OPINION: The Enemy of Democracy is Not the Left or Right -- It's Corporations
Our politics are in a sad state. Most people would characterize it as extremely partisan and polarized, more so than we've experienced in our lifetime or possibly even the past century.
Every day we read stories about how one side is "fighting" to prevent the other side from doing something they think is disastrous. The words "fighting," "struggling," "blocking," "war," "winning," and "losing" are in headline after headline.
It looks like the country is divided down the middle fighting it out to see which way we'll eventually go while the gridlock prevents us from actually going anywhere.
But the truth is we are not divided down the middle. We're actually divided into 3 groups.
About 25 percent of us are liberals and about 25 percent of us are conservatives and the rest of us, 50 percent or more, are so disenchanted and/or disgusted with what's going on that we don't even bother to vote.
In 2008, that 50 percent shrunk to 40 percent, but since then it's been over 50 percent and for the primaries, it's up to 70 percent. Think of that! In the world's strongest democracy, at least in terms of economic and military strength, 50-70 percent of us don't even participate.
How can that be good?!
It's not good for all the liberal and conservative people and it's not good for all the disenchanted and/or disgusted people, but it is good for corporations, the media that is owned by the corporations, and the politicians who are in the pockets of the corporations.
There’s a small percentage of people who benefit from the partisanship and polarization -- people whose wealth and income have gone up in leaps and bounds over the past 30 years while the rest of us haven't gotten a raise or have lost our decent paying jobs.
The problem therefore is not a battle between the right and the left, but rather a situation where corporations, through their owned media and owned politicians, have created a false battlefield that divides the country into thirds, none of which have a majority on any issue and therefore have essentially no political power.
This sounds like some kind of nutty conspiracy theory or the Hunger Games, but consider the following well-established facts about corporations, politicians and the media, not one of which you'll find surprising:
- The wealth of the top few percent has gone up tremendously over the past 30 years.
- CEO pay has gone from 70 times the average employee to over 300 times the average employee. Productivity gains have all gone to the top.
- The middle class has lost ground. Wages have been stagnant over that same period of time.
- Politicians are bought and paid for by corporations. Most members of Congress are millionaires and many become lobbyists after a few years in Congress. There are now tens of thousands of lobbyists in Washington, a substantial increase from 30 years ago.
- Studies show politicians pay no attention to the interests of their constituencies, only their big donors.
- Politicians spend over half their time raising money.
- Political operatives who raised money for Clinton are now raising money for Trump. Campaigning has become a billion-dollar business whose goal is to make money, not champion a political ideology.
- Large corporations own the major media stations.
- Independent media is essentially dead. Many newspapers have gone out of business or have cut way back on their staff of reporters.
I could go on and on.
The point is that this battle between the right and left is not real. It's staged by a very small percent of people who benefit greatly by it.
They love to look out the window and see us in the streets battling back and forth with our signs and blogs while they go about their business squeezing every penny out of the economy for themselves and leaving us with less and less for more and more work.
- Why is it that we pay twice as much as other countries for our medical expenses with poorer results? Our premiums and deductibles go up year after year and our health gets worse. Who benefits? Insurance companies and pharmaceuticals.
- Why are we engaged in wars that cost us trillions of dollars, never end, and we never win? Who benefits? The military industrial complex; the one Eisenhower warned us about.
- Why do we have a higher percentage of our population in jail than any other country on earth? It started with the war on drugs which we lost but the privatized prison system won. They are the ones who benefit. And by the way, most of those folks we threw in prison can't vote for the rest of their lives.
- Why do we have more gun violence than any other country on earth? Ninety percent of us want national background checks or some form of gun control. Yet we get nothing while the NRA and its corporate donors benefit by keeping the government out of their business.
- Why are our roads and bridges falling apart while our taxes go up and our cities go bankrupt? Where does all that money go?
- Why is it that we all feel the effects of climate change every time we go outside but Trump pulls us out of the Paris agreement? Who benefits? Big oil companies, of course.
- Where does all the tax money from gambling casinos and lotteries go? It seems to disappear into some sort of political vacuum. I'm sure legalized weed will follow the same path with even more of our tax money going up in smoke.
The answer to all these "why's" is - that's how the corporations want it. That's how they make money and they're excellent at it. Getting better every day. That's how capitalism works.
The solution to this insanity is for us to stop fighting with the other side and start talking to them. Start asking all those folks who are disenchanted and disgusted to get engaged and to join the rest of us to find some common ground so we can take back our power from the greedy crowd that has been sucking us dry.
Aristotle said that virtue lies at the mean between extremes. We certainly are experiencing those extremes today with the right and left going at it over every issue. But we have also seen that when we put people together in reasonable conversation they find understanding and common ground.
The enemy of democracy is not the right or the left. We actually need each other. It's the corporations and their media and political henchmen who have created this false polarization for their own benefit.
Our Founders did everything they could think of to keep corruption from creeping into and destroying our democracy. But it has crept all the way into our hearts and souls.
We have a cancer. Our democracy is dying and it's on our watch. We need to stop fighting each other and join forces, not only with the other side but by pulling in the disenfranchised 50%.
That would give us the huge majority we need to dump the "politicians," find common ground ourselves and elect a new breed of "representatives" who live there.
This is doable. But not forever. Time is running out and at some point we won't be able to get it back.
Our democracy will be gone. America will decline like every other empire that ever existed. How would we explain that to our grandchildren? What would we say to them, "Oh yes sweetheart, I remember when America was the hope of the world, but we let that die, it was under our watch. So sorry about that."
We can't let that happen. I'm not going to say that to my little granddaughter, Sadie Mae. She expects more of me than that. She deserves more of me and that I think yours will too.
We need to come together now.