Mock democracy

We have only mock democracy today. We make a show of caring about democratic principles and spend endless hours and millions of dollars on election campaigns, but in reality we don’t practice those ideals or take even minimal care to insure voters aren’t purged from voter rolls and votes are properly counted—something that can only be done via hand-counted paper ballots and not by unreliable voting machines. The mainstream media would have us believe the country is in constant campaign mode, but while they talk non-stop about election-related news, they neglect urgent non-campaign-related issues.

Candidates and their backers spend millions of dollars campaigning. Talking heads invest hours of airtime scrutinizing candidates and campaigns. Grassroots supporters pour their hearts into rooting for an individual and getting out the vote and throughout history have risked life and limb to gain voting rights. Those things are in vain unless we enact and enforce laws against voter purging and voting machine tampering—something we’ve never done consistently or taken seriously.

Although the presidential election is over five months away, politicians and the mainstream media focus on almost nothing else. Meanwhile, as always, corporate money continues to buy politicians and extract all political power from the people. Corporations are busy polluting the environment, causing the extinction of entire species, corrupting our food, poisoning our air and water, taking American jobs out of the country, destroying unions, keeping universal health care from the public, stealing the public’s money via Wall Street fraud, conning young people into supporting unjust and illegal wars, killing many innocents with those wars, discouraging voting through various forms of election tampering, encouraging media to distract and lie to the public, and urging government officials to maintain self-protecting secrecy. This is what we really have instead of democracy.

This country was founded as a republic, but we also claim to be a representative democracy that aspires to democratic principles. Instead, as journalist Bill Greider once wrote, we now have government that consists of symbolic gestures and hollow laws that are “emptied of serious content in the private bargaining of Washington. Promises are made and never kept. Laws are enacted and never enforced.” Ordinary citizens are marginalized.

Those in power—leading politicians and mainstream media—often look the other way and say nothing as police beat protesters, authorities torture whistleblowers, and our endless unjust and illegal wars arbitrarily kill innocent civilians in other countries. If we can’t protect civil liberties and human rights, not just in word but in deed, and we don’t care enough to insure voters aren’t purged from voter rolls and votes are counted accurately, we don’t really have democracy in America.

All of this is so obvious to most of us, yet we keep pretending it isn’t true. Politicians and mainstream media continue to distract the citizenry spending countless hours on the subject of elections and spend very little time addressing systemic problems mentioned above. Because corporate money is what really controls our political system, few elected officials have the will or ability to significantly alter any of those conditions, and elections won’t change that.

There are usually enough differences between any candidate of one party and candidate of another that it’s worth choosing one over the other, but we shouldn’t deceive ourselves that the election of any official can or will completely alleviate the problems mentioned above. Why do we let ourselves be distracted by the minutia of electoral politics instead of zeroing in on the source of more urgent problems? That source is corporate money’s control of government—the primary reason for constant war, destruction of the environment, assaults on the public’s health and well-being and attacks on democracy itself.

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