“Building An American Democracy” May 2011

Audio for “Building An American Democracy”
WAMC MAY 18 2011

Steven A. Leibo, The Sage Colleges –

Sure it’s been fun watching who’s in and out of Presidential race. In fact it’s fascinating watching Newt try to resurrect himself by declaring his candidacy and almost funny watching the great Donald pull out. And, of course listening to all those arguments about whether the Tea Party will be the republican party’s salvation or perhaps its last death rattle been thought provoking.

But the way this commentator sees it. Most of this has nothing to do with the real electoral battle that faces us. No, what seems at the essence of our upcoming battle is the core question that has engaged our government from the moment of its birth; the battle between Property and People. And we certainly know how our revered founding fathers initially came down on that one. After all, deeply distrustful of the masses, they did everything they could to ensure that America would not be governed by its people.

Literally, creating a system where a president could take power having lost the votes of the public. An executive office complemented by an appointed supreme court, and a legislature whose upper house was not elected by the people while the lower house, would be elected by only by some of them.

Happily, of course our founders also created a system that allowed those more democratically minded Americans to fight to make the system more democratic. And fight they did eventually bringing in non whites, women and younger folks while modifying our structure so that senators would be directly elected.

But we’ve never quite made it to a truly democratic society. Yes, even as more and more have gained the vote we’ve remained a hybrid system; as much plutocracy, a society governed by wealth as a democracy, a society governed by people. With the simple reality that while voters hold one electoral vote. We get as many monetary votes as we could afford.

In short, a system that has always given the wealthy more power than the rest of us. A system that has seen corporations easily able to protect their products however dangerous; from the tobacco industry’s decades long effort to protect itself against charges that linked its products to cancer to the gun industry’s ability to protect the sale of their products, however dangerous they have made our urban streets To today’s fossil fuel corporations’ campaign to bury the finding of climate change scientists. Yes, preserving their profits while putting our entire civilization at risk. A reality all the more important as we have once again found ourselves facing the core question

“Does our government represent people or wealth?”

Because our supreme court has of course opened the floodgates for corporations to spend even more to distort our political system. And, we already know how good they are having seen corporation convince people of very modest means that somehow they should not have access to affordable health care. Managed to convince them that somehow their hard earned income should be taxed more than the dividends of rich people and earnings of great corporations.

And all that was done before the supreme court opened the flood gates, allowing the wealthy to ever more efficiently undermine our democracy. A situation that makes all this silly talk of who is running significantly less important than our core question

Do we want a society that favors people, or wealth?

And if the answer is “people” we are going to have to finally take a stand not just with our political votes and organizing skills. But with our own money. O.k. sure most of us don’t have the deep pockets of corporations but there are a lot more of us and if we all put in what we can and start early while giving often, starting now long before decision day we might have a chance continue our path toward a real democracy.

About Steven Leibo

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