Democracy and Corruption

I wrote this in May, June 2017 but it was never published. I’m getting around to posting it now.

How Did Trump Happen To Us?

How did Trump happen to us?

We are experiencing a shock and awe attack. Every single day we face a flood of terrible things being pushed at us so fast that we do not have time to react. Our system and commons and norms and standards and protections and rule of law are rapidly being dismantled. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, our spirits wear down, we don’t know what to do. Worse, the country risks normalization and eventual acceptance of the cruelty and insanity coming from the top.

Will we get out of this? With the nuclear codes in the hands of a crazy, egomaniacal, racist, malignant narcissist, will we live another year? If we’re alive will we be in jail?

Our wonderful American experiment in government of, by and for We the People is at – perhaps is past – a turning point. We formed this country by breaking from a system of government of, by and for wealthy aristocrats when in the course of human events it became necessary to sever those ties and declare that we are all created equal. Our country was tested and endured, the unfinished work was advanced, government of, by and for the people continued. We understood that a great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy. We were working toward freedom from want and fear, toward the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and the right of every business, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies and the right of every family to a decent home, adequate medical and adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment. As we recommitted to the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought we asked what we can do for our country. We tried to have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, building upward toward a Great Society where people serve not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. We looked uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. We pushed and pushed to be free at last, free at last. We thought we saw hope and change at the end of the Rainbow Coalition.

But now… “American carnage” reigns.

Trump didn’t just come from nowhere. This has been a long time coming.

Democracy Off the Rails

How many engines of our democracy have gone off the rails to enable a Trump? How many institutions have been compromised or failed? How many norms and standards have fallen away? How much has rule of law became rule of men and money? How deeply has our trust, confidence and understanding of democracy been corroded?

How did this happen to us?

Trump didn’t just come out of nowhere. The road to Trump goes back a long way. Trump comes out of a steady and intentional undermining of rule of law, norms, equality, civility and democracy.

Trump also comes out of a steady and intentional erosion of trust and confidence in government of, by and for We the People. Trump follows ‘W’ Bush who followed Reagan who followed Nixon. Each began their corruption and undermining of our system where the previous had left off. Each embraced and extended what the previous had done. Each was enabled by the damage and lack of accountability the previous had left behind. (While Carter, Clinton and Obama’s big-money, neo-liberal policies and revolving doors hurt average Americans and undermined faith in our system, they did not attack the system itself.)

But the path of our downfall goes back even farther.

There is a thread from Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” warning to Trump.

There is a thread from the Tonkin Gulf incident to LBJ’s “credibility gap” during the Vietnam war to Trump.

There is a thread from the public shock after the murders of JFK, MLK and RFK and the shootings of George Wallace and later, Reagan, to Trump.

There is a line from Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon, undermining of public trust in equal justice, to Trump.

There is a line from the Powell Memo through the “conservative movement” and 40 years of corporate/billionaire-funded anti-government propaganda to Trump.

There is a line from Buckley v. Valeo through Citizens United to Trump.

There is a line from Reagan killing the Fairness Doctrine to Trump.

There is a line from tax cuts and austerity budget cuts to Trump.

There is a line from acceptance of deregulation and privatization to Trump.

There is a direct line from Gingrich’s list of nasty words to use when describing Democrats to Trump.

There is a direct line from the post-9/11 acceptance of a “state of exception” and never-ending “war on terror” to Trump.

There is a direct line from corporate-written “trade” agreements and the destruction of organized labor to Trump.

There is a very straight line from the decision to bail out (and not prosecute) wealthy bankers instead of helping underwater homeowners and “Main Street” businesses to Trump.

There is a long, straight and bloodstained line from the racist compromises in our Constitution to the Civil War to Jim Crow to segregation to Trump.

There may be a straight line through all of these to Trump to the end of democratic self-government in the United States of America.

There are so many threads and lines, some of them winding their way to Trump and some of them leading us straight to Trump. There were so few objections and so little resistance as the lines were drawn and followed. These lines eroded rule of law and public trust and norms and standards and institutions.

