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ETpro's avatar

If both political parties in the US are bought out by the same plutocrats, how do we return America to a Democracy?

Asked by ETpro (34550points) July 5th, 2012

Sure, we all still get to vote. But this video from Bill Moyers warns that we are living now in a plutocracy, and that’s incompatible with true democracy.

We can select person R or D to represent us. Rarely, we may even have the hope of selecting a person I as in Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. But if the same fellows are signing the checks that keep each of the D, R, and I politicians in office; is it really democracy? Bill Moyers says no, and I tend to agree. How do we get back to the America the Founding Fathers fought and died to give us? How do we return to the ideas Thomas Paine expressed in Common Sense?

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35 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I think we’re fucked for awhile until more people realize what’s going on.

mowens's avatar

Thomas Jefforson said himself that there needed to be a revolution every once and a while to maintain the democracy.

Blondesjon's avatar

Would it make any difference if we did?

Politics is as old and dirty as civilization itself. In America’s case democracy started to slide from it’s idealist heights down to business as usual before the ink was even dry on the surrender in Yorktown. Sure, we could revolt and meet the new boss only to realize that he is the same as the one we just threw out.

The only way to stop Corporate America from controlling government is for Americans to stop buying the products and services that Corporate America profits from. This will never happen since the average American has become great at bitching about shit but terrible at really doing anything about it.

note: hosting a bitching event on facebook is not revolutionary

gorillapaws's avatar

I think you start voting for the party that receives less money from corporate america. If people started thinking of a candidate getting huge support from corporate america in the same way as they currently would see getting a huge check from the KKK, then it could turn out to hurt them.

wundayatta's avatar

By organizing. Same as always.

Problem is that pounding the pavement to organize takes a lot of dedicated organizers. It’s much more efficient to enter people’s houses through their televisions and computers than to appear at their doors, but going door to door is the only alternative when you have people instead of money.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The serious answer is that we need to pass serious laws that return power from the plutocrats to the people, which ultimately means that we need to get money out of politics.

The realistic answer is that the asinine Supreme Court decisions (corporations are people, no limits on contributions) will not allow the process of separating money from politics.

I’m afraid that the right wing has succeeded in buying america. Back to the 1870s.

Qingu's avatar

When was this bygone golden age where plutocrats didn’t exert an outsize influence in American politics?

Money is power. People who have a lot of money are powerful. It is amazing to me that people claim to be shocked or outraged that rich people are politically powerful.

I also think it’s rather important to note that one political party wants to raise taxes on the super-rich, and the other political party refuses to even remotely compromise on raising taxes for the super-rich and actually wants to lower them. But oh, nevermind, “both parties are the same!” Don’t let me get in the way of your self-righteous apathy.

Blu's avatar

Viva la revolucion.

Jaxk's avatar

Manipulating the message from our founding fathers has become a great American past time. Fortunately you’re allowed to do that. It doesn’t make you right. The message from Paine or any of the founding fathers was not what government can do for you but rather what government can’t do to you. We have strayed so far from that concept that it’s hard to understand how we got here.

We currently have millions of people in government that have thier sole purpose to determine what YOU can’t do. We’ve even progressed to the point that they are determining what you can;t not do. When government becomes so onerous that they are determining your every action or even inaction, it is understandable that citizens, business groups and special interest groups will begin to try and influence the outcome. The answer to that problem is not less freedom and more government control but rather more freedom and less government control.

Paine was good at what he did. What he did was to use the media to promote his ideas. By writing in a clear and understandable way he was able to reach a wide audience that was inaccessible to most of the scholars of his day. the Media then as now plays a significant role in our government and influences most of our thoughts about it.

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” — Benjamin Franklin

“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” — John Adams

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison

Nullo's avatar

@mowens Careful, you’re starting to sound like a right-wing extremist. :D
@Qingu I believe that @ETpro is rather of the opinion that both parties are bad, but in different ways. It is possible, after all, for two groups to take different paths to similar ends; in this case, it’s staying in power and increasing the reach of that power. It’s silly for both of them to have the same strategy, since that would leave a significant chunk of the voting power unharnessed. One of the life lessons I got from chess lab was that if both sides play the same strategy, the board will be chaos within about 10 moves. Terrible, if you’re using formal strategies.

woodcutter's avatar

When even the right starts exposing the dangers of an armed populace will be the time to change things. And they will. It’s heating up and getting near to the time to fertilize the tree of liberty. This is everyone’s problem and everyone’s duty to jump in .It ain’t just a right wing thing. A lot of people are gonna die. Get used to targeting baby blue helmets and I can tell you they really stand out against a reticle.I mean they really beg for it.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Jaxk Your Constitutional analysis is conveniently leaving out the part of the preable that states a goal to “promote the general welfare” both in the preamble and in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1.

Nullo's avatar

@gorillapaws Sometimes the best thing that you can do for a plant is let it sit in the sun. Promotes its welfare and keeps your grubby hands out.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Nullo That’s very true. Unfortunately, sometimes there are companies who want to build oil derricks next to the happy plant in the sun and decide to save a few bucks by funding the campaigns of politicians who will let them get away with buying cheaper flow regulators (and we’ve all learned what can happen when they do that)...

Jaxk's avatar


Oh my god, you’re right. The preamble says we have to legislate welfare. Is that really how you read it?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Jaxk No I read that it has the power to be proactive and not be defined solely by what it can’t do. I read “the GENERAL welfare” clause mean that the government has a duty to make sure the rules are fair for everyone, that the big can’t trample the small, that it should do what it reasonably can to actively promote the health and wellbeing of it’s people. Also, nowhere in that document do I see anything about private corporations being considered people.

Jaxk's avatar


Not surprisingly, I don’t see anything about healthcare, abortion, or the executive branch being able to enact new law, either. I suppose once you read it so that as long as the stated motives are good, they can do anything, you open a whole new range of government possibilities. At that point what is left for the people to decide? I guess only who thier oppressors will be.

woodcutter's avatar

Do corporations really feel oppressed?

Jaxk's avatar

Mine does.

Nullo's avatar

@gorillapaws I was particularly thinking of the gubernatorial tendency to meddle with nice, law-abiding citizenry. I, for one, don’t feel safe talking about all of my hobbies in public, because the powers that be don’t want me to have some of them. Heck, from what I’ve gathered, a person able to look after himself in the aftermath of a natural disaster could be suspected of potential terrorism and treated accordingly. Makes no sense to keep the overgrowth out if the gardener is going to hover over the poor sprout.

woodcutter's avatar

I think oppression has more than one meaning perhaps? What has capitalism and entrepreneurialism come to now? If these companies feel they have no guarantee they will make killer gains they say fuck it and take their marbles and stay home? What ever happened to risk taking? Write shit off if it doesn’t work out but to hold an entire country of workers hostage because they arent getting their way and every single thing they desire is unpatriotic. There was a time where we could change things by voting but now that is ineffective because all the reps are shills for these corporations giving us the illusion our votes matter. The way the population works out there are always way more have-nots than big business owners and yet the little guy loses always.
I find it silly to hear rich people complain about being oppressed as well as our elected reps who are all pretty much millionaires saying they empathize with people. They don’t because it is impossible for that to happen. I guess if a lie is repeated enough times it changes into the truth?

woodcutter's avatar

@Nullo You are referring to Ms Napolitano’s beliefs that people who purchase quantities of legal to own ammo are preparing to overthrow the govt? Why on Earth would they even think like this? Is it because they know they are twisting the screw a little tighter as of late? Sounds like it to me at least, the general population is not trusted. What have we done to lose their trust?

Ron_C's avatar

That’s a really good question, unfortunately we have ignored all of our ancestor’s suggestions. We have allowed corporations into the government, permitted the military industrial complex to run our War Department, and are in the process of selling our commonly held property like turnpikes, prisons, and state parks. I frankly don’t see improvement until we have an armed insurrection.

It’s like drug addiction, you don’t begin the cure until you hit rock bottom. We’re not there yet but another year of Republican Governors and congress or moderate Democratic leadership and we will be as low as can be. ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose.”

Qingu's avatar

What the federal government can and can’t do to me often has much less to do with oppression than what my neighbor can and can’t do to me. In fact the federal government is often the only force to which I can turn to prevent my neighbor from oppressing me.

For example, during the 1700’s and 1800’s, you could purchase slaves, sell their children, and beat them pretty much as much as you wanted to. Then the federal government—contrary to the will of our founding fathers!—said no, actually, you can’t do that anymore.

