The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “DOLLAROCRACY: How the MONEY ELECTION COMPLEX Is DESTROYING AMERICA” by John Nichols and Robert W. Mc Chesney from Chapter 1 on page 29 and I quote: “Here Comes Dollarocracy – America did not continue for long on the progressive path of revitalizing politics and government. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the campaign trail began bending back toward privilege and the gains of the previous era began to be wiped away. Those rules, regulations, and enforcement agencies that could not be shuttered came under sustained attack. And a new generation of politicians, trained to recognize and respect the Money Power, swept away the old reformers.
In a single election, that of 1980, McGovern and Church were ushered out of the Senate, as were Gaylord Nelson, a great environmentalist; Birch Bayh, who had championed the voting Rights Act and organized congressional approval of the amendment that lowered the voting age to eighteen; and Mike Gravel, who partnered with Nader and others in fights for freedom of information and open government. The modern age of reform, such as it was, had ended. Under the leadership of newly elected Presdident Ronald Reagan and the Republican senators who replaced McGovern, Church, Nelson, Bayh, and Gravel, government returned to the old calculus of doing no more than was absolutely necessary for citizens and absolutely everything that could be done for the wealthy and big business.
This did not just “happen.” Corporations and wealthy individuals organized politically as never before. They responded to a situation where, as political scientist David Vogel put it, “from 1969 to 1972, virtually the entire American business community experienced a series of political setbacks without parallel during the postwar period. . . . For the first time since the 1930s, business found its political influence seriously challenged by a new set of interest groups.” By the early 1970s, corporations were also arguably at or near their low ebb to date in public esteem, regarded as rather unsavory actors.
This elite response was not simply a “right-wing” countermovement. It drew from both parties and had congressional supporters who identified themselves as liberal “reformers.” What unified the players was a strong commitment to having corporations and the wealthy return to playing a preeminent and unquestioned role in the governance of the United States. Consider The Crisis of Democracy, a report prepared in 1975 by Harvard’s Samuel Huntington and two other prominent academics for the Trilateral Commission, a group of establishment—some even self-described “liberal”–political, academic, and corporate leaders founded by David Rockefeller in 1973.
The report imagined the contemporary crisis of democracy in 1975 America precisely in Tom Paine’s or La Follette’s terms, except that the Trilateral Commission was on the other side. “The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private. . . . People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.”
The report noted that the percentage of people who regarded the government as being “run for the few big interests” rather than for “the benefit of all” increased from 17 percent in 1958 to 53 percent in 1972. The percentage of Americans expressing confidence in large corporations fell by half between 1966 and 1973, to 29 percent, a larger drop than that experienced by any other institution. In the view of the report, the problem stemmed from an “excess of democracy”–with people having unrealistic expectations that the system could never satisfy.
The “logic” of the report was plain to see:it was time for corporations and their supporters to organize politically and do their best to undermine the effectiveness of the organizations that opposed them or made “unrealistic demands upon them. Citizens had to learn their place and be happy with it. The “crisis” of democracy was that there was too much democracy. The report concluded that “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” It was time for suddenly involved minorities, poor people, students, militant workers, and women to return to the lower decks of their galleys and let the traditional rulers again steer the ship of state.
As we explain in Chapter 3, a future Supreme Court justice, Lewis Powell, provided corporate America with a plan of action. The organization spawned by this new corporate campaign for power would spend hundreds of millions, eventually tens of billions, of dollars to shift the political culture dramatically to the right and undo the gains of the preceding fifty years. Organized labor, business’s nemesis, would lose much of the status and strength it had gained during the New Deal era and then seemed to solidify during the Truman and Eisenhower years. By the 1990s, corporations and their congressional hirelings would be passing free-trade deals, deregulating whole industries, and eliminating Glass-Steagall protections against banking industry abuses. As Warren Buffett acknowledged when he looked back across the years in which the son on a Republican congressman from Omaha became a billionaire, “There’s class warfare, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
To win the war, the dollarcrats did not merely champion their own agenda. They also demonized any and all who might question it. Nader became Public Enemy No. 1 for the champions of Dollarocracy, If only because job one for the dollarcrats was to eliminate the notion of the government as a progressive force on behalf of an informed and engaged citizenry. (Job two was to eliminate the notion among the young of public service as a worthy career goal.) In the 1970s, the corporate community organized to limit or terminate Nader’s influence and by extension, the myriad of activist groups that he, along with the women’s, student, labor, and civil rights movements, had inspired to influence public policy by grassroots organizing.
