Do We Still Have a Functioning Democracy?

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Do we still have a functioning democracy?

Really.

Do we?

Because when I look around at the mess we’ve got here today, I honestly don’t know.

I went to my polling place to vote, and it was nearly deserted.

The candidates’ signs were still there, stuck in the ground like some kind of seasonal weed in need of a gardener.

But there were no people.

Well there was one nice lady sitting on a bench who smiled and handed me a flier from the county Democratic committee.

When I got inside, the poll workers were as cheerful and friendly as ever. I’ve known these ladies since I was a little kid. They remember when I worked at the local newspaper and could probably recite some elements of my resume better than I can.

They made polite conversation asking about my parents and grandparents as they looked up my information and geared up the machine to take my ballot.

There was something almost frightening about the whole thing. It was both familiar and tainted – kind of like returning to the scene of some grisly murder.

Just a year ago, this was where we knowingly voted for Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States.

When I say “we” I don’t mean me.

I didn’t vote for that tiny-handed racist asshole. But I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

And when the whole thing was done last year, I had terrible chest pains that sent me to my doctor and then the hospital with my first-ever heart attack.

That election literally sent me to the ICU.

And yet today here I was standing on my own two feet getting ready to do it all over again.

I stood there staring at the choices on the machine, looking at my helpful Democratic flier and even referring to an email on my phone from my union.

“Why is the union recommending a bunch of Republicans?” I thought.

“Their chosen candidates want to dismantle the very institution recommending I vote for them!”

And then I looked at the list of Democrats. I didn’t know any of them.

Some of their names were familiar from hastily aired campaign ads that told me a folksy story about their families or education or how they’d never called off a day in their lives – but nothing about their beliefs, their values, even their politics.

How am I supposed to choose between these people?

I thought about just voting for the Green candidates but there was a whole one to choose from in only one race.

So I ended up voting for the Democrats. At least I have some nominal idea where they stand.

And I have to admit when it was all over and I pressed “VOTE,” I felt really good.

The machine made that metallic buzz like it was tabulating my ballot, and I felt like I had really accomplished something.

Then I went out into the nearly deserted parking lot and got hit by a wave of depression.

“What the fuck just happened?” I asked myself.

And I answered, “You got played, son.”

“Again.”

Trump is still President. And he’ll be President tomorrow and probably tomorrow and tomorrow.

And even if he was magically ushered from the scene, there’s another nearly identical Republican ideologue waiting to take his place. And another to take his. And another…

Meanwhile, the Democrats are little more than a steaming crater in the ground. They hold fewer political offices than they have at any point in my lifetime. And it doesn’t appear like that will change anytime soon.

We just had a grassroots, people-powered revolution demanding American politics move back to the left. We had a popular progressive candidate overflowing huge stadiums, an influx of young people committed to fighting against intersectional issues like racism, sexism and class warfare. And it was crushed by the Democratic nominee who coopted the process and the party with big money.

Maybe we were all just incredibly naive. I mean how can you get money out of politics when the system is already corrupted by money?

Laws aren’t made by consensus anymore. They’re made because lawmakers get paid.

And lawmakers aren’t elected because people vote for them. They’re elected because they have big money behind them – because these are the people the donors want to offer the rest of us as a choice. And no one else. Republicans and Democrats picked by the same oligarchs to make it look like us, plebeians, have a choice.

Occasionally an outlier sneaks in, but that’s rare, and the plutocrats – the real owners of this country – spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stop them.

So what do we do? Strengthen a weak and disorganized third party? Even under the best of circumstances, that would take decades. In the meantime, the environment would be destroyed, millions would have died in unnecessary wars and what little majority rule we have would have inevitably been repealed long ago.

I wish I had some more optimistic note on which to end. But I don’t.

All I have is this question: Do we still have a functioning Democracy?

And I put it out there in the real hope that readers will consider it deeply.

No kneejerk reactions. No received wisdom from this pundit or that anchor or that party hack.

It’s a question we all have to answer – and soon.

Because if the answer is “no,” what the heck can we even do about it?

22 thoughts on “Do We Still Have a Functioning Democracy?

  1. The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    The only way we can keep the republic is if eligible voters vote for candidates that support the U.S. Constitution. That means they have to stop texting, playing video games, watching reality TV, taking drugs, partying and getting drunk long enough to learn who to vote for.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Dems are winning at the state level again and that just goes to show that voters are watching/listening and they have been unhappy. The Dems need to heed the warning, though. They got a slap down because the people were tired of lies, their spend happy ways, their ties with big business, and their own personal greed. The Dems need to become more centric and moderate…as do the GOP. Time will tell if lessons have been learned. FYI….I had to hold my nose to vote for HRC because I just couldn’t throw a vote for the Green party and I certainly wasn’t going to vote for Agt Orange!

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    • The GOP’s candidates lie more and are more corrupt than Democrats. That statement in the previous sentence is a safe one, an actual one.

