The American system of government has failed. Democracy has not failed. Freedom has not failed. These concepts remain as valid as they were in 1789. But the way in which America’s constitutional rights are interpreted is so deeply flawed that the nation’s government can no longer function properly. You might say it was bound to happen. No ideal, however noble, is impervious to human nature.
Power corrupts. Even when the power supposedly belongs to the people.
The media are agog over the Senate’s rejection of a bill to expand background checks for gun buyers. Polls had shown that the measure was supported by 90 percent of Americans. But the pundits shouldn’t have been surprised. As Jennifer Steinhauer observed in The New York Times on Wednesday:
The measure never really had a chance.
Ms. Steinhauer explains in careful detail why the bill was doomed and how the politics of it played out. But the short answer is that the gun manufacturers have bought Congress.
Washington is now completely controlled by money. America’s ruling class, working mainly through the Republican Party but with allies among Democrats, too, have rigged the political and economic machinery to give them almost complete control of the country. They have also succeeded in stacking the U.S. Supreme Court and gaining control of several state legislatures.
The simple explanation is that, applied efficiently, money can mold public opinion. Money elects candidates. There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule, the candidate with the most money has the best chance of getting elected. In a few instances, unions and other organizations have countered the flood of funds from Big Business by organizing massive field campaigns. They have knocked on thousands of doors and talked to millions of voters. But even these grassroots efforts don’t always prevail. The unions are being crushed, the progressive base is being eroded.
The rich are not only becoming richer, they are also becoming more politically powerful.
The simple solution to the mess in Washington would be to have limits on campaign spending – as they have in countries like Canada. But the US Supreme Court has taken the opposite approach, unleashing the full power of the Almighty Dollar through its historic Citizens United ruling.
There are reforms that could make the system a little more workable – curbing the Senate’s filibuster rule, for example, or imposing term limits on senators. But even these are impossible to implement. There’s just too much money opposing reform.
What’s ahead for America? I shudder to think. Unless Americans wake up to the danger facing their democracy and say no the raw power of money. It could happen. It happened just last November when President Obama was re-elected and Democrats made gains in the Senate and the House despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to oppose them.
Pray that this is what happens again in 2014. It’s America’s only chance.