Monday, April 14, 2014

By The Skin Of Our Teeth

As we watched the news this weekend, spending time with our families, college sportsthe beautiful cherry blossoms in our nation's capitol, and watching the Republicans launch their first super-committee to rake in the post-McCutcheon waves of campaign money that are certain to be rolling in, our staff members all kept coming back to the same thought: That most Americans today seem to have little idea of how tenuous our collective grasp is on the form of government we've lived under for slightly more than two centuries.

As Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying, Americans have a republic - a form of democracy - "if you can keep it." Thankfully, for most of the last two-hundred plus years, Americans have been able to keep it. As we and others have been warning for some time now, however, that form of government is in severe danger - especially after the U.S. Supreme Court's recent McCutcheon decision.

Last week, as all the living Presidents celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Obama also took the time to warn the nation that our right to vote is truly under attack - and he was not being hyperbolic.

From Hawaii to Maine, Alaska to Florida, the battles over campaign financing are running hot, and often not in the best interests of voters. Even in the heart of deep-red Nebraska, the effort of outside, so-called "dark money" groups to buy their way into deciding who you get to vote for has become extremely obvious.

While certain very wealthy candidates like Republican Pete Ricketts may try to claim ignorance of who is attacking his fellow Republican office-seekers, the fact remains right now the anonymous attack dogs of the wealthy are already trying to pick their pet politicians for 2014 and 2016.

Some Republicans keep trying to claim this money race is a bipartisan affair. However, as journalist Paul Blumenthal recently pointed out, there's simply nothing on the left that compares to the massive money machine on the right.

Still, as syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts noted recently, too many Americans are still politically asleep, their eyes glazed over, even as specific, wealthy individuals are trying to rig every part of the American political system  - either directly or through millions of dollars in propaganda. It's happening at every level and in all political parties, giving voters no real choices - even in their party's primary elections - other than those the oligarchs have already picked.

There should be no surprise that Fox "News" and the current American media/propaganda landscape have a great deal to do with this current collective ignorance of Americans. However, the failures of our media landscape aren't solely to blame. In many ways, America has become more like a third-world nation over the last thirty-five years, through choices Americans have made themselves.

As Sean McElwee pointed out in Rolling Stone this month, massive economic inequality, collapsing infrastructure, and a criminal "justice" system that imprisons more of its people than almost any other nation in the world are hallmarks of this collapse. We've also got a gun violence problem worse than in any developed nation, as made obvious once again by the murders of three people over the weekend in Kansas City, in what appears to have been an attempted hate crime.

Right now, in places like Afghanistan and India, they're struggling to achieve or continue democratic republics. In the Ukraine, they drove their own oligarchs out, and now they're fighting against Russia to keep their democratic republic. Meanwhile, in America, we just can't seem to be bothered to even show up at the polls, let alone show up well-informed and actually educated.

As long as we allow court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon to stand, when it comes to your choices at the ballot box, you'll get the choices the oligarchs have paid for. And what folks like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson are going to pay for is for pet politicians, who they have gripped firmly in the teeth of their political money.

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