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Democracy in the United States, Part 1

October 22, 2009

Do we live in a democratic republic?

At first glance, this doesn’t look like a rational question. After all, the United States of America is the preeminent democratic nation of human history, the instigator by revolution of the modern democratic movement, a shining example of freedom and self-determination for oppressed peoples everywhere. Right? What kind of uninformed, unpatriotic nincompoop would ask such a thing?

The question wouldn’t arise if mutt-ugly, dishonest, twisted little comedians weren’t being elected to the U.S. Senate (no, that’s not a dig at Al Franken—I’m referring to the senate in general), and lying, economy-wrecking, idiotic pimps weren’t being elected to the U.S. House (again, not a dig at anybody specific like Barney Frank), and disingenuous, America-hating, Mao-loving commies weren’t filling up the White House (generally speaking).

With so many losers in public office, the question needs to be asked: do Americans really want this collection of liars, murderers, thieves, tax cheats, and scoundrels representing them or has something gone horribly wrong with the democratic process?

Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.” That’s the number one definition, but further down the list, interestingly, the dictionary people include these words: “the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.”

So we probably fail to make the grade by definition because political office is now hereditary to a frightening extent. The Kennedy, Clinton, and Bush families are just the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, look at Senator Chris Dodd, the crooked senator from Connecticut who is the son of crooked Senator Thomas Dodd from Connecticut. Like father like son. Chris used his position as chairman of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee to get free mortgages from Countrywide and somehow acquired a million-dollar “cottage” in Ireland on a government salary. He hid his Irish castle—er, I mean “cottage”—from the public by lying about it on financial disclosure forms until somebody rudely published a picture of it. His father was worse—back in the late 60’s, Thomas Dodd was censured and effectively booted from the senate for depositing campaign funds in his personal account and then spending the money.

Outside of Washington, D.C., that’s called stealing. In the Dodd family it’s called “teaching by example” and “tradition.”

In the crooked Senator (Chris, not Thomas) Dodd’s defense, at least he was doing a bang-up job watching over banking and housing while he was getting rich, right? Jeepers, nothing has gone wrong with banking or housing lately.

Out here in Nevada, meanwhile, Senator Harry Reid is busy preparing his own dynastic succession, with son Rory Reid (try saying that name ten times in a row) running for governor after flexing his hereditary rights as a county commissioner for two terms.

To the ruling class, putting sons into governor jobs (or the House of Representatives) is like normal dads putting training wheels on kids’ bikes. “Here, try this for a while, learn from your mistakes, and if you like the ride and show some enthusiasm Daddy will make sure you move up to something better.”

(Believe it or not, those are the exact words Bush One said to Bush Two and Bush Three, and also the exact words Bill Clinton said to Hillary… and Monica.)

All over the country, we see the ruling class willing their political careers to sons, daughters, and other family members: the Bush family, the Kennedy family, the Daley family in Chicago, the Brown family in California, the Romney family, the Gore family in Tennessee, the Udall family, the Pryor family in Arkansas, et cetera, ad nauseum, and el puke-o. The ruling class acts like the nation’s public offices are family possessions.

When Sonny Bono dies and his wife assumes his seat in congress, what exactly is that? Is that democracy or something else masquerading as democracy? "The Beat Goes On,” I guess, in political families.

Jean Carnahan did the same thing in Missouri. She inherited the title of U.S. Senator from her husband, who incidentally was already dead when he was elected. No, you didn’t read the words wrong—the man died three weeks before the election but Missouri Democrats figured the job belonged to him because he served a stint as governor and his daddy was a congressman, so they propped him up in the back of a convertible and sent him off to finish campaigning and save the family business.

(As a dead man, they say his speechifying suffered somewhat but was still better than Hillary trying to sound emotional or President Obama without his teleprompter.)

When a dead man collects the most votes and his wife inherits a U.S. Senate office he never actually set foot in, well, something is wrong with the system.

So, is this still a democratic republic? I have doubts and sincerely hope those doubts are contagious. My goal here is to make them contagious.

This is a three-part series. Part 1 has looked at the dictionary definition of democracy and found an obvious discrepancy between what is and what should be—hopefully instigating some doubt in the reader's mind. Part 2 will provide an example of dysfunction in the system so egregious that, all by itself, it disputes the notion that we have functioning democracy in this country. And, finally, Part 3 will list the basic requirements of a working democracy and discuss whether those requirements are being met in the United States of America.

You won’t like what you read.



From Reno, Nevada, USA

October 22, 2009 - This column was, in my opinion, the best yet (outside of 'she sang amazing grace'). - Glenda, Reno
J.P. replies: You are such a diva.



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