Who will be this Generation’s Thomas Jefferson?

We could be looking at the end of the American experiment, and it has gone so far that it'll take a political revolution to set things right again.

On Monday, Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers, pledged they would raise and spend $889 million to help elect Republicans in the 2016 election cycle. To put just how huge this number is in perspective, $889 million is more than both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee spent combined over the course of the 2012 elections.

This is the brave new world we live in thanks to the Supreme Court and it’s doctrine of money as speech and corporations as people. Two billionaires - two oil barons - now have just as much power, arguably even more power, than America's two main political parties. But the Kochs are just one example of a very big problem. And that problem is the near total takeover of our political system by plutocrats.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Since Citizens United was decided in 2010, there has been more than $1 billion in super PAC spending. Just 195 individuals and their spouses gave almost 60 percent of that money - more than $600 million.”

It’s clear that this investment has paid big dividends for the plutocrats.Republicans now control 69 of the 99 state legislative chambers across the U.S. as well as both houses of Congress, where they’re hard at work pushing corporate-friendly legislation like a bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.

On the state level corporate influence has become so pervasive that in Kansas Governor Sam Brownback submitted his state budget to Koch-funded lobbyists weeks before he submitted it to his own state's legislature.

Meanwhile, wealth inequality remains at an all-time high as the top one percent has captured 91 percent all income gains since the Recession.

Former Vice President Henry Wallace had a name for this kind of political system where the wealthy elite use the state to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. He called its “fascism,” and he called people the plutocrats who supported it “fascists.” Writing in The New York Times in 1944, Wallace said about the plutocrat fascists that,

"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective… is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

Eternal subjection - that’s a powerful phrase, but it really is what we’re looking at right now.

Look at how few Americans have any power or representation by a union in the workplace - before Reagan, it was about a third of American workers; now it's around 7 percent in the private workplace. Or look at how many young people are shackled for decades with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, subjecting them to a narrowed existence, unable to start a family or buy a home.

As billionaires like the Kochs continue to buy elections and legislatures, they snuff out a real democracy. And they're doing it not for the good of the nation, but purely so the rich can get richer. Remember the bumper sticker? Republican billionaires make investments when they buy politicians to make themselves richer. Democratic billionaires invest in America when they support politicians who will raise their taxes.

We’ve seen this situation before a handful of times in our country’s history. As I wrote about in my book The Crash of 2016, the plutocrats, fascists, economic royalists - whatever you want to call them - have been around since the revolutionary era. And every generation or so, they’ve assumed almost total control over our government and our economy. We saw this during the 1920s and the lead-up to the Great Depression, when President Warren Harding made it his mission to put “less government in business and more business in government.”

We saw it during the Gilded Age, when robber barons like John D. Rockefeller used their monopoly power to dominate the political and economic landscape. And we saw this during the late 18th century, when President John Adams and his Federalist allies almost succeeded in turning our young republic into a European-style oligarchy.

But each time the economic royalists have threatened to overthrow our democracy, progressive revolutionaries like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt have blocked them and reformed our system for the better. We’re at similar moment in time right now.

With the Kochs set to spend almost $1 billion in the next election cycle and the right’s war on campaign finance raging as strong as ever, our democracy is perilously close to slipping into oligarchy. But revolutionaries like Jefferson in 1800, Lincoln in 1860, Teddy Roosevelt in 1901, and FDR in 1932 don't just fall out of the sky. They come to power because “We the People” have had enough of the oligarchs, and get out and support them.

Whether the next revolutionary to come to power will be Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even if Hillary Clinton or some other Democrat gets religion and comes out as a populist only time will tell. But none of it will happen if you and I don't get politically active.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 21 weeks ago

I've been saying for some time now that a revolution is coming; it will have to happen; it will be violent and it will be bloody. And it won't end well for the United States or the rest of the world. Mark my words.

Raypc800 9 years 21 weeks ago

I agree time to clean my weapons and inspect them. Who knows they may be needed very soon.

TarryFaster 9 years 21 weeks ago

One other critical aspect of our democracy that "they" have taken over -- and which you failed to mention in your article -- are the ballot boxes!

The way I see it, being the pragmatist that I am, is that we have no legal, non-violent means of redress left to us.

Maybe THIS would work:


flyguy8650's picture
flyguy8650 9 years 21 weeks ago

Bummer, we are heading the way of The Roman Empire...moral decay and Kardashians & The House Wives of URTOWN being the most important people in the USA. Our schools are turning out functional illiterates like fracking is sending oil.

Corp America needs customers or the economy crumbles, gas at less than 2.00 gal, hey we should all be happy right? Corrupt Limosine Progressives and Right Wing Nut Cases pander to a media that is more focused on Al Sharpton's Views of what's important.

It is sad. Until there is a wholesale change in the way we raise our children, take personal responsibility for ourselves, family, neighborhood, city, state and country, we are doomed to follow the likes of all great societies. Even if we have a bloody revolution, the American Exceptionalism will never return unless the generation of my children and their children see that they are the last saving grace for the most free country ever to exist.

Close the borders, stop the trade agreements, make stuff here. BUY ONLY AMERICAN MADE PRODUCTS or build your own. Stop trying to create at utopia of EQUALS it is not possible. Just make is bad to do bad things and make bad things unacceptable.

I am sorry that my generation, (i am 65), "did it all" and left nothing for the rest. The baby boomers are a bunch of spoiled ignorant selfcentered over consuming unapologetic pot heads. If you want to know what the risks of Pot is....look at anyone older than 55. In all walks of life. Progressive ideas wont do it and the right wing free capitalists wont do it. If the current momentum continues it will all crumble because no one will spend and then the oligarcks have no cash flow. Our only chance is a continued strong US Dollar, the ONLY currency in the world that is taken Universally as value.

Wake up 20-30 somethings....it is up to you. Throw EVERY INCUMBANT OUT...RETOOL and RE ENERGIZE - VOLUNTEER and GROUP TOGETHER you can fight the Koch's and the Obama Left. They are just OPPOSAMES - pandering hype spreaders that could care less about anyone as long as there is power to have and money to burn.

Fight for schools that are run locally with NO GOVNT involvement or Unions or anything that sells of politics. If it is someone over 55 throw them out. You can do it.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 21 weeks ago

The Kochs have decided to spend 889 million on their 2016 purchase of Republicans. Two groups of citizens have to cooperate for this purchase to become a reality. The first group has to accept the money in exchange for pedaling the lies. The second group has to believe these lies to the extent they become motivated enough to vote against their own best interests. The first group of citizens are the real traitors! Those in the second group are simply victims of their own naivete. It's worth noting that the Kochs are not spending 444 million of the 889 on Democrats!!!!!

The content of Thom's radio show today needs to be broadcast repeatedly all across the nation. The Democrats currently in office would do well to pick up some talking points from it.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 21 weeks ago

If someone else will be the Jefferson, I'll be happy to be the Madison. I've been trying like hell the last 8 years, but no one seems to want to listen.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 21 weeks ago
Quote Thom Hartmann:Whether the next revolutionary to come to power will be Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even if Hillary Clinton or some other Democrat gets religion and comes out as a populist only time will tell. But none of it will happen if you and I don't get politically active.

Thom ~ When referring to Hillary Clinton, instead of "Religion," wouldn't an "Exorcism" be more in order?

basmith13f's picture
basmith13f 9 years 21 weeks ago

You might be onto something here. I read yesterday, in the Guardian, I believe, that nervous billionaires are buying farms in New Zealand as an escape route, if there is civil unrest and rebellion at the growing inequality. I don't want to see it either, but I don't have a way out.

With the Republicans in charge of Congress, as well as in the majority of the state houses and all funded by the Kochs, the situation looks pretty bleak.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 21 weeks ago

Thom— With all due respect, to even suggest the next “revolutionary populist” to come to power could be a warmongering, free-trade toadie like Hillary Clinton is pretty laughable. I’d bet $$$ she votes in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the TPP. If that’s the “revolution” we’ve got in store, count me out.

Reply to post #2: The next revolution, if it occurs at all, will not involve guns and weapons. To suggest otherwise is like trying to cure alcoholism with whisky. This obsession with guns is not only counter-productive; it is a BORE. And pitted against the U.S. government — the greatest terrorist organization and most heavily armed thugs on the planet — is like countering assault rifles with pea shooters. You guys really need to get more creative than that.

Henry Wallace got it right and he wasn’t afraid of the word “Fascism”.

Reply to #4: Flyguy, dissing Al Sharpton? Still claiming this is the “most free country ever to exist”? More “utopia” platitudes? (SIGH) You sound like someone who could use a little pot, to help clear the cobwebs out of your brain. - AIW

telliottmbamsc's picture
telliottmbamsc 9 years 21 weeks ago

I'm with Alice, Hillary Clinton would NOT solve anything! It would be a doubling down on our existing problems. I mean, for christ sake, her family is married to Wall St!?

humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 9 years 21 weeks ago

Hey you are so right about a Revolution that s coming .But wrong about its violent nature.

In fact it will be the most peaceful Revolution in all of Human History it starts on March the 12 Awakening Day . It's the Evolution Revolution .

We are all one ours is another way not a better way .

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 9 years 21 weeks ago

Democrat voters should understand that FDR's vice President Henry Wallace was snubbed by the political machine that ran the Democrat Party in 1944. He was perhaps one of the smartest men that had ever come to Washington but he was totally unprepared for the level of corruption and compromise that he would find there. He was replaced as Roosevelt's running mate and heir apparent in the 1944 election cycle by one of their lap dogs Harry Truman who set about trashing all of Roosevelt's policies on the day he took office. A former Roosevelt cabinet member emerged from the oval office after the first meeting with the new president and commented "It's Over", referring to Roosevelt's plans to extend his New Deal legacy in post war America ! Wallace would seek an independent run for the White House in 1948 but the fate of independent parties and their candidates was no better in 1948 than it is today ! A monumental point in the history of the United States that changed the countries future direction and, as we know now, not for the better.

douglas m 9 years 21 weeks ago

I honesty beieve a BIG CHANGE is coming but its not a revolution.

People just dont think poitics are somehow realated to their economic everyday difficulties.

I dont think the tv will go off and an internet search on who has the best choices for their next local election will happen on a mass scale.

What I do think will happen is GREED will continue until this country implodes financially.

THEN MASSES will care and not before, if then! They will just be mad.

Im sorry I just dont havethe faith of peacefull protest in masses before enough people get it. The ultimate question how do you take a country back to care for its people more than anything else? We elect a representative or senator that all get overwhelmed by it all.

If they were not corrupt before they get there, the real problem is they will not fight a battle thats so huge by themselves and win. So they dont try, they take the money.

Get the money and or benefits out of politics!

Make it a non paid non contribution position!

It should be an honor to represent our nation.

But treat them while in office to ALL expenses so no corruption is necessary.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 21 weeks ago

telliot ... re #5 -- From what you say, Hillary may be our best hope. I say this based on the close ties of both FDR and Teddy to the economic royalists. Who in the world would have thought FDR would bring about the "New Deal"?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 21 weeks ago

telliot ... #5 should have been #11

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 21 weeks ago

Let the billionairs run the schools. We can get rid of the nasty "critical thinking".

StreetKid's picture
StreetKid 9 years 21 weeks ago

Please do NOT include me in the mess the 65+ boomers have made! I am 58 and getting screwed by my older "boomers". You bet- you've ruined the planet, the nation for ALL of us! I have to fight AGAIN for women's rights - this time for my young grand daughters and I have to fight AGAIN for UNIONS for my grandsons!

I have lost my job and face age discrimination on a daily basis. So DON'T include me in the mess YOU made- I voted for CARTER in 1980!!!!

I have been fighting the RIGHT WING NUTS my whole working life!!!

StreetKid's picture
StreetKid 9 years 21 weeks ago

So true and so sad RLTOWNLEY, I totally agree with you! This country would be so much better off if Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights had been enacted. WE would have single payer insurance! I don't know if many people realize that.

But I truly believe that when ANGER outweighs the FEAR maybe people will take to the streets, ORGANIZED and INFORMED, perhaps we may stand a chance. I am ready to do whatever it takes-I just don't know where to begin. But I am willing to learn - MY anger already outweighs any FEAR I may have.

We are becoming a Fascist nation, I cannot in good conscience leave this mess to my grandchildren! It's bad enough they may not have water and have their bodies destroyed by Monsanto and the antibiotics they are pushing in to my children.

My question to all of you out there - HOW DO WE SAVE OURSELVES, OUR NATION and OUR CLIMATE????

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 21 weeks ago

stecoop01, in response to the belief that violent revolution in US is inevitable. I certainly hope your prediction is wrong because it would be a slaughter, and that slaughter would be one sided. With the utter contempt that the ruling class, along with their well-educated (indoctrinated) functionaries, have for the American public, the carnage unleashed against the US citizenry would make the American Civil War look like a meager skirmish in comparison. Be careful what you dread for it might just fruition into apocalyptic realities.

Raypc800, exactly who will you’re guns be aimed at? At the American military, the most professionally violent war machine in the history of the world? I will refer you to my comments to stecoop01. The American people would not be safe from state aggression, and I am not sure what small arms fire can do against an unbridled American military response. Believe me, if things devolve into violent revolution in American, all pretense of rules of war will be abandon against America’s ruling class’s greatest enemy the American public. A violent revolution is not an option for the American people. If there is any hope in changing our country, it will have to be done non-violently.

AIW, with the excellent point you have made about Hillary Clinton. I don’t feel the need to address Thom as well. It would be redundant.

I do like you’re comment addressing Raypc800 post. – To suggest otherwise would be like trying to cure alcoholism with whisky.

I did feel; however, the need to share my humble or not so humble opinion with Raypc800. I felt, I could, expound on the futility in a violent response against a belligerent unrivaled mindless war machine like the US military. The wildly exaggerated romantic delusions of the American Revolution would be savagely, viciously, cruelly shell shocked into the cold heartless realities of war. All violent revolutionary fantasy would quickly dissolve into a bitter puddle filled with tears of disappear and regret of those unlucky survivors of America's Second Violent Revolution.

Is that too much.. LOL

humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 9 years 21 weeks ago

Hi SteetKid , this is the question of our time .The Answer is though our beliefs .Beliefs Crete our behaviours .

Go to the evolution revolution website because we all matter as well as our precious planet which sustains us !

We are a primitive species but if we implement our highest understandings and observe more we have a chance .We have to ask ourselves a few questions first .A good one for me is what is the Human race trying to do ?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 21 weeks ago

Streekid RE #20 -- I suggest getting involved with Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). Thom says it has nothing to with the democratic party.

Remember! movetoamend.org

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 21 weeks ago

Reply to #16: Chuck, if Hillary Clinton is our “best hope”, we might as well just hang it up. Like I said, she’s a warmonger and a free trade toadie; and like Tellio said, she and her family are “married to Wall Street”. She represents the same old status quo, and I have had enough of that.

I’m sick of fear votes. I voted for Obama, twice, out of fear, and got a smooth talking corporate fascist and a con artist. I have had ENOUGH of this abusive crap and I swear, I’ll write in Donald Duck for president before I vote for that bitch. She and her toadie husband need to retire to their McMansion and disappear before they do any more damage fo this country!

Reply to #19: Streetkid, I feel your pain and frustration. I'm 64 years old and totally agree. Those boomers now occupying seats of power are, with few exceptions, the worst of our generation. I refuse to be associated with them either, and that includes HILLARY CLINTON! - AIW

P.S. Reply to post #21: Thank you Richard.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 21 weeks ago

Among the boomer exceptions are Bernie, Elizabeth W, and Dennis K

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 9 years 21 weeks ago

Quite right.

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 9 years 21 weeks ago

Who will be this generation's Thomas Jefferson? I think that's completely missing the point Thom; a point you should already know. We will have no "Thomas Jefferson". We are not even a democratic republic any longer. We are an oligarcy. We are on track for a revolution; certainly a major uprising and maybe even a civil war. I would be more concerned with who will be this generation's Napoleon or Caesar? We have declined to the point where I seriously believe there is any possibility of avoiding an major upheaval. I don't see any way to avoid it. Americans are so disgusted with the government; we are far beyond the point of "reform"; there is no trust remaining in any of our institutions even if someone magically appeared we wouldn't believe them. All we're waiting for is the spark.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 20 weeks ago

Paul H -- It seems that conditions were far worse at the end of the 19th century. They did not have a violent revolution, so why do you see the inevitability that we will have one?

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