Death throes for democracy in America

by Thomas C. Fox

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The next Senate was just elected on the greatest wave of secret, special-interest money ever raised in a congressional election.  

                                                                                                                                           ---- The New York Times (Nov. 9, 2014)

It will happen. I am not sure when. But it will happen.

We will wake up to the realization we, the US voters, we, the citizens, no longer have the ability to shape our governing bodies through elections. The slippage is abundantly clear already. Big Money has run off with our governing bodies. Not every time. But increasingly so. Powerful interests are crushing the institutional infrastructures of what once passed for democracy in America. 

In our early civic classes we were taught democracy in American meant we all had one vote. Simple: one voice, one vote. Seemed right; seemed fair. However, we've come to see this is no longer the case. In American today it is one dollar; one vote. Or, rather, ten million dollars; ten thousand votes. Your vote, my vote, counts less and less.

Votes in American are being purchased by well financed political machines. A relatively few billionaires first purchase their own representatives; then they come purchasing our own.  Money, not good or generous ideas, are the new likely measure of a successful election. And this money enters the political system in darkness, secretly, without names attached. We don't know who has purchased our electors or for what purpose. This is not the way the founders of our nation intended it to be.

Most often our politicians' master puppeteers are incredibly wealthy men (mostly men) who act to protect their self interests, including their wealth and privilege. They call it patriotism. But these are not patriots. Their love of nation is warped and shallow and callous. They act more out of fear and greed than love of country. No amount of money, of power, is too much for them.

 They've already purchased our legislative branch and its processes, and have set the parameters for the executive branch in our government. It takes hundreds of millions to run for the presidency. Our presidents enter office beholden to the wealthy and their interests. Even the best of them.

 It does not have to be like this. Public funded elections are common in other nations.  Those running the show here will have no of it. 

Our election process is thoroughly corrupt and getting more so by the year. It continues to get worse as more big money enters the scene. As it does candidates increasingly beholden to the very rich enter office and help write laws. These law, in turn, help concentrate money and the influence of the very wealthy. This further concentrates wealth. And,  as money gets increasingly concentrated in America, so, too, does its influence in further shaping our politics and governing structures. The cycle, now in place for decades, has its own predictability.

It used to be you could look up on line, read a book or magazine, to learn who was screwing the nation and who was looking after the people. No longer. It's increasingly secretive now.

We owe this secrecy, this darkness, to a host of political and judicial interests, but to five Catholics on the US Supreme Court in particular. These five men further dimmed the lights in our nation, in the cover of "freedom of speech" in their 2010 "Citizens United" ruling. Such Catholicism.  That anti-communal, anti-democratic, pro-autocratic, pro-oligarchy decision underscored the scant influence Catholic social teachings has had on their value formation.  Catholic social teachings emphasize the community and the need to protect the weak and needy among us. 

Alas, my hope now is that the usurpation of government we witness today will soon become so bad that something breaks, something cracks. Given where we are headed, it might be that poor and middle income Americans will end up with no means to purchase even their rudimentary needs and the "consumer" economy dries up and corporate life, as we know it, crumbles. But that requires a lot of pain along the way.

Already we can see signs of this capitalistic cannibalism. We see it when the Super Rich pay for campaign ads and purchase candidates fighting to raise the minimum wage.  

Most Americans hold to ideas of fairness, truth and compassion. These have been part of our American tradition. These same values, including special concern for the poor and needy, justice, and support for community also emerge from Catholic teachings.  We need to seize on these and build in them. 

For the moment, however, our nation's governing laws appear to have buried these ideas, these values. Our rejection of care and concern for "the other" appears of Biblical proportion. 

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