How Do We Turn American Oligarchy Back Into American Democracy?

In just five short months, voters across the country will head to their local polling place to vote for local, state, and federal offices, and to pretend we have a functioning democracy.

But the truth is, our democracy is broken.

We make it difficult for whole groups of people to participate, like minorities, seniors, college students, and low-income Americans.

We cast our ballots on privately owned machines, but we have no way of telling whether they're counted correctly.

Our elections are primarily funded by corporate elite and billionaires who funnel their donations through dark money organizations.

And as former President Jimmy Carter pointed out on my radio program last year, the flood of money into our politics has effectively undermined American democracy, and left us with American oligarchy.

But the corrupting influence of money in politics hasn't just compromised our democracy: it's costing American lives.

Just one week after the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, four gun control bills were brought forward in the Senate.

The substance of the gun control bills had a tremendous amount of popular support: 92% of Americans support a universal background check to prevent felons from buying guns and 85% of Americans support a "no-fly, no-buy" bill. That's people of both parties!

So, how many of those laws that pretty much all of us wanted actually passed the Republican-controlled Senate?

Zero, zilch, none.

Even though two of the bills had a simple majority of support, also known as a "constitutional vote", those two bills still failed because the Republicans filibustered the bills and required that each bill needed at least 60 votes to pass.

According to Vox, 56 Senators have received at least an A-minus grade from the gun lobby, meaning that the NRA considers those 49 Republicans and 7 Democrats basically as "gun-industry-profits-friendly" as they come.

And unsurprisingly, 56 Senators voted against the bill introduced by Chris Murphy that would require universal background checks, the bill that 92% of Americans support.

And it shouldn't come as a surprise that the NRA contributed a total of more than 36 million dollars to 50 Republican Senators over the course of their careers, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

And there are 10 Republican Senators, representing 10 percent of the votes in the Senate, who have gotten an average of 3 million dollars apiece over the course of their careers, just to say, "How high?" when the NRA yells, "Jump!".

These include veteran lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has brought in at least 1.3 million dollars over his 30 year career, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and Ohio Senator Rob Portman who have each received 1.4 million dollars over their careers, and Pat Roberts from Kansas who has gotten nearly 1.6 million dollars over the last 20 years.

Senator John McCain tops the list, though, by raking in nearly 8 million dollars from the NRA over his 30 year career in the Senate!.

Then there are the junior lawmakers, like Tom Cotton from Arkansas, who has only been serving in the Senate since last year and has already received 1.9 million dollars in money from the NRA and their buddies!.

And in just the first two years of serving in office, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy has brought in 2.9 million dollars for his votes against common sense gun regulation, while Iowa's Joni Ernst brought in 3.1 million dollars, Cory Gardner from Colorado has brought in 3.9 million dollars, and Thom Tillis has gotten 4.4 million dollars.

Considering the fact that the NRA has spent over 16 million dollars on five freshmen senators alone, and considering the fact that half of the members of the Senate have gotten donations of some size from the gun lobby, it really shouldn't come as any surprise that our lawmakers won't pass common-sense gun control legislation.

If we ever do want to see common-sense gun control legislation passed, we need to get money out of politics, we need to overturn Citizens United, and we need to get the corrupting influence of corporate lobbyists out of our political system.

Because as former President Jimmy Carter has pointed out, we're no longer living in a democracy where American politicians listen to the will of the American people.

We see the oligarchy in action when Wall Street interests try to use their purse strings to threaten Hillary Clinton about who she should choose for vice president, and we see it when a Senate chamber filled with gun lobby shills votes to keep the NRA happy and gun manufacturers profitable, against the will of more than 90% of Americans.

If we want to fix American Democracy, if we want to take back political power from the oligarchs and corporate elite, we need to get money out of politics, and we need to make it clear that corporations aren't people.

Otherwise, gun manufacturers and other special interests will continue to flood our political system with millions of dollars in donations just to help get their shills elected to vote against sensible gun control legislation and other regulations, most all at the expense of public health and safety.

For more about the campaign to get money out of politics and how you can get involved in taking back American Democracy from the NRA and other corporate elites, check out


cccccttttt 8 years 11 hours ago

We have heard this tired old "get money out of politics" for years.

How about a fresh approach.

Raise more money than the bastards so we can buy our share of congressmen.


2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 8 hours ago

How do we turn this country back into a representative democracy? The Democratic Party needs to stop playing defense and start unleashing the endless hard cold facts regarding the Teapublic Party.

For starters the general public is unaware of how the Kochs and other billionaires created the Tea Party as a swindle to make it easy for the Fascists to manipulate vulnerable citizens into voting against their own prosperity while billionaires laughed all the way to their offshore bank accounts.

The general public is also unaware of Paul Ryan's savage budget plans, and how he and his party want to both cut and privatize Social Security. Ryan's budget plans, if ever communicated to the public, are enough alone to destroy the Teapublic Party.

Remind the public how many times McConnell obstructed economic stimulus legislation just because he hated the president...Thanks Kentucky! Turtle man only screwed the working class...Obama felt no pain, he was always secure in his job. Speaking of Obama, a good case in point regarding timid defense. With the recent gun control vote, Obama refused to place blame on the 49 Teapublic Party fools, instead he blamed the entire Senate. Wow....what party does he belong to? That's the Wasserman Shultz approach. The Democratic Party is just too damn timid...haven't they learned anything from Bernie.....just speak the god damn truth and mean it.

RJ Schundler's picture
RJ Schundler 8 years 7 hours ago

As you know the really Big Money is given by Big Democratic Old Boy's Club, of whom both Clintons are members. However, there are enough people on the GOP side to complete. Hillary said she left the White House pennyless, and now she is one of the wealthiest people in the country, and it not that she ran a real business. What is called economic stimulus is public money given to special interests. The Big Banks, Big Public Unions, Big Business, and Big Goverment. If the Goverment want to stimulate the economy, we should repeal Employment base taxes both those on the employee and their employers. To make up the lost income we should pass the FAIR TAX on all goods (domestic and foreign) which will also promote more US employment. If you want to do something about violent deaths, the Federal Goverment should pass a law that makes it a federal crime to use a gun while committing a crime. And we should permit more people to walk around with guns, so that those that would want to kill other people, might be killed quickly .... Most Gun Deathe are in Gun Free zones.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 8 years 6 hours ago

Very true and it may take another economic disaster to get money out of politics

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 52 weeks ago

Democracy is sacrificed for much more than gun rights. I'd like to share a link to a post.
I don't know why anybody thinks a candidate mouthing a position means anything other than a desire to get elected. With some known liars it's very much to be expected that they change rhetoric when it suits them. Why does ANYBODY think their "shift" goes any deeper?
In Ralph Nader's book, "Crashing the Party" about the 2000 presidential campaign, he tells about how toward the end of the campaign All Gore was getting on TV and saying, "If you want somebody to fight for you I'm your guy. I will take on big business, the oil companies, etc. for you." Joe Liebermann was on the phone to their big business donors and oil companies assuring them Gore didn't mean any of what he was saying. It was "just rhetoric" he told them, for the suckers. Republican and Democratic Party voters are suckers.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 52 weeks ago

I think the US went off the edge, and there's no way to stop it from crashing to the ground. It would take a very large movement to be heard at all, and that's not going to happen. Over the last eight years, we've only been more deeply divided. Those who aren't on the right wing have been split apart, middle class vs. the poor. This era is defined by Occupy: What began as en extraordinary people's movement was quickly redefined (by Dem pols, liberal media) as a middle class movement; the poor, and those who get why it matters, finally walked away.

Liberal media began trying to sell H. Clinton as a "bold progressive" months before she launched her campaign, while she was busy getting the TPP through Congress. Clinton's record of support for the right wing agenda goes back at least as far as the 1960s, but never mind that.

The list goes on. We've been divided, subdivided, and we all Stand in Solidarity for... what?

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 52 weeks ago

Yes, fill the public square with loaded guns. One starts shooting, so another instantly shoots him, and the third starts shooting... The more people with guns, the more people get shot. Compare the percentage of gun violence victims in the US with those in countries that have sane gun control laws.

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