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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

America: A Plutocracy

I read a startling statistic, that less than half of the American electorate votes in any given election. Essentially, we are back to where we were before passage of the nineteenth amendment by white males over twenty-one: most adult Americans don't vote. The legal impediments have been replaced with social ones.

So, why don't Americans vote?

There are many reasons given in the thousands of articles written on the subject, but they all basically boil down to one thing: it doesn't matter. The majority of the populace has now come to the point where they don't see a link between casting a vote and a change in government. Witness, for example, the multi-million dollar get-out-the-vote campaign that culminated in the passage of Proposition Eight in California last election by nearly forty per cent of the electorate; Proposition Eight got the nod by a higher percentage of eligible voters in California in 2008 than Al Gore had in 2000. But after all the dust had settled, what difference did the $5.70 spent per 'yes' vote make? A single judge invalidated the will of seven million people.

When it comes right down to it, America is no longer a democracy--a rule of the majority of eligible voters. A majority of the eligible voters don't call the shots anymore--judges do. At the levels at which it matters, judges are all unelected. And the effort needed to overturn the lifetime appointment of a partisan judge is so massive that it has never been attempted, much less accomplished. The pro-8 camp successfully outspent the opposition in California, but didn't have near enough money do pull off what really mattered: vote in 60 senators to start impeaching autocratic judges. It really all comes down to money: spend enough of it, and your legislative agenda can be accomplished. Whoever runs out of funds first loses. Therefore our democratic government is now, for all intents and purposes, a plutocracy--a rule of the rich.

It doesn't have to be this way. Americans could vote in enough Tea Partiers to ram through the will of the majority. But the history of forced majority rule in this country doesn't bode well for the success of this mission. Eighty-four years after Jesse Owens brought down the theory of Aryan supremacy with his four-for-four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics--forty years after he wrote that there was "now no legal impediment for the ultimate equality of the Negro with the ruling Whites"--we are still hearing about "the first African-American since Reconstruction" to run for--or win--one national office or another from the various southern states. In other words, during Reconstruction, the majority black populations of the south enjoyed true democracy: they sent their own representatives to Congress in numbers that have yet to be approached, much less matched.

But democracy in the South only lasted as long as there were Federal troops present to enforce it. Once they pulled up stakes and headed back North, plutocracy descended--and has yet to be lifted. I don't doubt that the Tea Partiers, should they succeed in wresting real control back from the Plutocrats, will only be able to hold it as long as they can get--and maintain--control of the nation's military. And History teaches us that He who has the Gold, Makes the Rules. And He who has the Gun, gets the Gold.

Voting in Tea Partiers appears to be a noble cause, but ineffective in the long run. What do we have left of the Reagan Revolution only one generation later? A true revolution is brought about by a long, exhausting, armed struggle often lasting for several generations. The rich will give up neither their wealth, nor their power, except at the point of a gun.  Take away their votes--but not their guns--and they will have soon used the latter to regain the former.

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