FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Commercializing Elections to Destroy Our Democracy

Our political economy – a wonderfully embracing phrase much used a century ago – has three main components: The electoral/governmental powers, the marketplace, and the civil society, which is composed of we the citizens.

It is well known that when “we the people” get lax about our consumer rights and our voting choices, both the companies and the politicians turn their backs on us and look out for themselves and their fat-cat donors. The civil society’s energy or apathy has a profound role in shaping how the other two sectors function, and can either safeguard our democracy or drive it into the ground.

All this is by way of saying that increasingly commercializing our elections every four years is devastating to the freedom and justice produced by a functioning democratic society. Our presidential and congressional elections this year represent a commercial conglomerate profit center.

There are the corporate Super PACs and the billionaire patrons who manipulate their sponsored candidates, who in turn make explicit or implicit promises to their paymasters to keep the money flowing into their campaigns. The corporate mass media thrives on the high ratings generated by the mud fights (recall the Republican presidential primary led by Trump). The media moguls charge high advertising rates and make more profits than ever from elections.

Taken together, commercializing elections means that everything is for sale – unless you opt out Bernie Sanders style and refuse corporate PAC contributions and super-rich funding.

When elections are for sale, you know who is most likely to win the auctions. You know how much less your votes and your views count. You know how cleverly sleazy will be the flattery that politicians send your way so as to obscure who really owns them.

As the election business worsens, the civil community—those neighborhood, local, state and national nonprofits that work to reduce many injustices and defend our civil rights and liberties under law—are ignored, side-lined and disrespected.

Whether by the mass media interview shows or on the daily campaign trail, citizen activists and citizen group leaders are rarely asked for their views, for their experience, for their horizons as to what is long overdue and possible.

But the bloviating pundits are regularly featured on the political talk shows; so are the garrulous political consultants to the candidates. But the bedrock of our democratic potential—the real experts, the movers and shakers, who start and continue decade after decade the difficult march toward a better society—are treated by the media bookers as off-limits or as interlopers.

One result of this two-party, for-sale tyranny is that most issues on people’s minds are not debated or discussed inside the electoral arena. In 2008, I listed over a dozen such proposals—many with majoritarian support—that both the Republican and the Democratic Parties took off the table (see votenader.org).

Another result of commercial elections is that, by cordoning off its political dances while flattering “the American people,”  they lull the electorate into complacency. When enough people get indignant they act and take back control by vigorous engagement in the election process before the choices and pathways are narrowed by the two-party duopoly.

Sure, some people get steamed but it is rarely enough to combat the tendency to revert back to cynicism, withdrawal or proud apathy.

Last month we convened the greatest number of accomplished citizen groups on the largest number of reforms and redirections ever brought together. One after another on the stage of historic Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. they spoke of the entrenched power and greed that they overcame over the past half-century to improve America.

These are the citizen champions who, for example, led the fight for safer and nutritious food, less harmful medicines, cleaner air and water, more secure pensions, a freer media, more open government, waging peace instead of war, securing indigenous peoples’ rights, safer transportation, the well-being of children, insurance industry accountability and great advances for people with disabilities.

Will you ever see or hear them on national TV or radio broadcast by companies using our public airwaves so profitably for free? Unlikely. Go to the website breakingthroughpower.org to see them and dozens of other leaders who too often get shut out by our rulers.

We invited every member of Congress to attend this event by delivered mail and some by repeated phone calls. Not one of these 535 Senators and Representatives (nor their staff), who spend so much time raising campaign cash, saw fit to go a couple miles from Capitol Hill to this unprecedented convocation.

One percent or less of the voters, organized in every Congressional District, can civilize these commercialized elections, because that is what the vast majority of the citizenry want.

Do those few people have enough dedicated time for the basic patriotism of making their country more lovable?

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail