Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How Democratic Is That?

If I have a million dollars to spend on a candidate, and you have a dollar, then clearly the spirit of democracy is perverted. We are each one citizen in the nation, and so should have about equal say in matters.
However, if I have a million dollars and you have a million people with one dollar, the democracy works, but only a little bit better. You still have to persuade all those people to part with their dollar towards your cause, and that's not easy. It can be done, and as Barack Obama's early 2008 campaigning proved, it can be done effectively.
It's still easier for me to get my consensus of one to agree to spend the money, to whom and how. You'll probably have a million different, "Oh, by the ways" to deal with.
And of course, if I have one dollar and you have a million people with one dollar, we're on roughly equal footing in terms of the democratic process, for I can go out and enlist a million people too.
Similarly, if I have one vote and you have a million people with one vote, things are fair. Again, I can persuade people to vote with me.
Conservatives love to point out how this is a free speech issue, and I suppose there's some truth to that: if I own a larger share of the pie, I should have a bigger voice in what shapes my community. Plus, everyone still only has the one vote, the true measure of democracy.
Or is it? Money doesn't just buy access to votes and persuasion of citizens, it buys access to lawmakers, and indeed, disproportionate access. Some would say that's the way things should be, since those who have a bigger stake in the nation's future ought to have a bigger say in it.
But then we have to discard the illusion that we're a democracy. We've become a plutocracy or more accurately, a corporatocracy. Because corporations can't vote, the only way they can register their opinions and thoughts is through lobbying officeholders and candidates.
If you ascribe to the notion that corporations are people, too, then you see no problem with this, but there's a hidden problem. 
There's no accountability. We just saw this in the late 2000s, and undoubtedly will see it again, as regulations get passed with enough loopholes to drive ExxonMobil through. We saw it in the BP Gulf oil spill, when BP paid lip service to local and international concerns while covering up the mess as best they could (and failing, I should add.) 
If, as liberals believe, government is the bulwark against corporatism, that government is the third leg of the stool that supports America-- the others being citizenry and business-- and there's no check or balance against corporatism, democracy's days are numbered.
The only way any progress can be made is in the rare instance of a second term progressive President (note I don't specify Republican or Democrat. I suspect that pendulum may have started swinging for reasons I'll get to in a minute,) and a majority progressive Congress.
And even then, if the progressivists have members in their caucus like Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson, there will still be outsize influence with respect to an agenda that values citizens above corporations, and freedom above profit. Meanwhile, in the other caucus lay a few time bombs for them-- moderate Republicans who see the damage that's been inflicted not on Democrats, who caught up in the money game, but to the people of the nation in toto.
And as Teabaggers begin to get frustrated with losing the agenda arguments, they'll either likely retire or more certainly be less vociferous in their opposition. One can only have so many "stroke-rages" before the body shuts you down. I think this, above anything else, will be what renders all that corporate money useless, and it is at that point we ought to start thinking about Constitutional amendments.
Democrats only hold the center because the Republican party has deliberately given the nation the appearance of being more conservative than it is. By trying to pull the apparent center even further right...I mean, really? Life begins 2 weeks before the first missed period now, according to one proposal?...Republicans are scaring people, particularly women and Latinos, to the center.
By my count, it took the Democrats three elections to realize they had tacked too far to the left in the face of a changed landscape (e.g. cable news, the Religious Right, and other exogenous factors to politics and administration.) By my count, this will only be election number two that Republicans will have suffered an ignominious defeat before they, too, tack back towards the center.