The Fatal Flaw with Democracy

Of all the depressing things to take away from last night’s elections – and believe me, there are many – the most depressing is probably the fact that we have outsourced our political process to factions. Actual candidates and actual campaigns no longer run the show; billionaires and dark money do.

In many of the closest congressional races across the country, outside groups – groups like Super PACs that aren’t officially connected to campaigns – actually outspent regular candidate campaigns. In North Carolina, for example, where Republican Thom Thillis beat out Democrat Kay Hagan in the most expensive senate race ever, outside groups spent $88 million while the Thillis and Hagan campaigns together only spent around $33 million. In Colorado, meanwhile, where Republican Cory Gardner beat out Democrat Mark Udall in the race that really sounded the death knell for Democrats, outside group spending tapped out around $81 million while regular campaign spending came in around $27 million.

It used to be that candidates had to work hard to raise money from everyday donors like you and me, but now, thanks to the Supreme Court, they don’t have to worry about that. The billionaires run their campaigns for them. And believe me, it really is the billionaires who are calling the shots.

As USA Today pointed out recently, 42 of the country’s richest people accounted for one-third of all Super PAC spending this election cycle. That’s right, 42 people!

What we did with prisons, with voting machines, and with the surveillance state are all things that we’ve now done with our election system: we’ve privatized, outsourced, and corporatized it, with similarly disastrous results. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.

You see, besides the return of the British Empire, there was nothing that terrified them more than the takeover of our republic by factions. James Madison, the author of the Constitution, talked at length about the dangers of faction in Federalist Paper Number 10. First defining faction as, “[A] number of citizens ... who are united and ... adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community," he then warned that, "The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced [by faction] into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”

Madison was a student of history, and he didn’t want our fledgling republic to go down the road of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, which collapsed after being taken over by powerful special interests. He knew, as did the other Founders, that if democracy had a fatal flaw, it was that it was susceptible to the influence of factions that could deceive the people into thinking they were on their side. Which is why, of course, Madison and the other Founders created this thing we call our government – to protect against the power of factions with laws and regulations.

Today, though, the Founders’ worst fears have been realized and faction has taken control of our political system. The total dominance of outside billionaire money in this year’s midterm elections is proof of that. Whatever protections were in place to prevent the hostile takeover of our political system by factions were smashed to pieces by the Supreme Court with its 2010 Citizens United decision. Now, a small group of wealthy people has co-opted our political system to enrich itself at the expense of everyone else.

Every empire of any consequence throughout history that has collapsed has done so because a small group of wealthy people rose up and seized all the wealth and all the power. And it’s how the American Empire will collapse, too, if we don’t wake up and get money out of politics once and for all. Our democracy has been outsourced to and hijacked by a faction of billionaires and their front-group, which calls itself the Republican Party.

So, as the old saying goes, who will tell the people? You could start...


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 20 weeks ago

...and now is the time to sit down and make a list of all the personal freedoms you presently enjoy...

...and kiss that list goodbye.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 20 weeks ago

Impeach roberts, alito, scalia, thomas and kennedy.

douglas m 8 years 20 weeks ago

I liked at the bottom of the ballot where the tax payer finally gets to vote for a few laws.

Why do we need politicians again, when it all falls in and collapses;

Let us vote for everything ourselves next time. Is it about the tax payer or the politicians just getting re-elected, get real. Politicians work for themselves.

Then business will just have do do the right thing to survive.

Ah, in a perfect world.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 20 weeks ago

I went to the postoffice today, while there, it dawned on me... how much longer will the postoffice be spared from privitazition by Republicans? And if you think that is a good thing, think Comcast. Republican voters are like the perverbial frog in the pot of water that has the heat turned on but they sit in the water until they are cooked to death. And they are taking us with them.

edayres's picture
edayres 8 years 20 weeks ago

While I can appreciate all of the howls about outside money people choose to believe what these ads are saying. It's their fault. They are lazy, uninformed, and tuned out of the ongoing political process. If it wasn't for the fact that a significant number of people do care, remain informed and show up to vote and deserve better, I would gladly say f**k them, they'll get what they deserve.

edayres's picture
edayres 8 years 20 weeks ago

While I can appreciate all of the howls about outside money people choose to believe what these ads are saying. It's their fault. They are lazy, uninformed, and tuned out of the ongoing political process. If it wasn't for the fact that a significant number of people do care, remain informed and show up to vote and deserve better, I would gladly say f**k them, they'll get what they deserve.

phanomf8's picture
phanomf8 8 years 20 weeks ago

@JOHNBEST: Yes and put them all in prison together for their final party while Obama is president so he can fill the vacancies!!!!

