The Democratic National Committee tilted the primary season to favor Hillary Clinton. This might be seen merely as a slight aberration, a negligible prank in the messy world of politics. It was not an aberration.
Unless the nation lapses into lunacy on November 8, Hillary Clinton will be our next president. The prospect raises an alarming question we've never before confronted.
How can a thriving democracy conceivably elect a president who is dishonest and untrustworthy in the minds of 59% of the people? A woman shown to be a felon but not prosecuted for want of precedent? A woman who lies and contradicts herself, documented in video clips? A bold hypocrite who solicits and accepts hundreds of millions in campaign contributions from Wall Street banks, the armaments industry, and Big Pharma, and claims to abhor Citizens United which enables her to do so?
The answer: we live in a moribund democracy, not a thriving one. A conjunction of corporate political power and immense wealth is forcibly installing a president. We haven't confronted this before, either. We will cast our ritual ballots in November, but not in a free election: the Democratic nominee was imposed upon us by the corporate and the wealthy.
No, we have not been finessed by a patrician coup d'etat nor a secret cabal in sinister conspiracy. Instead we are victimized by systemic corruption in five institutions of public practice, and it is subverting our democracy.
Of immediate concern is the corruption in the Democratic Party. Directly violating the requirement for strict neutrality throughout the primaries, the Democratic National Committee intervened in the process at every opportunity, handicapping the Sanders campaign to assure Hillary Clinton's nomination. The effort was covert, but it was suspected, finally exposed, and ultimately successful.
This was the engine of coercion, the denial of democracy, and the reason we will likely suffer a president unworthy of our trust. The corruption was not an aberration, nor was it unique and isolated: it flourished in a matrix of decadent institutions in which democracy cannot survive.
The Corruption of Corporate Regulation
Corporations are indispensable in our economy, but they are capable of imposing intolerable social costs: savaging their labor forces, marketing shoddy or dangerous products, overtly bribing or unduly inducing governments to do their will, ravaging landscapes for raw materials, acquiring other corporations to grow without limit, and restraining the market competition that assures equitable pricing.
Corporations must be subordinated to the welfare of society at large and for most of our history they have been--through government regulation.
An epic battle between corporate enterprise and the federal government raged throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, and every single one of the listed abuses was eventually prohibited by law.
But in episodic fits and starts the legal restraints on corporate behavior were repealed or relaxed--for the most part in the anti-government frenzy of the Reagan years--or substantially ignored. Deregulation was rampant, and it continued into the Administrations of George H.W. Bush and William Clinton.
The most serious of the policy reversals was the effective termination of anti-trust enforcement. Virtually
every one of our industries has been consolidated into fewer and fewer but ever larger corporate structures.
The power of ballooning corporations grew in both economic and political terms. One result is our hollowed-out, flaccid domestic economy, and the powerful upward shift in wealth and incomes it has occasioned. Another is the inordinate influence corporations exert on the political system, challenging democracy with sponsored policy think-tanks, thousands of lobbyists, unlimited contributions to political campaigns, and constantly revolving doors.
Nowhere is corporate concentration more pernicious than in the information industry--the "mass media." Print and electronic media dominate the private and public discourse of the nation with their content messaging--news, documentation, and entertainment programming--and their commercial messaging--advertising. If this massive information flow is not to threaten democracy the sources must be many, varied, decentralized, and not constrained in any way.
At one time they were: in 1983 the ownership of 90% of the American mass-media outlets was spread among fifty corporations--newspaper chains, movie studios, magazines, book publishers, and local radio and TV stations affiliated with a number of national networks.