Our task, all of us, is to expose and sever threads and lines like these.

It’s Not Ideology, It’s Corruption

Trump has exposed us as the frog in gradually warming water that is now near boiling. Do we finally notice the danger?

After more than four decades of corporate- and billionaire-funded anti-government, anti-democracy propaganda blasted at the public, with little response, our democracy is nearly gone. Do we know it yet? Do we fully understand what we have lost?

We are saturated in propaganda instead of information. We are endlessly told that government (decision-making by We the People) is “the problem,” that corporations (decision-making by and for the few) do everything better than government (decision-making by and for the many), that taxes (paying forward the benefits of our education, infrastructure, courts, etc.) are “theft,” that the processes ensuring transparency are “cumbersome,” that regulations (protections) are “job-killing” and that We the People are “moochers” feeding off the “takers” (the wealthy few) if we vote for things to make our lives better (government spending, a.k.a. “pork”).

Why do they do this to us? They do it for the money. It’s not ideology, it’s corruption.

Corruption destroys democracy and our democracy is thoroughly corrupted. Corruption necessarily brings advantage, and the advantaged use their gains to further corrupt the system. The cycle continues until corruption is stopped or kleptocracy perfects. They do it for the money. It’s not ideology, it’s corruption.

We have been the victims of an organized attack on our democracy – a looted carried out for the gain of a few. Organized billionaires and their corporations are intent on undermining and seizing control of our system, for their own personal benefit.  They do it for the money. It’s not ideology, it’s corruption.

After decades of this assault, the money has eroded democracy and society – like water eroding a dam. We don’t see the extent to which our country, our system, our politics, our institutions and even ourselves have been corrupted. We don’t see how many things now are not just rigged but designed to benefit of a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. This is corruption masked as ideology.

Our system has become one of one-dollar-one-vote instead of one-person-one-vote. We don’t realize the degree to which we have become passive consumers instead of active citizens, observers instead of participants. We allow pay lanes on the highways for people with more money, instead of HOV lanes for cars with more people. We expect our schools to provide job training instead of education. We allow our system to value efficiency over humanity, competition over cooperation. We work to enrich others as our wages and benefits fall behind. This is not ideology, it’s corruption.

If we did fully realize and feel the extent of what has happened to us we would withdraw our consent of the governed and institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form most likely to affect our safety and happiness.

But it has happened slowly, the water warms…

Is There a Path Out Of This?

Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.

How do we get back to an American system that is of, by and for We the People? If we get out of this, what must we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

The first step is restoring our own understanding of democracy. The first three words of our Constitution are, “We the People.” Stand back from the page and those are the only words seen – for a reason. The “founders” were making a point.

We must restore understanding of ourselves as the boss, not the bossed. We must believe again in people, not money. We must believe again in majorities not markets. We must remember that our economy should serve us, not us serve the economy.

We must demand transparency, and not accept secrecy. We must return to understanding our government as the only available countervailing power to that of corporations.

Another step in our restoration is understanding how corruption corrodes democracy. We must understand the depth and effect of corruption on our system and on ourselves.

And then we must commit ourselves to investigating and exposing that corruption. That is our path out of this.

Call It A Climate CRISIS

Media, please “Increase the coverage and cover the science.”

“What are the most effective weapons in the fight against the climate crisis? New energy sources? New technology? Political action? One of the most powerful tools we have is the language we use to talk about the issue.

In this video, Bill McKibben describes the ways in which both the public and the media can change the way that they talk about the climate crisis to ensure that all Americans understand what is going on, what is at stake, and what we can do to address it.”

Who Are We To Object To What Putin Is Doing?

There are people who say, “The US has been and is doing bad things all over the world. It interfered with Russia’s elections. It bombs people. It overthrows governments.” Etc.

The United States interferes with elections in other countries. It has overthrown governments in other countries, bombed and even nuked other countries, supported brutal regimes, etc. It has committed genocide against Native Americans, held slaves, enforced an apartheid, made people of color second-class citizens, fought unions and kept wages low, allowed terrible environmental destruction, tortured people … and done a lot of things we are all against.

In general that United States has done everything it can to keep We the People here and everywhere down and under the thumb of a wealthy few.

So who are we to object to what Putin has done and is doing?

Wait, Did WE Do That?

But is that United States that does those things OUR country? Did “we” do those things?

The instances of the US doing these kinds of things here and elsewhere have been when our democracy is undermined, corrupted, manipulated by anti-democracy moneyed interests for their own gain.

That isn’t “US.”

The United State is under the control of a wealthy few anti-democracy plutocrats who OPPOSE what the “We the People’ Constitution stands for. That is the bad version of the United States that progressives fight, now and historically.

Trump is the leader of THAT United States and he is aligned with Putin to make things even worse for We the People.

WE did not go to war in Iraq, we were against it. WE are not helping Israel suppress the Palestinians, we are against that. WE are not helping the Saudis bomb Yemen, we are against that. WE did not support apartheid, we fought it.

We the People of the United States have not decided we should do these things. We the people just want a better life and the freedom to make our decisions over how our government should operate – and every time that actually happens things get better for people, more equal, more just.

What Trump was and is doing — with Putin’s Russia by his side — is to further promote this very undermining of the “We the People” democracy that we fight for.

90s-Type Dems Afraid Rush Limbaugh Will Say Something Bad About Them

From 2007: Senate Dems Afraid Rush Limbaugh Will Say Something Bad About Them.

That was when Dems voted to condemn MoveOn.

Remember when Dems were stampeded into defunding ACORN, the organization that registered poor people to vote?

This Political Ad … WOW

“My whole life has been about opening, pushing, and sometimes kicking through every door in my way. Ready for a Congress that opens doors for Americans instead of slamming them in our faces? Then join our campaign by donating today:”

The Saddest Song Right Now

Ry Cooder / Across The Borderline

There’s a place where I’ve been told
Every street is paved with gold
And it’s just across the borderline
And when it’s time to take your turn
Here’s a lesson that you must learn
You could lose more than you’ll ever hope to find
When you reach the broken promised land
And every dream slips through your hands
Then you’ll know that it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you’ve paid the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Up and down the Rio Grande
A thousand footprints in the sand
Reveal a secret no one can define
The river flows on like a breath
In between our life and death
Tell me who’s the next to cross the borderline
En la triste oscuridad (In the sad darkness)
Hoy tenemos que cruzar (today we have to cross)
Este río que nos llama mas alla (this river which calls us further away)
But hope remains when pride is gone
And it keeps you moving on
Calling you across the borderline
When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Now you’re still just across the borderline
And you’re still just across the borderline

WWDD — What Would a Democracy Do?

Crossposted from Imagine Democracy

Here is a question to ask yourself when you are looking at something the government is doing: “Would a democracy do this?”

When cutting regulations (protections) on corporations, “Is this something a real democracy would do?”

If Congress is working on a tax cut, look at it and ask, “Would a real democracy do this?”

A general rule, ask if a democracy would really do it.

Sugar Didn’t Ask To Be Born

From Bojack Horseman. Spoken by Mr. Peanutbutter: “Raven on a wire. A gloomy portent, precariously perched. And, as the sun sets, so does it spread its deathly shadow across the just and unjust of the outdoor seating area of the California Pizza Kitchen.

You come to work, clock in, you put sugar in your coffee, and watch it slowly disappear into nothingness. But the sugar doesn’t know why. Sugar didn’t ask to be born.”

I’m Not Dead

I’m just in a period of reflection.

In this time of Trump the only thing I seem to be able to write would be, “I told you so” and no one wants to hear that. The bloggers were right…

In the meantime I am starting a site (in progress) at, “Imagine Democracy.”

When I’m dead I’ll post about it here.