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 20 weeks ago

I don't disagree with any of this. Every step of the way, ordinary people were telling the party leadership, Dem legislators and the media what the problem is, only to be ignored. Every time the Party moves to the right, they lose. 2014 is a solid repudiation of the right wing of the Dems -- NOT of President Obama. I do put most of the blame on the media marketed to libs (perhaps with certain MSNBC hosts in the lead), which worked so hard for the last six years to divide and conquer the masses who voted for Obama, pitting the middle class against the poor, workers against the jobless, the Clinton Dems against the Obama Dems. I blame this media for exploiting the (quite puzzling) ignorance of the population, most notably concerning 2016. The 2016 Dem Party candidate is, of course, VP Joe Biden. H.Clinton is not the candidate. Granted, she (or any other qualified Dem) could challenge Biden for the nomination, but this would guarantee a Republican win.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 20 weeks ago

Ensuring representation only to those who are fortunate enough to have taxable incomes? I don't support that. This would imply that the rich should have more representation than the working class, many of whom are paid too little to owe taxes today, as well as the masses of jobless poor.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 20 weeks ago

Political commercials are so annoying I'm surprised that anyone watches them, or takes them seriously if they do. Most of the time we just jump over them with DVRs or take a trip to the kitchen or bath room. Seriously, no body watches commercials except during Super Bowl. I'm having a hard time believing that commercials can swing an election. I think that like me, most people have their minds made up before that crap even starts running. On the other hand, talk shows that run year round hold the real power of influence.

Suze O's picture
Suze O 8 years 20 weeks ago

When I reached age 18 and registered to vote, my parents gave me some advice that has served me well over the years. First, pick a party instead of being independent so that you can vote in primaries. A secret ballot means there is no requirement to vote for the party you belong to. Second, never vote for anyone or anything you haven't thoroughly researched. And by research, they meant reading and educating yourself from various sources, and by paying attention at times other than election season. They said not one thing about listening to political ads.

Then I went to art school and among my requirements was a class in advertising - as in the techniques used to sell a product or an idea. Interestingly, commercial advertising is an outgrowth of political propaganda, ostensibly a more benign cousin. There is supposed to be some "truth in advertising" but there are half-truths, insinuations, lies of omission, and the use of emotion-laden words. Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was the initial driver in the US of sophisticated political and commercial advertising, or shall we say Psy-Ops. He wrote the book, "Propaganda", which should be a must-read. That and Noam Chomsky's book "Media Control" would go a long way toward recognizing the ways we are manipulated into voting against our best interests.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 20 weeks ago

Shortly after Obama's inauguration in 2008, he gave a "get out of jail free" pass to the Bush administration, the Banksters, Corporatists, Wall Street and all the other criminals that got us into a needles war and crashed our economy, poisoned our environment, gutted safety laws for the sake of more profits and on and on. This was not the beginning of the end. The beginning of the end was when the Supreme Court named George W. Bush president. However, it doomed Obama's legacy.
I keep hearing about all the great things Obama accomplished. The thing they often bring up is reducing the deficit. What they don't say is that the reduction of the deficit has been largely accomplished on the backs of the middle class and the poor. Not only have the rich not been asked to sacrifice; they have been lavishly rewarded for their greedy immoral treasonous behavior beyond their wildest dreams. This really Robin Hood in reverse.
What Republicans know that Democrats don't know, is that elections are not won on the issues. They are won on perception. The Supreme Court gave the Republicans the means to create any perception of their opponents that suits their extremist right wing agenda, with the Citizens United decision.
Another thing that the Republicans understand is the old Mark Twain quote…"a lie gets half way around the world before the truth can get it's boots on". A lie only needs faith, the truth requires data, context, testing etc. Therefore lying will always trump truth, especially with bigots, the greedy and special interests that see the truth as contrary to their ideology. This explains why progressive messaging is so difficult. The truth usually does not fit on a bumper sticker.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 20 weeks ago

Who will tell the people?....not the man who could and should have, "Obama"....he's already kissing McConnell's raggedy ass by offering compromise with the hope that by doing so he can avoid impeachment hearings. Meanwhile the corpse media is also bending over for the old codger, giving him loads of attention as if he deserves it. Not a surprise that the Fascist controlled media isn't mentioning a word about Turtleman's obstruction, so I will.

