Democracy: The Continuing Fight Against Factions

On Sunday, thousands of activists from around the country arrived right here in Washington, D.C. after a 10-day-long, 140 mile march from Philadelphia.

The marchers are part of a movement called Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening, and today they staged a sit-in at the Capitol Building. They plan on camping out there through the end of the week.

All of this is part of a massive, non-violent campaign to save our democracy from oligarchy.

Democracy Spring activists are calling on Congress to take action right now on a group of different bills that would take money out of politics once-and-for-all.

Kai Newkirk, one of the organizers of the march, appeared on this program and told me about its goals.

This fight, the fight against corporate control over our democracy, is, of course, the same fight that Bernie Sanders is fighting right now in his presidential campaign.

But it’s also the same fight that the Founders fought more than 200 years ago when they rebelled against the British Empire and created our constitutional republic.

They just called it something different -- they called it the fight against “faction.”

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.”

Many historians have interpreted Madison’s words as a warning about the dangers posed by political parties. And while that’s probably partially true, it’s not the whole story.

A faction, as Madison understood the term, was any special interest that was “adverse [in opposition to] to the… interests of the community.”

This could mean a political party that cared about its own success more than the success of the republic as a whole, but it could also mean a pressure group like the shipping industry or, to pick a more modern example, the fossil fuel industry.

This fear of faction was well-grounded in historical fact.

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 both 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 hijack public institutions and use them to their advantage.

This 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 factions have taken control of our political system.

They’ve infiltrated and largely taken over our political parties, themselves a kind of faction, and divided themselves accordingly.

The NRA, the big banks and the fossil fuel industry control the Republican Party while Silicon Valley and the health insurance industry control the Democratic Party.

To make matters even worse, the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision have given these factions free reign to spend as much as they want on our election process.

Just like the factions that Madison wrote about in Federalist Number 10, they can now manipulate public opinion to get what they want.

As President Carter pointed out on my show, this isn’t a democracy, it’s an oligarchy, and it’s the complete opposite of what this country was founded on.

That’s why movements like Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening are so important.

They don’t just encourage young people to get active in politics; they also rejuvenate the ideals that made this country’s experiment in democracy possible in the first place.

Those ideals have never been more important - more more under attack by factions - than they are today.

So let’s get behind movements like Democracy Spring and take back our democracy from the clutches of faction and oligarchy.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 7 weeks ago

Todays republican party is dominated by two factions. Both factions have one goal in common: to destroy the current form of government in this country. Where they differ is what will replace our democracy. One faction wants to create a corporate controlled oligarchy; on a national level they are winning. The other faction wants to create a christian controlled theocracy; in many states, they are winning.

What's sad is that neither faction sees themselves as traitors or unpatriotic, and both claim they're doing what the founding fathers intended.

If I live another twenty years, I may see the fall of the United States of America.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 7 weeks ago

Greed! In the supposed most Christain nation on earth

Shame... shame... shame on them

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 7 weeks ago

It's too bad the words faction and oligarchy don't stir emotions like socialist and communist do!

Instead, how about using F-bombs like fascist and feudal?

When dealing with a population that doesn't know the difference between democratic socialism and soviet communism, I think it's behooves progressives to be high sounding!!!!

johnbest's picture
johnbest 7 years 7 weeks ago

I heard on the news a few hours ago that the Capitol police started wholesale arrests. Who turned the Nazi thugs loose on the protestors? They are violating our Constitutional rights, damn it.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 7 weeks ago

I agree, 2950 - 10K. Part of the reason people are so gullible to the half truths and in-your-face lies the Establishment is propagandizing is because people just don't know what the differences are and rely on being told rather than ferreting out the correct information for themselves. Thank goodness for people like Cenk Uygar and Thom Hartmann who keep getting the truth out there for us.

It's sad that people have come to this. I remember my grandparents around the kitchen table discussing (boring) politics. But the tea kettle went on, my grandmother baked up something good to snack on and they talked about politics late into the night... but that's because they were engaged. Americans are sound asleep and it's killing us. However, I am heartened by this march from Philly to DC. America is finally hitting the streets and I hope it goes viral on the internet(s) so the whole country can become involved; it's the only way this revolution can work, as Bernie Sanders keeps pointing out.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 7 weeks ago

These factionists have made a complete mess out of America.

My neighbor, across the street, owns/owned a gorgeous antebellum and put heart and soul into restoring it. But then our economy failed with the housing bubble, the Wall Street derivatives, outsourced jobs, "austerity", and the war on working class people. He had to put his beautiful home up for sale.

However, the housing market here is flat and in the past many years he hasn't gotten even a nibble for sale.

Tonight, I was scanning the HUD Foreclosures page and noticed that my neighbor's house is listed.

How many broken families, how many broken people, how many broken lives have been sacrificed on the altar of the arrogant few?

I'm even looking to sell and get out. I'm going to go into a Tiny House On Wheels because at least I will be able to keep a roof over my head and if there is a problem, I can easily move.

I never thought I would end up like this coming from a forty-eight hundred square foot home on thirty pristine wooded acres growing up. But I had to sell that, and now I have to sell my "retirement" home.

I'll be grateful for my tiny house if I ever get it. It beats living out of one's car. But this is where corporations running our precious country have taken us. I don't think I'm alone.

Here in the Deep South, people used to look down on anyone having a hard time of things, We were told it was our fault for not having done a better job with "personal responsibility."

I notice that now the looks have softened from contempt to understanding and compassion. Enough people have been touched by the gutting of America that the collective unconscious is finally engaged.

I hope, come November, people are motivated to get out and vote away one of the worst scourge to ever hit America. Dr. Ravi Batra predicted many years ago (just after Thom left Air America) that by the end of 2016, corporate everything would be gone. I think it's going to take a little longer than that; possibly 2030 or 2033. But, if Bernie Sanders become president and there is a Progressive Congress, I think we will finally have a future we can believe in. (And I'd like to see a lot of these people who have caused this finally go to jail.)

Old_Curmudgeon 7 years 7 weeks ago

The survey-of-government course’s textbook, ‘way back in my day {mid-1950s}, emphasized that the Founders’ GENIUS was largely in countering the clout of “factions” with the "checks and balances" involved in the Constitution’s “separated powers”, etc. ... Yet America’s history is chockfull of moneyed-interests’ By-passing this aspect of the Constitution’s very Spirit. Currently this by-passing is Big-time, eh what ….

Old_Curmudgeon 7 years 7 weeks ago

Oops: I clumsily mistyped.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 7 weeks ago

ErinRose: It's very rare to hear progressives wield rhetoric in a manner that even remotely "affects" righties. Virtually all of the conservative talk show monkeys are aggressive, highly bombastic, and always on offense. This is the language the conservative/foxmerized masses understand.

I get so tired of seeing Teapublic Party politicians spit out rhetoric/lies on National TV that both emasculates and makes the Democrats look weak and ineffectual. When will the Democrats start fighting back in a manner like Mike Papantonio does????? This isn't a little league baseball game, the fascists are willing to do anything to maintain their power....note what the third world despots are doing to their citizens. That's what we could be looking at here very soon.

RJ Schundler's picture
RJ Schundler 7 years 7 weeks ago

Bernie Sanders will only promote unemployment in the US more so than Obama has .... It is important to remember that it was FDR that turned a Great Recession into the Great Depression, and it was Johnson that weakened the Families of the Poor, and help slow the gains the Poor Black were making. And it was Obama that for the first time since FDR the Poor and Middle Class earnings decreased from the year before. Under Obama there were less small businesses by the end of 2015, than there were at the beginning. And the number of people not working has been greatest under his administration. The people who caused the current increase in the 2000 - 2007 and the great decrease in home value from 2007 to the present were the Democrats. Bush made some effort (not enough in my view) to reverse what he saw (and any economist) happening to the housing market, but the Dems were opposed, and the Reps lack the guts to apply pressure to reform.

DemocracyForOne's picture
DemocracyForOne 7 years 7 weeks ago


Ou812's picture
Ou812 7 years 7 weeks ago

I am not a political animal. It’s not important to me who his president, or dog catcher. I believe the individual is the best person to determine his or her fate. With that caveat, I would like to comment on the Democratic presidential candidates, and their motivations as I see it.

Hillary Clinton wants to be the first woman president. She likes all the attention that comes with running for president. She wants to be the face of America, the person in control, the “Queen”. She does not want to lead America; she wants to rule it.

Bernie Sanders, in my opinion is the exact opposite. Being the first Jewish president, or the oldest person elected to the office doesn’t drive him. He is driven by the passion of his beliefs. A quality I admire, and a quality found in all successful leaders. He has no desire to rule the USA, he wants to lead it.

For the Democratic Primary, the choice is simple. If you want to be ruled, vote for Hillary Clinton. If you want an inspiring leader, vote for Bernie Sanders.

Its All Love 7 years 7 weeks ago

Thom, I loved your concept about student debt relief/forgiveness. Reallocating funds will stimulate our economy.

Here's an idea I woke up with this weeK:

With all the asserted efforts by states to disenfranchise Black people, at a point where Reparations needs to be addressed, there are ways to end structural racism. The Federal Government will appropriate funds for the Entrepreneur and Artist Initiative. The money that is used in foreign “improvements”, (which we are clearly aware only affect individual businesses versus The United States of America, as they do not reinvest or spend the money but they do hoard their money and avoid taxes), and our money used to fund the war and weapons machine will be reallocated to the Entrepreneur and Artist Initiative. States like North Carolina, Arizona and New York, can be test states. States that imprison Blacks as a form of revenue, States that target Blacks for crimes and punishments and disenfranchisement are most viable.This is a Federally Mandated Program established in states with extreme evidence of voter suppression, mass incarceration, low job rates and housing issues placed onto African Americans. Program items include: Credit forgiveness Zero City, State, Federal, Property Taxes(In lieu of taxes paid, the Federal Government will pay $10,000 per person to aid in local development) Entrepreneur Grants Legalize MarijuanaThe Federal Government will pay to repair or replace homes with lead paint poisoning or other various poisoning. Businesses contracted will be limited to American Businesses and will also receive tax incentives.Receipt of homes or land to persons for $1.00, (required to be their primary residence for 3-5 years)Solar Power will be the power source for each build or improvement. They may choose to be on or off grid.Request for electric/solar power vehicle. One per household.Where there is mass transportation, the City will receive $5000 per person per year from the Federal Government and the person will receive an Express Pass at no cost.All Apartment complexes will be tested for lead paint etc. Improvements will be made by owner in lieu of lawsuits and for those who have raised rent with appropriate improvements, ownership will be passed on to the residents as in a Condo.Persons (Black, African Americans) will receive a monthly stipend in form of a credit card for $500, with no rules on purchase, for food and food items. Those who choose not to participate, their funds go into a food “bank”.Persons will be offered FREE Holistic Health Care. This includes acupuncture, swim therapy, and all non drug therapies. (As we have been guinea pigs for drug companies that have killed us, those who choose to do so may opt to try natural remedies.) NOTE: The jobs created and the economy flow will improve local areas as well as build the entire economy. Incentives vs punishment used for persons. Any State that impedes: Will be fined $25 million per capita. This fine will be paid biannually until the impedance ceases.All Federal programs will cease including airline access/allowance.All Federal Funding will cease and the State will be fined for not accepting funds on the behalf of their population.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 7 weeks ago

Ou812: For someone who isn't a "political animal" you have very good political instincts.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 7 weeks ago

2950 - 10K: The reason rhetoric doesn't effect the Right is because they have been brought up to tune out anything but their own voices, goals and agendas.

I went to elementary school with girls who had last names like Sears (and Roebuck), Danforth (pewter), Scott (paper) and Peabody (Boston Brahmins/Harvard/Peabody Museum/Town of Peabody, MA). Even in the 5th and 6th grades I was aware of their blatant and pointed contempt for anything or anyone but themselves.

And for over a decade, I knew a Tea Party (R) and got a chance to watch her grow up, watch how her parents molded her personality into being a myopic, self-centered, heartless autocrat. (She married but her husband walked out after only ten months; small wonder.)

These people are like robots and one mistake we on the Left keep making is thinking that they are anything but sociopathic zombies out to kill everything, take everything, rule everything. Their bible is Sun Tsu's "Art of War" and their battle cry is always, "The ends justifies the means."

They just operate from a completely different playbook and it would behoove Liberals to wake up to this fact and fight fire with fire; they aren't going to change and given ANY opportunity, they will default to their basic instincts to destroy.

These people need to be hemmed in, put back in their Pandora's Box and the lid slammed down with a ton of laws and regulations that prohibit their toxic behavior. We have a society and a future to protect. Things they absolutely don't care about; trust me, I'v known these people up close and personal and lying, cheating and stealing is the cut of their jib.

cccccttttt 7 years 7 weeks ago

Is not every interest group seen as a faction by some other interest group?


Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 7 weeks ago

Ou812...That's a breath of fresh air.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 7 weeks ago

a la Australia compel voting by law

This would entirely conform with Athenian democracy

And, eradicte facism

stonesphear's picture
stonesphear 7 years 7 weeks ago

Q: How many Zombies does it take to change a light bulb ?

A: Not enough !

stonesphear's picture
stonesphear 7 years 7 weeks ago

Talk about "factions"

Apparently it turns out that Ted Cruise is a "Dominunist !

Look it it up on Wikipedia . Gasp!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 7 weeks ago

So called "Christian" version of the Muslim nut-jobs currently terrorising people of peace

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