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Democracy in the balance

This space has been used many times to exhort Pagosans, particularly young residents, to register to vote and to exercise the right. We continue to do so, with an Oct. 9 registration deadline approaching and a major election looming the first week of November — early voting to begin Oct. 22.

Register, and vote, but do so this year knowing this: our democracy is fast being eradicated by two things — by the increasing presence of “big money” and secret money in the political process, and by cynical purveyors of ideological nonsense designed to blind Americans to the loss of their political system and its surrender to a small, privileged class of individuals and organizations.

Money has always been at the heart of the American democracy. Political corruption and the use of money to influence voters and campaigns goes back nearly to the beginning of the Republic.

What is different now, however, is that the amount of money is staggering, the presence of major players is more effective; the floodgates are open and corporate funds and secret money wash over the political landscape as they never have before.

Much of that same money pays for the partisan nonsense foisted on Americans, rhetoric designed to turn attention from the decay of the system and to focus voters on hollow, ideological concerns — on a dialogue that never touches on the true problem, one fueled with buzzwords and political labels that have no bearing on the reality of an ever weaker democracy.

Need a glimpse of the problem? Take a look at the last three presidents.

In his article in the October edition of Harper’s magazine, Kevin Baker makes the case clear. Americans who cast their votes for winning candidates in the last five presidential elections were promised much, and got virtually nothing of what was promised. The last three presidents failed to deliver; each made promises and each turned out to be much different that what the voter expected. (And this does not consider Reagan, who promised smaller government and tripled the national debt.)

Clinton turned much of welfare back to the states, deepened tax cuts, erased the protections of Glass-Steagall — a move that took us to the edge of an economic abyss.

W, among other things, took a budget surplus and turned it into a hugely bloated deficit, amassing debt that would stun the most avid socialist, while continuing with the nation-building in foreign lands he promised to end.

Obama preached change and produced a conservative version of health care requiring the purchase of insurance from private providers, worked like a hawk in the foreign arena while bailing out big interests.

The last three presidents catered to the money. The source of the funds was massaged so the pipeline wouldn’t close. Most of our congressional leaders heel to the same interests.

We wait for the Tea Party folks to ditch the goofy, tri-cornered hats, switch off the talk radio and cable “news” propaganda and begin to focus on the real problem: the control and destruction of democracy by monied interests.

We wait for the Occupy movement to abandon the “human microphone,” find leadership and reject ideological rhetoric in favor of a focus on the real problem: the control and destruction of democracy by monied interests.

We wait for members of a shrinking middle class to awaken and focus on the real problem — one that is robbing their children and grandchildren of the opportunities they once enjoyed.

So vote, but don’t think that’s the end of it. The battle has not begun; democracy hangs in the balance.

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on September 26, 2012.