An American Manifesto

American democracy is withering on the vine. Not because of any basic flaw, but because democracy is incompatible with the malignant capitalism that that has come to shape our society and control our political system. As citizens, we have a choice: we can do nothing and watch our democratic traditions die out, or we can act together to regain control of our country. We have a long and honorable revolutionary tradition, so we do not have to be victims. This manifesto is a call to action from one ordinary American to all others who love liberty. It is a call to unite and determine our future by taking it out of the hands of those who value only money and power. It is a call to rescue our democracy.

America today exhibits clear signs of a nation in peril, bogged down in needless, costly wars abroad and beset by economic stagnation at home. Terrorist attacks of 9/11 triggered an expanded military empire and an intrusive national security state. Financial institutions driving a casino capitalism crashed and burned in 2008. The worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression followed. Collectively, these events have distorted our political economy and wounded our democracy. Voters are angry, confused and divided not only over policies but over the very role of government. An imperial presidency, a dysfunctional Congress and a corporate-oriented Supreme Court have aggravated existing problems and created a cynical and distrustful public.

Plutocrats, taking advantage of a society in crisis, have tightened their hold on the economy and reshaped governance. The political economy, rooted in advanced capitalism, is now geared to serve the minority of Americans who control most of the wealth. Although our Republic retains the trappings of democracy, it has morphed into a Corporate State where ultimate authority is in the hands of a ruling class. Its operatives ? in and out of government ? determine domestic and foreign policy. They prop up an economic and military empire that spans the globe, but is reeling from recession, debt and seemingly permanent military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wisest among the prior generation of leaders saw it coming. President Dwight Eisenhower, Senator William Fulbright and historian William Appleman Williams warned of military-industrial-congressional complexes, imperial presidents and debilitating empires. C. Wright Mills dissected the emerging power elite that was beginning to dominate the political economy at home and project its influence abroad. But for more than a generation, no one ? in or out of government ? has done anything to stop what is at heart an anti-democratic movement.

We know that the Corporate State’s concerted assault on ordinary Americans will only worsen if left to its own devices. Whether it prevails depends entirely on whether those of us who love and value democracy allow it. Fortunately, the American experience includes historic achievements that can be a source of strength to all those working to change direction and advance the public interest. There are, of course, no guarantees that attempts to stop the corporate juggernaut will succeed, but there is reason to be hopeful. We have overcome serious challenges in the past and emerged stronger for our efforts. We should remember that we are the children of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, and Martin Luther King and act accordingly.

A grassroots, non-violent peoples’ movement is our best means of achieving the kind of structural, long-overdue changes we need. The goal of such a movement should be nothing short of radically reshaping the federal government. We must curtail corporate abuses, establish a democratic congress, rein in the military, and curtail the imperial presidency. These are essential measures for breaking the corporate grip on the political economy and creating a democratic America. The ruling elite will make every effort, including authoritarian methods and draconian policies, to hold on to power. We will be labeled radical extremists and worse. Our strength will come from creating a counter force based on organization, discipline, persistence and nonviolence.

Seven specific fundamental changes could put the nation back on track and provide a new democratic impetus to the political economy:

1. Abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a one person?one vote direct democracy. American democracy has been hogtied by interests that hate and fear it. It is up to us to rescue and broaden it.

2. Abolish all constitutional and legal provisions granting corporations equal status with persons. Corporations are not people, and treating them as such distorts the legal process, corrupts the political system and perverts our society.

3. Within two years, reduce the number of nuclear weapons in stock by half and close half (roughly 370) of existing overseas military installations. Plan further reductions and closures over a five-year period. The US does not need ? and cannot afford ? an empire, military or otherwise.

4. Adopt a matching public-private method of campaign financing for all federal elected positions. Allow individual contributions of no more than $100 per registered voter until total donations equal the government allocation. States would be encouraged to devise a similar system for state elected officials.

5. Adopt a constitutional provision requiring majority approval in both Houses of Congress before sending the American military into battle. Require one year of military service or civilian community service for every able-bodied American before they reach age 25.

6. Revamp US foreign policy to comply with international law. Begin in the Middle East and Central Asia with the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Provide financial and material assistance for rebuilding and aid to refugees. End support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and work toward a two-state, or preferably a one-state solution.

7. Demand a fair, progressive federal tax system that is simple and free of loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.

Now is the time to wake up and break out of our political straightjacket. We must not fall into the trap of waiting, hoping that a political savior will come on the scene. America does not need a Julius Caesar, unless we wish to continue retracing the path of the Roman Empire. Nor can we afford to await some triggering “spark” that may or may not materialize in our lifetimes. Democracy is in jeopardy and the time to make a concerted effort to resuscitate it is now. If we do nothing and continue to accommodate the drift toward corporate fascism, our fate is clear. Our children will not forgive us, and we, and they, will die strangers in a strange land.

Wayne A. Clark blogs at adslibs.com. An extended version of this article can be found there.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita