In this book by John Nichols and Robert McChesney, we are told by the authors that our system of government has been "colonized" by a handful of oligarchs and turned from a Democracy into a "Dollarocracy." It is a fact that most of us could have intuited simply by watching at close range for the better part of a generation, this slo-motion oligarchic train-wreck taking place right on our own watch. Now here, in 340 densely-packed pages, we get the full picture of the details of how it was done, and by whom.
The way it was done was mind-bogglingly simple: the super rich, led mostly by the corporations, bought all of our elected representatives by spreading campaign money around like cow mature. It was done through a kind of "pay-to-play influence peddling" and subtle bribery that has only been perfected by the US crooks call our elected Representatives. The oligarchs then get their hired guns, their paid lobbyists, to rewrite the rules so that any crimes they may commit, or even hope to commit in the future, are rendered legal before the fact. With Lewis Powell named as the architect-in-chief of this new way of American business and political life, the oligarchs molded our government into a "crime-friendly" enterprise that would make Dons like Michael Corleone, blush.
By granting personhood to corporations though the "Citizens United" decision, our morally-challenged, strict constitutionalist, (don't call us an) activist Supreme Court, literally gave the keys to the kingdom to the Corporate and Wall Street bank robbers. The authors tell us that the modern version of this idea was the brainchild of Mr. Powell. But these authors tell us more than just "how" and "who," did this, they also tell us that not only has our political process been hijacked by the criminals who change the rules to suit their ideology of convenience and self-interest, but also that these "deep pocket" contributors' money has finally "gone critical" and has so corroded and undermined confidence in our entire electoral process, that it has been essentially reducing to a four-year Kabuki sideshow.
It is thus very difficult not to conclude that altogether this has led directly to turning Washington DC into a new kind of "dollar-based Sodom and Gomorrah." All of our morally-challenged politicians, including our "hope and change" president, have been forced into the equivalent of K-Street prostitution. They even have the gall to complain openly about having to spend the lion's share of their time out on the streets "raising campaign funds" rather than "tending to the people's business?" How sick is that ?
Now that the Press, the last domino on America's political power grid, has also being co-opted, colonized and "turned out" onto the DC streets too, the circle of ideologically-driven corruption is complete: Everybody in the law-making aspect of the U.S. government today is now either a "pimp" or a "prostitute" for some moneyed interests. In short, obscene amounts of money has turned all of Washington DC into one big 14th Street "pay-to-play" illicit overground business.
The eloquence with which theses authors recite the many defects in our political process is impressive testimony to the fact that they fully understand both the true nature and the true gravity of our nation's problems. They end the book by giving us a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees every American the right to vote. On its merits, this proposal deserves serious consideration, but, as a fix for what ails the American political system as a whole, it must be put in the category of "too little too late." Moreover, the authors' rather feeble attempt to leave the reader with an upbeat feeling, must also be considered somewhat disingenuous since their own careful performed analysis roundly contradicts this rosy picture.
The truth is that we have been told a lie repeatedly throughout our checkered history, and told that same lie again here: that except for a few needed mid-course corrections around the margins, America is basically a healthy country. However, the truth of the authors' own analysis shows the American reality to be profoundly otherwise: Their analysis says that America, from the top down, across its demographic grid, is a profoundly corrupt, mean-spirited, selfish, and psychologically unhealthy and unstable country. Full stop.
Why does this cognitive dissonance between the authors' analysis, their attempt to leave us in an upbeat mood, and our own continued unease about what is happening to our country, exist? Far be it for me to say so, but I believe there is a cruel unacknowledged subtext lurking just beneath our collective consciousness. It is a subtext that we all know is there, one that we also know to be the source of the disease that deeply afflicts our nation. That subtext lies on a slightly higher plane, the moral plane.
Morality as the Unacknowledged Subtext of American Politics
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