When President Jimmy Carter began to organize his administration, he consulted with Nader and appointed Naderites to top positions. By the 1980s, the corporate campaign had succeeded to such an extent that Nader and his fellow reformers were cast into the wilderness, as there was no place for their work under Dollarocracy. Nader turned to the next stage of his career as a prophetic voice against corruption and corporate power and as a periodic presidential protest candidate. He was sometimes referred to as “bitter.” But it was not bitterness that motivated the man; it was anger at the obscuring of America’s democratic vistas. That anger would come to be shared by millions of Americans who recognized that they were losing more than elections. They were losing democracy itself.
Since the 1970s, money has become extremely well organized as a political force, while the great mass of nonwealthy people has lost much of its organizational capacity to influence politics. The result has been the rise of Dollarocracy. The Republican Party effectively purged its liberals and then the few remaining moderates, becoming by the 1990s a political home for the Dollarocracy. There was no longer any room in the Grand Old Party for reform. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who once had advocated for meaningful campaign finance rules, became the leading champion of money in politics. And the refusal of McConnell and his kind to compromise on issues of concern to corporations did not isolate the GOP. It created a new pole in politics to which an unsettling number of Democrats who refuse to play by the rules of the money-and-media election complex. But they reside on the margins of the party, not at its core and certainly not at the top.
The most powerful Democrats may still talk a populist line, especially as Election day approaches. But when it comes time to govern, too many of them choose to switch rather than fight. The party of Franklin Roosevelt has come with each ensuing election to sound more and more like the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. “New Democrats” such as Bill Clinton, who presented themselves as determinedly probusiness, came to dominate the party in the 1990s. Clinton taught his fellow Democrats to “triangulate”: moving to the right in order to appeal to corporate interests while keeping a working-class and liberal voting base because the base had no alternative and was terrified by the extreme social conservatism and market fundmentalism of the Republicans.
The die was cast. Democrats would compete with Republicans for the middle rather than seek to expand the electorate by mobilizing poor people and people of color with “Rainbow Coalition”–style mass mobilization. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and some of his labor allies tried throughout the 1980s and 1990s to sell the Democratic party on mobilization strategies and the progressive populist approaches that would inspire and empower them. But this was an exercise in frustration.
By 2002, political observers were noting that “today neither party makes much effort to mobilize the tens of millions of poorer and less well educated Americans who are not currently part of the electorate.” A whole consultant class rose up to tell Democratic politicians that the only way to win was to tack to the middle, or even the right, especially on economic issues. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why progressives listen to consultants. Building movements, making progress on progressive issues—you have to talk to people, educate people, organize people,” says Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats but rarely takes advice from anyone in Washington.
Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign broke the pattern to some extent, especially when it came to the demographics of a winning coalition, by exciting young people and African Americans to turn out in higher numbers for a candidate who seemed to promise not just historic progress but also “change we can believe in.” When the change did not materialize, however, all that was left was a tired, centrist, and business-friendly Democratic Party that could not reenergize the base in 2010 and that prevailed in 2012 largely by scaring the wits out of Americans who did not expect much from the Democrats but were genuinely frightened by Republicans who threatened Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This was lesser-evilism raised to high art. Dollarocracy perfected. “The Republican Party is accurately defined as a party that looks out for the interests of the very wealthy,” wrote former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. “The Democratic Party less so, but I think they look out for the interests of the wealthy, too, before they look out for the interests of working Americans.”
Herbert nailed it. The dollarcrats had succeeded not by beating the Democrats but by subsuming them. Dollarcrats feared the Democratic Party’s existing and potential voting base but were comfortable with the party’s political leaders, whom the system had for all intents and purposes domesticated.