McConnell's filibuster record, "obstruction rate," the last two years was 82%, in other words he voted in favor of a filibuster 147 out of 177 total times. The Dems damn well better take due notice of the high bar he has set and top it the next two years.

Has anybody bothered to explain to the brilliant man in the White House that as Thom pointed out today, across the country the vast majority voted yes on all progressive ballot measures? Simultaneously they voted for stiffs that are against the same measures, this because of billionaire sponsored mass media disinformation. Armed with this little fact Obama needs to reconsider his so called willingness to compromise with the billionaire party. By doing so he is in reality only reaching out to anti american criminals like the 42 who paid for the lies....not the vulnerable citizens who fell for them.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

Stopgap, I think that last sentence of your #12 post would make an excellent bumper sticker. - AIW

JohnLemessurier's picture
JohnLemessurier 8 years 20 weeks ago

A small group of wealthy people rose up and seized all the wealth and all the power in the election process, getting their people into office, because the majority of Americans are just plain stupid! (ref.

So, if the American Empire collapses, maybe that would be a good thing!


stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 20 weeks ago

Actually I may have come up with a bumper sticker afterall: Pray Now Pay Later

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

AIW RE#12, 14-- A great catch. I think it would make a great bumper sticker (except for its link).

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

Not link, but length.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

JohnL RE#15 -- I think a more accurate description is gullible (vs. stupid). They believe the evening news is giving them the whole truth.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

I put this comment in yesterday's blog, but I think it is more appropriate here.

It is almost breathtaking how open Mitch M is about his corruption. One of the reporters in Obama's press conference today, Nov 5, 2014, quoted Mitch. Mitch said before he will negotiate with Obama, Obama has to declare a tax holiday for the $3 trillion overseas, let the XL pipeline go forth ($80 billion for the Kochs), and remove the tax on medical devices in Obamacare. In other words, Obama has to pay off Mitch's billionaire buddies/supporters before he will negotiate.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 20 weeks ago

When Madison, Jon Jay and Harrison went on about "factions", they didn't have wealth interest in mind. The Federalist who basically framed the constitution, as we know it, feared rebellions (factions) against the unjust system that dominated during that time. Early American history is much more complicated than simple anecdotes about misunderstood Madisonian ideology.

Madison, along with a lot of the "founding fathers", feared the rank and file citizenry of new "infant empire" as George Washington called it. Madison not only welcomed special interest, he ensured that it would dominate our government. Madison did understand history and wasn't going to chance his new republic to hands of unwashed masses. He believe in aristocratic rule and the Senate still reflects Madison's vision today. Madison had contempt for democratic rule and the "leveling" spirit of the unbridled heard.

Madison also understood that he would be judged by history. I believe that's why his attempt to put in the historical record, his contempt for the system he helped design is disingenuous. It's like Eisenhower admission about the Military Industrial Complex taking over the country. The same Military Industrial Complex Ike whole heartedly supported and help design.

I understand the disappointment with the election results, but deifying the founding fathers for their resistance to special interest is not a honest assessment of their intent. In my not so humble opinion, the founding fathers were a special interest group and they intend for this country to be dominated by special interest. They just eliminated the British aristocracy and installed their own.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 20 weeks ago

Actually, Chuck, I think most people have given up on watching the news, for a variety of reasons. Either they're too busy working (9-5 jobs are kind of a relic now), too busy with the kids (that's my reason), or they have too many other choices of things to watch. The idea of people coming home from work and watching the news to get their information seems very outdated. More than likely, they don't care about getting news, or get it online or on the radio while they drive.

That having been said, I tried giving ABC's national coverage a chance on election night. I watched for about 15 minutes, right at 10pm central, right when it was becoming obvious how big this red wave was going to be, and what were they talking about? Hillary. The entire time they were talking about Hillary Clinton. Little things like that are why some people are convinced the media is biased towards the left. I know, I know... Progressives think the media skews to the right because they are big businesses. Something both sides always agree on - distrust or dislike of the national media.

I just looked it up. There are about 26 million evening news viewers for all three major networks combined. There are about 146 million registered voters. So roughly one in six registered voters even bothers to watch the news anymore.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

Chi Matt RE#22 -- I agree that "evening news" is a antiquated term. I was using the term as a general statement for however people get their information to decide whether to vote and who to vote for.

You do know that progressives think the media is biased about big business because they talk about the corporate dem, Hillary.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 8 years 20 weeks ago

The best campaign against tyranny is tyranny itself.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

RichardofJeffer -- John Adams was living proof of what you say. That is why Thomas Jefferson called his presidency the second American Revolution. Have you heard the discussions that Thom has had with Dan Sisson?

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 20 weeks ago

I have no doubt that the Repug's will keep one promise. They are promising to turn the economy around and they will turn the economy around. Just as they did during Dubya's last term. Prepare for economic free fall. My advice: buy gold.

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 20 weeks ago

Now many of the newly elected and re-elected government officials are going to be beholding to their supporters and legeslate the way their doners want them to instead of legeslating in the best interest of the masses of people they represent.

Now with republicans having control of the senate it's going to be up to the president to control what gets passed and what doesn't get passed that comes from congress to his desk.. I hope he's up to the task of not compromising our democracy and vetoing anything that is not in the best interest of the common people.

I just don't understand how so many people can be hoodwinked by these lying rebublicans. They lie about being pro-life and pro gun to seduce voters when they are really pro billionaire, pro millionaire, pro big business, and pro special interest. All the while they don't give a damm about the general welfare of common people.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

Deep do-do, folks... Gettin' deeper.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

Reply to #16 & #17: Then we can shorten the message from: "The truth does not usually fit on a bumper sticker" to "The truth won't..."

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 20 weeks ago

I'm not sure what would freak out the Right more, Obama promising to sign every bill that they send up to him or promising not to sign any?

richinfolsom 8 years 20 weeks ago

Watching the election results seemed surreal: an out of body experience as once again the inner city poor, African Americans, the disenfranchised slowly made their ways along long, cold lines in ritualistic fashion to cast a vote in the face of hopelessness and refusal to believe their vote cannot be traced or verified - just as votes were counted in the Soviet Union or our biggest trading partnet, Communist China. Voter rights laws fervently fought by the blood of men of all color have been largely cast aside. Elimination of voter rolls, voter ID laws targeted against the poor, the long term unemployed, the elderly, liberal college students... Records amounts of Carl Rove money flowed into my Congressional district for challenger Doug Ose. TV and the net were slammed with lies and innuendo.

We're told it was an election though it looked more like a Wall Street Market frenzy without substance - like a Black Friday Walmart sale.

The politicians were little more than cartoon stooges dancing to the whims of the rich. It is no wonder so few vote. The circus will play on with the usual mediocrity with jesters distracting us from the value we collectively have abandoned.

The United States is no longer the best country in the world.

loganonenation's picture
loganonenation 8 years 20 weeks ago

The only antidote to the flood of money going to the GOP are populist, liberal ideas. The Bill Clinton model of having Democrats take that corporate money and governing as Republicans is now dead because the GOP will no longer play ball with the Democrats no matter how corporate friendly they want to be.

The GOP has had one goal since Clinton: to convince the corporate dollars to stay with the GOP because the Democrats, especially the corporate variety, can't manage to get anything done on behalf of the billionaires. With total GOP obstuction all the time of anything the Democratic Party wants to do, the "New Democrat" plan to compete with Republicans in the money game has been completely short circuited.

It's time for an new, truly populist and liberal, anti-corporate Democratic Party. There is no other way. The Bill Clinton era is over. Thank God.

geochand's picture
geochand 8 years 20 weeks ago

Thom, you wrote, ' outside groups spent $88 million'. That's NY Gov. Cuomo spent $1,000,000,000 to buy votes. He called it the Buffalo Billion. The funny thing about that is that it wasn't his money. It was the state's money, or should I sai it should have been the state Tax Payers' money. Cuomo only won a handful of counties with the opponent Astorino winning (by generally a 2:1 margain) the overwhelming majority of counties. So here, in NYS, NYC rules when it comes to any statewide elections. Do you consider that fair representation?

You often talk about people voting 'against their self interests'. By that I believe you mean make sure you vote for the hand that feeds you, literally. The idea that the Demonocrats continue to ensure their re-election by continually creating a feeling of endenturedness is appalling to me.