      I’ve been keeping track for years. I’ve even written about it in posts on my Blogs with links to the facts, and I’ve read other Bloggers that are doing the same thing — with links to reputable facts that are not just unproven conspiracy theories and accusations without substance.

      Since Nixon, all of the GOP presidents have had more scandals in their administrations with convictions by a much wider margin than Democratic presidents but the Alt-Right lying conspiracy theory machine has hammered alleged scandals and actual scandals of Democrats keeping the alleged and unproven scandals and the few actual scandals alive for decades while the traditional media that quickly follows America’s short attention span never mention all of the GOP’s real scandals that sent Republicans to prison that outnumber Democrats by a huge margin.

      On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most corrupt, the GOP easily earns a 10+ versus a 5 or less for Democrats, but it is only the Democrats that continue to get hammered repeatedly year after year explaining why we keep seeing comments here that never stop bashing the Clintons while ignoring all the actual, convictions from GOP scandals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, Lloyd, I’m sure there were things going on before Clinton took office, but everything seemed to go into overdrive with Bill. The Clintons in cahoots with the Walton family and Eli Broad, free market greed, education reform etc….and then he had to put the icing on the cake with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I’m sorry, but the Clintons deserve ALL the bad press that they get. Maybe you’re right that the GOP is more scandalous, but neither side should be keeping track….because they should be doing the right thing for the people that elected them and not for the people who line their pockets. Wrong is wrong on both sides. I’m getting tired of having to vote for the lesser of two evils, but no decent human being has the money to run for any political office.

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      • The higher they climb the political ladder, the higher the odds are that they had to make deals with devils. But if we don’t vote because we refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils — for instance a 5 vs a 10 with 10 being the worst, then expect the 10s to keep winning and they will destroy the country 10x faster.

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  3. What I see is demoralization. Choosing lesser of evils doesn’t inspire enthusiasm. The corporate Dems don’t offer anything for people to believe in, only a way to oppose Trump and the worse Republican agenda. People are inspired by the hope of a better world, and who is offering that? Unlike Trumpists, people on our side aren’t fired up by hate. there is only a contest between who offers more hatred, and hatred is only reactive, it isn’t about a positive vision for the future. And the fear of the “Nader effect” keeps people from organizing third parties that offer real vision. The ironic thing is that we do know how to organize society in better ways. (If you don’t, maybe one place to start might be with reading David Korten’s “The Post-Corporate World,” which brings that vision together with coherence and clarity.) Weighted voting (that does not penalize third-party votes) will probably be the only answer to revitalizing real democracy.

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    • But we often only have a choice between what we think of as “Two Evils”. However, there is a canyon between an alleged or obvious evil ranked a 10 out of 10 (the worst evil) and one that is ranked at 5 or lower. The distance between a 5 and a six is often a factor of 100x. That means someone ranked 10, is 500x worse than someone ranked a 5.

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  4. I think one problem our society is facing in efforts to have a functional democracy has been demonstrated here. People who have different opinions are seen as “evil”. One should not cooperate with evil, should one? We focus on differences of opinions, ignoring large areas of agreement that might be the basis of serious change in our society.

    I would bet that most readers of this blog would agree with at least one public policy position that the Koch brothers take, but I would also bet that most readers of this blog would not work with anyone associated with the Koch brothers to see the public policy reform, that they themselves support, enacted.

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    • Teaching Economist, that is such a cop out. It’s like saying Hitler was a dog lover, therefore not evil. Privatizing public services is a bad idea and it robs us of a fair and just society for all. What’s happening in Puerto Rico throws that in stark relief. If you support what the privatizers are doing there, you are on the side of the colonizers – even if you like puppies. Good luck living with yourself.

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      • I think your response to my post is a good illustration of my point. People who you disagree with are like Hitler. If everyone thinks that everyone they disagree with is like Hitler, our democracy will cease to function.

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      • People that support Trump and/or the GOP’s policies are deplorable because they are supporting a kleptocracy that benefits the wealthy. There are a lot of similarities between these deplorable people and the deplorable people that supported the rise of Hitler.

        So, yes, those that support Trump and/or the GOP’s policies are not worth anything from me but insults, because you can’t reason with someone that has been brainwashed and programmed to think with tunnel vision.

        Hitler had the support of the Brown Shirts. To me, Trump’s supporters are mostly racists and white supremacists and weak minded fools that are unwittingly supporting the rise of an autocratic kleptocracy that will destroy the U.S. Constitutional Republic.

        To even attempt to compromise or communicate rationally with these deplorable people is a total waste of time.

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      • I say person A holds some positions that you would agree with and you say that is like saying Hitler liked dogs. How are the two things are alike unless you think person A is like Hitler?

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      • Teaching Economist, just because you can agree with someone about one thing (i.e. dogs) doesn’t mean you have any chance of agreement with anything else. That’s the point. I doubt I will find very much agreement with the Koch Bros – two idle rich plutocrats who spend their fortune trying to destroy me, my family and my students. Perhaps we can find some common ground, but it will be very slim and ultimately unhelpful. We need to unite against the oligarchs not beg for scraps.

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