Perhaps a more more modern example: in the 2000’s, banks made a bunch of risky loans, overleveraged cheap debt, and bundled the loans in ways that hid their risk, creating a systemic financial crisis that required a massive bailout and collapsed the world economy, all the while enriching themselves beyond measure. Then the federal government—also contrary to the will of our founding fathers!—passed legislation that said, no, you actually have to have enough capital on your bank to make risky loans, no, you have to have a plan to deal with systemic risk to the economic system, no, regulators should actually be tasked and capable of finding such systemic risk.

In both cases, a chorus of morons decried “oppressive government overreach” instead of acknowledging that there are other kinds of oppression and problems that only the government can solve.

Ron_C's avatar

@Qingu very very good!

bkcunningham's avatar

So the banking and credit/lending problems are all solved, @Qingu? Is that what you mean?

Qingu's avatar

No, duh. Likewise the lingering effects of slavery took some time to “solve” after the civil war.

What on earth is your point? Or do you have one?

bkcunningham's avatar

No point. Just asking. Thank you for answering. You are right.

ETpro's avatar

@Blackberry Call me a dreamer, but I see that awareness slowly emerging.

@mowens As a fellow Virginian, I have enormous respect for Thomas Jefferson. Many of the most forward-thinking, egalitarian concepts included in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came from his pen. He was bitterly disappointed that others were struck down by the contentious Continental Congress. For instance, although he owned slaves, he would have made all slaves free men. It took a great deal of time for the fact that was the right think to do to sink into lesser minds. He wished to make education all the way through state funded Universities free to all who qualified. This forward-looking, right idea we have yet to adopt. It will happen though.

@Blondesjon There have been fits and starts, but as Martin Luther King correctly observed, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I completely disagree that we are in the same condition today that we were in as serfs under Feudal Lords. I think those who falsely try to claim that everything remains the same regardless of human endeavor toward improvement do so either to preserve a status quo that serves them well or absolve themselves of guilt for doing nothing to improve life’s lot.

Blondesjon's avatar

@ETpro . . . Just because the cage is bigger and filled with shinier, prettier toys doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a cage.

I’m also not saying that everything remains the same regardless of human endeavor toward improvement. I’m saying it stays the same because of it.

We all didn’t just wake up one morning and exclaim, “Oh fuck! How on earth did this happen?”. We put ourselves in the position we’re in and are much too lazy now to get out. Instead we create “sides” and demonize the side that isn’t ours for all of our misery. All the while we consume, consume, consume.

Now you tell me, how is our incessant need to buy, buy, buy and keep the folks in charge powerful and wealthy while we’re mortgaged up to our necks and living paycheck to paycheck really any different than toiling on land in the fiefdom for the benefit of a Lord?

ETpro's avatar

@Blondesjon I don’t for a moment dismiss what you say. The wrongs you note are quite real. Still, if I had to chose between forced serfdom and living in a time when I could decide to buy, buy, buy but I could also decide I don’t need all that stuff, the choice would be stupidly simple. I’ll take the here and now. And perhaps with enough of us voting and writing about the Story of Stuff perhaps we can shape a future that is even freer and more sustainable than today.

Blondesjon's avatar

@ETpro . . . Great Answer and you hit upon the salient point on which we differ.

You are optimistic in your belief that the majority of everyday Americans will wake up and actually do something if prodded and educated.

I think that they’ve felt the poke and on a fundamental level understand what exactly what hyper-consumerism is doing to the world around them. They’re just too lazy and tech-dependent to do anything substantial about it.

Qingu's avatar

“Now you tell me, how is our incessant need to buy, buy, buy and keep the folks in charge powerful and wealthy while we’re mortgaged up to our necks and living paycheck to paycheck really any different than toiling on land in the fiefdom for the benefit of a Lord?”

I dunno, can your boss prevent you from moving away, sell your family to another boss, and rape your newlywed wife? Seems like those differences are kind of important.

ETpro's avatar

@Blondesjon I’m an old man now, and I think Americans were pretty awake back in WWII, and it took quite a while for them to snooze off after that. That gives me hope they can be awakened again. I truly do not think they are brain dead.

@Qingu Well said.

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