What is going to happen when the amount going out is greater than the amount coming in? It's time for real reform. That includes corporate reform too. I agree with you that we should not be ruled by big money donors, whether corporate or private. I remember one of the ideas that Obama ran on was to eliminate lobbyists in Washington. How's that going? Another example of him telling people what they want to hear, and nobody following up on his promises...........

“If you want to govern the people,
You must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead people,
You must learn how to follow them.” Tzu

bobcox's picture
bobcox 8 years 20 weeks ago

My understanding is that to be an "educational" Super-Pac and therefore thke gifts becoming a tax benefit to the giver, the expendituires on political thems mustt be less than the "primary" function of the Super-Pac. If this is so and the large amoiunts being spent inthe election, coulddn't the Democrats sute the IRS on the "primar" classifications for the Super-Pacs?

dianhow 8 years 20 weeks ago

Pro wealth anti middle class GOP won Ouch Say goodbye to decent wages, funding for education, basic regulation to reign in corp Greed, SS as we know it .. Hello to More corp tax cuts, loopholes, subsides, billionaire perks, & Wall St crooks. US wealth favoring laws & policies need a complete overhaul in order for we the people to have a level playing field . Under GOP reign That will NOT occur COngrats GOP angry , misled, gullible Fox Hannity Drudge Rush Palen McConnell loyal fans / ditto heads . In 6 yrs we went from Bush Cheney global depression- TARP - losing 700 K jobs a month- low wages - 2 very long wars that killed and wasted many trillions to 2014 ... Obama ordering Brave Seals to kill Bin laden & many top al quada - millions of jobs have been created , real effort to raise wages- 6 % unemployment rate- deficit down 40 % - war phasing out - equal pay law for women - ACA /Obama care getting better over time just as Medicare did - took awhile to become the succees it is for many millions. I am saddened by voters inability to use critical thinking skills & logic...

grandpa_Dave's picture
grandpa_Dave 8 years 20 weeks ago

Do these election results illustrate the limited memory of Amerian voters? Or perhaps their inability to use rational thinking? I'm surprised how quickly they forgot that the U.S. government was shut down last year because House Republicans refused to provide funding for projects that they approved. Only congress has the authority to generate revenue or to spend it; the president does not. The shutdown closed many national parks and gov't offices, curtailed VA services, and halted many non-crucial military operations. Did American voters also forget that members of the congress swore oaths to "support and defend the Constitution " and to " faithfully discharge the duties of the office"? How can anyone with decent judgement vote for candidates who fail to provide for the common defence and promote the general welfare, and whose oaths are lies?
I remember last years' progressive comments that the Republican Party was on self-destruct because of such actions, coupled with the party's having no political vision or agenda. The 2014 election results are baffling and cause me to lose faith in the way our political process is exercised.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 20 weeks ago
Quote JohnLemessurier:

A small group of wealthy people rose up and seized all the wealth and all the power in the election process, getting their people into office, because the majority of Americans are just plain stupid! (ref.

So, if the American Empire collapses, maybe that would be a good thing!


JohnLemessurier ~ Unfortunately, I have to agree 100%. The American people are very stupid; not just gullible--STUPID. You can be gullible without being stupid; however, if you're stupid, you have to be gullible. Time and time again I've seen the evidence that the people of this country are very stupid. The reason, because they keep making the same mistakes over and over and over without learning anything. Gullible people who aren't stupid tend to learn by mistake. Stupid people don't. These people have had decades to see where voting Republican has got them. There simply is no rational excuse for this behavior. The American people prefer not to think critically. They do not like to think for themselves. They are very happily and comfortable following along like Lemmings with the crowd and believing that doing so makes them the most special, blessed and important people to have ever lived on the face of the Earth. I call that pretty damn stupid. To put it into perspective, I've seen smarter rocks.

PS Thanks for that link. I love George Carlin and I think he said it best in that clip as well.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

Marc, it's great to have you back. Your comments are always refreshing and spot-on.

Grandpa Dave, I feel your pain.

tm's picture
tm 8 years 20 weeks ago

Aren't there some Republicans out there who you can pull into your talk show who are not shouting like children brawling in the school yard? Or some democrats on the left who have a real intellect????

You are turning into Fox News of the Left with ridiculous polarization of a message/issue. How about finding some people who are not intellectual dunces as the ones you pull in...shame. More cheap journalism is what your show has turned into.


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