongs
    to the left and not to the bourgeoisie, which took it over by taking advantage of the deficiencies in this area among the socialist countries.
    ——————-

  • Didn’t find your blog address, but mine, where we can chat through the comment facility, is dispatchesfromdystopia dot net.

  • You bring up some good points and some viable communication alternatives. Smart move on the GRU’s part – maybe their citizens can more easily adapt to secure communication methods in a Russian uprising which is certainly needed as well. They too live under an authoritarian oligarchic system – even more so than the U.S public.

    As you’ve stated, the U.S. youth have been mentally manipulated through the educational system and via societal norms to play by the rules and the tools of the authoritarian oligarchy – a no win scenario. Also, the much of the youth and general populace has led a ‘soft’ existence making them incapable – at least for now – of effecting a formidable revolutionary body. Those ‘soft’ citizens will need to experience real hardship before they will be open to getting ‘ink’ on their hands. In the meantime, they can be effective in spreading information to the masses and may during that process get a taste of the brutality a police state can inflict. I do not wish this experience for anyone – for those that do not take precautionary measures, I fear it is inevitable.

    The base of the real revolution will initially be formed by the smaller populace that has known hardship. Hardship comes in many forms – poverty, racism, abuse, elitist ostracism, etc. I believe our base will come from many talent sectors and political positions with a common denominator of having experienced hardship caused by a greed and elitist skewed socioeconomic system.

    At one time I had the pleasure of working with a very skilled printer. His knowledge was extensive; he not only knew how to work with the machine to produce superb finished products but he also knew every aspect of the the machine and was therefore able to maintain it and fix it. Talented guy. He did all of this with one intact arm and one mechanical arm; a printing machine took his other intact arm earlier in his career.

    These more mechanical and manual skills will be needed again both during a revolutionary struggle and in life in general. There is enormous upheaval on the horizon. Those with talents that enable self-sufficiency and a more simplistic existence will fair much better than those reliant on our technology and mass production dependent system.

    Kudos to you for achieving your degree; there are very few that would persist over an 18 year period to obtain that. I hope both the journey and its accomplishment have provided great value to you.

  • I just viewed this today. It gives a good overview of the various government – fed, state, local – techniques and laws currently in place in the U.S. https://thedailycoin.org/2019/11/26/patriot-act-on-steroids-surveillance-state-beyond-section-215-video/
    Also, the ‘Real ID’ sounds an awful lot like the Social Credit System China is in the process of fully implementing.

  • I just viewed this video that gives a good overview of all the current – fed, state, local – surveillance tools and laws in place. https://thedailycoin.org/2019/11/26/patriot-act-on-steroids-surveillance-state-beyond-section-215-video/
    Of note, the ‘Real ID’ eerily speaks to China’s Social Credit system that they are in the process of fully implementing.

  • Chris Herz

    I suggested to Ajamu Baraka the creation of a shadow cabinet; to try to bring together the leaders of various movements for peace, liberty and social justice. Two goals here, to see if the notorious centrifugal tendencies of the left can be overcome, second to demonstrate to the larger public there really are alternatives. Eventually build a parallel government ready to replace the corrupt oligarchy as its suicide becomes ever harder to ignore.

  • Margaret Flowers