November 5, 2014
Yesterday's election results and the events leading up to them emphasize that the greatest problem we face at this point in our hisotory is the loss of our integrity as a democracy. Before our eyes, we are losing the Democratic Republic the founders envisaged.
This is evidenced by several pervasive phenomena:
1. Congressional corruption –– not crude criminal corruption of a quid pro quo, an agreement to cast a vote or promote a bill in return for a bag of money dropped on a politician's doorstep, but the subtle noncriminalized corruption of massive campaign donations based on a silent understanding that a legislator is sympathetic and responsive to the donor's interests. A corollary of this phenomenon is the "revolving door," the appalling number of members of Congress, who, after leaving office, join lobbying firms or other entities with legislative agendas. These ex "public servants" are lavishly compensated because their new employers know that they have useful contacts in Congress –– they know how to work the levers of power.
2. The lack of any significant restrictions on campagin financing, enabling enormously rich people and corporations to have a grossly disproprtionate effect on electoral campaigns. The current rules, or lack them, lead to the spectacle of huge flows of campaign money being funneled through "super-PACs," mostly in support of Republican candidates, precipitating a prolonged barrage of increasingly desperate email appeals to modest individual contributors from and on behalf of Democratic candidates. I don't see how anyone could have observed this system at work without being aware that something is terribly wrong with it.
3. The high incidence of greed and ruthlessness among the plutocrats and the high incidence of ignorance in the general public. The greedy ruthless rich not only play on the ignorance of the public, they cultivate it, Fox News and right-wing talk radio being two of the longer-established instruments of this process.
The above three phenomena have worked to move the country to the far right. Progressives have been mostly ineffectual in countering the trend. The person best positioned to awaken and enlighten the public is President Obama. But to be successful in such an effort, he would have to have a political aptitude and unflagging determination that he lacks. Then too, in some important respects he has not been sufficiently enlightened himself.