There were many elements to the corporate campaigns to remake American politics and governance launched in the 1970s. These included massively increasing lobby activity; hectoring the news media to be more sympathetic to business, eventually creating procorporate news media; making universities more procorporate; creating think tanks and other venues to generate extensive public relations on the virtues of”free enterprise” and “markets” and the duplicity of anything that stood in their way; and getting the courts to be more friendly toward business concerns. But no area was of greater concern than rendering the election system more susceptible to business influence and more likely to produce outcomes satisfactory to the wealthy. The confirmation that the project has succeeded came not in the overiflated rhetoric of the Republican Party but in the constrained and compromised language of the Democrats. If the point of refashioning the political process was to make it easier for corporations to call the shots, then this was the truest measure of success: a titular two-party system in which every debate revolved around which party was best for business.
To be sure, there remain real differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. They are stark on issues such as abortion rights and gay rights. And we do not seek to deny or diminish the distinctions. But corporations do not worry much about reproductive health or marriage equality. They worry about their bottom lines. And the bottom line of American politics has in recent decades come to reflect the demands of the wealthiest Americans and corporations they control. The differences between Republicans and Democrats on issues of consequence to corporations are now matters of degrees, not the deep distinction that is found on social issues. “The Obama position is : The super-rich have to pay a little more. The Romney position is: They don’t have to pay anything,” said Thomas Ferguson. “That’s it, folks, that’s the party difference in American politics.” As the long 2012 campaign wore on, it became quite clear that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama despised each other. Yet one of the most common phrases when the two men debated policy was “I agree.”
The people do not happen to agree. Poll after poll confirms that they prefer a far more potent politics, that they want a Democratic Party that will stand up to corporations, and that they would like the Republican Party to do the same. Ninety percent of Americans now agree that there’s too much corporate money in politics, with a clear majority—51 percent–”strongly agreeing” with that statement.
Nice sentiments and in a democracy we might expect that the system would reflect those values. Instead, under Dollarocracy, the electoral system works on entirely different principles, shaped and fueled by big money. To understand the depth of the crisis, it is time to take a look at what Dollarocracy has wrought: the election of 2012.”
(FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, THE ONLY PERSON ELECTED TO FOUR TERMS AS PRESIDENT, HAD the SYSTEM WORKING GREAT FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED, STARTING SOCIAL SECURITY FOR OLDER PEOPLE, REUGLATING THE CORRUPT BANKING SYSTEM THAT GOT IN TROUBLE in the 1930s AND CREATING A FAIR INCOME TAX SYSTEM, BASED ON ABILITY TO PAY. THESE ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT STRUCTURES TO KEEP A DEMOCRACY WORKING. PROBLEM WAS THOUGH, LIKE THE BOOK SAYS, IN THE 1970s, THE MONEYCHANGERS STARTED TAKING BACK TOTAL CONTROL OF RUNNING OUR GOVERNMENT. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO QUIT UNTIL THEY HAVE THE UNITED STATES LOOKING LIKE THE COUNTRY OF MEXICO WHERE THEY DONT’ HAVE ANY ORGANIZED UNIONS AND WAGES OF APPROXIMATELY $1.00 PER HOUR, WHICH IS THE REASON WHY A LOT OF MEXICANS ARE COMING TO THE UNITED STATES. YOU CAN EASY UNDERSTAND WHY the RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD LIVES IN MEXICO HIS MARGIN OF PROFIT IS ASTRONOMICAL WHEN YOU CAN GET A LABOR FORCE WORKING THAT CHEAP, ALONG WITH A POLITICAL SYSTEM SO CORRUPT THE MAJOR OPPOSITION IN THEIR COUNTRY ISN’T GOOD POLITICS BUT THE DRUG INDUSTRY AND WHO IS SELLING THE MARIJUANA AND COKE, CREATING DRUG WARS IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY. IT MAKES YOU LAUGH WHEN BASEBALL IS TRYING TO CLEAN UP THE DRUGS IN SPORTS BECAUSE THE ATHLETES ARE ROLE MODELS FOR OUR CHILDREN, WHICH IS GREAT, WHILE THE COUNTRIES OF MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES CAN’T EVEN CLEAN UP THE DRUG TRADE AND WARS BETWEEN VARIOUS GANGS, MAKING THE 99 PERCENT JUST THAT MUCH POORER.
LaVern Isely, Overtaxed Independent Middle Class Taxpayer & Public Citizen & AARP Members