Democracy died in the Shopping Mall

Furious George

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2006
Let it be known that democracy died in America while the people shopped. Somewhere in between going to work, taking care of the kids, keeping up with the mortgage and weekend shopping trips to the mega mall the people stopped paying attention to the leaders that govern them. As a result a real and deep disconnect exist between the governing class and the governed. This chasm was perhaps best exhibited in the Bankruptcy Reform Bill passed by Congress a few years ago, which was nothing more than a shameless gift to the credit card companies, that if the American people had been paying attention would have never passed Congress.

It seems the only "people" congress represents, led by the Republican Party, are corporate persons, better known as corporations. And now as Americans continue to sleep, there is presently before Congress bills to ratify programs started unilaterally by the Bush administration, ranging from the torture of terror suspects to imperial power to spy on American citizens without a warrant. As a side note isn't it interesting that the Republican Party a political party that purports to advocate a strict reading of the Constitution ignores the fact that the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that the government cannot spy on its citizens without a warrant.

The Republican Party strategy consist of two elements; fear and apathy. In terms of fear the Republican party believes that making Americans afraid helps their candidates. They do not care what that fear is whether its terror, immigrants or gays marrying. As long as they keep you on edge and afraid of the unknown. They seek to create political apathy and frustration with the electoral process by feeding negative attacks that are often lies and misstatements on democratic opponents. For instance, in some African American communities in Maryland the Republican Party or affiliated organizations has been running ads accusing the democratic party of being responsible for segregation and white violence in the sixties. All of which is a lie. It is shocking how the republican party who systematically and criminally disenfranchised black voters in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 can run ads accusing the democratic party of racism.

Republicans know that their ideas and beliefs are in the minority yet they maintain complete control over all three branches of the U.S. government. They support the corporate interests, the corporate person over the real person regardless of industry, regardless of the ramifications. Perhaps they should pontificate on a statement by the republican they cite the most, Abraham Lincoln, who stated regarding the growth and influence of corporations, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices and fears of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the republic destroyed."
I think its a stretch to say democracy is dead in America. I am not a republican, and I'm pretty disappointed with their leadership this term. I intend to vote pretty much straight democrat in an effort to get republicans out of office because I believe they're damaging the country. despite my distaste of the current generation of republicans in office, I do believe the democracy in the United States is alive and healthy.

When people feel well taken care of they don't care so much about the specifics of every decision. That's one of the advantages of a Republic like the United States, you don't have to care so much about the specifics as long as at a macro level you're taken care of. As a citizenry you elect your leaders, you don't vote on every individual decision. The fact is life in the United States is still pretty great. Given that, its reasonable that a large percentage of the population are generally OK with the state of their government.

The current leadership did win the 2004 election uncontestedly, so its not really fair to say they're a minority somehow using trickery to hold office. An elected official in a republic inst suppose to pander to the pollsters, they're suppose to provide the country leadership. As validly elected officials the majority of people chose them to make the decisions for the country. The officials then did what they thought was right. Thats a properly functioning republic. If people think they've performed badly during their time in office, they'll be voted out (as appears to be what were headed to this November) Thats also a sign of a well functioning republic.

Its something of a separate topic but I also think its appropriate for the government to pay attention to both small and large businesses. After all those businesses are ultimately owned (largely) by citizens, and the bigger the company the larger the tax base coming from that company is. Like it or not companies make up all of our country's economic success and provide nearly all of our citizens income stability. It would be foolish to ignore that voice.
Hm, I gotta agree with Furious George. On the philosophical level, democracy is dead- the tree still stands but the roots have shrivelled out and rotted away and you've got yourself a hollow.

Democracy is about voice of the people influencing the direction of the country. There has been a fundamental separation from the voice of the people and the direction of the country for several reasons. I'm big on focusing on the apathy, since without caring one cannot have involvement, without involvement one cannot have knowledge, and without knowledge, you get repititious sound bites which come from those who actually control the country. At the base- this is about the scope of the country becoming so large that people, in their struggle to live the commercialised version of the American dream (re: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby), have started focusing on themselves. As I've said about a dozen times on this forum (alone), the selfishness and attachment to a self comes as an extreme perversion of the ideals of individualism and the liberal axiology that originally drove the democratic ideal. And while the dollar is king, people are slaves to this process.

Sure, people vote. But hardly enough do, hardly anybody is qualified to do so, and people would be hardly justified in thinking that it was actually working properly. The evidence of a public becoming a lost jumble of mumbles is what political analysts noted as "the long tail of the minority" and its growth into the "angry hordes of the majority" accompanied by the polarisation which, while completely baseless, is causing a rift within the country that will further serve to obfuscate any direction or even purported direction of the country.
Involvement sure, but not involvement on every issue. Thats the difference between a pure democracy and a republic. If you accept that its ok not to care about every issue, why care about every election? I think its reasonable not to vote if the candidates dont differ on topics that concern you. That doesnt mean democracy is broken, it means the citizenry is happy enough not to be concerned with the direction the leadership is taking the country. If the standard of living in the country were to decline significantly I guarantee you the interest in politics and voting would go way up.

You could make the arguement that its a bad thing for people who are satisfied to disengage politically, but if its a bad thing its more a problem with human nature's impact on democracy as a system than a specific shortfall of OUR implementation of democracy in the USA.
I am a bit torn on this point. Consider the situation as it stands: We have a bunch of people living in a country such that some of the issues affecting one subpopulation have nothing to do with some of the other issues affecting another subpopulation. If this is that case (which is a gross simplification), then no it doesn't make sense to have an opinion on the affairs of somebody else. What gives it relevance is that in most cases it is supposed to have an impact on a person by virtue of their living in the same country under the same government. But nowadays, societies are far too large to actually appreciate this.

I refer to the ancient Greek ideals for citizenship and government because I actually think they were onto a little something- if you didn't participate in referendum, you weren't a citizen, and a town should never grow so large that you couldn't recognise everybody by name...or about 20k people so they said. Reason for this is demonstrated by the fragmentation of our society into microunits and its sequelae. Of course, I'm not sure that reverting to an ancient model of government is going to be possible let alone solve anything.

You could make the arguement that its a bad thing for people who are satisfied to disengage politically, but if its a bad thing its more a problem with human nature's impact on democracy as a system than a specific shortfall of OUR implementation of democracy in the USA.

I'm not singling out the US, but as a counterexample one will note that voting on federal matters is mandatory in Australia.

This of course does not solve the question of first how appropriate it is for a person to have interest in selected or every issue in running a country, and second just how to keep a person interested. I will wager that the apathy is not merely a case of "I'm satisfied, I don't need any changes", because this presumes that the person actually knows what's going on. I think the apathy has spawned ignorance, and that's a positive feedback loop.

The underlying question of our quibble is from which point we assess the state of "democracy". I'm saying that the current situation works on a superficial level but that the underlying values that have taken hold of society by large are leading the country through increasingly unstable and eventually untenable grounds. And what use is democracy in a broken country?