From Populist Democracy To Corporate Plutocracy

Since Sept. 11, 2001 we have heard a great deal of rhetoric in this country about how things will never be the same again after that tragic day.

In some respects that is true for if nothing else that day was a wakeup call to many Americans that we are not the most beloved people in this community we like to call the world, that we by simply being mortal are vulnerable to the machinations of the dark side of human nature. Likewise, no amount of capital or technology and no amount of waving American flags on the backs of our SUVs barreling along the highways and byways of the country are going to ultimately protect us from such malevolence.

Perhaps, however, the most profound change that came out of that grievous day was as a body politic we lost our conscience, if one defines conscience as "one's moral sense of right and wrong." Reflecting now on the events of this past year we can clearly see the consequences of that loss.

Dating back to the Ronald Reagan administration we have seen a Republican Party slowly being corrupted by right-wing extremists intent on attacking the very principles upon which our democracy is built upon, at the same time hoodwinking the Democratic Party into not only betraying its philosophical base, but leading it to believe that it could win the hearts and minds of the people by simply becoming first more centrist and now more conservative.

One of the standard lines emanating from Democratic Party strategists in recent years, and in particular in these past several weeks since the mid-term elections, is that with the nation's voters, judging from recent election results, being split down the middle that now the Republicans, in control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, will assuredly overstep their mandate and ultimately bring down upon themselves political ruin.

Such wishful thinking is not only short-sighted but ignores the fact that these right-wing extremists in GOP clothing overstepped that so-called mandate 22 years ago and it is simply because a troika of narcissistic Clintonesque Democratic Party liberals, legions of uninformed voters, and an increasingly large number of apathetic non-voting citizens by default have allowed them to pull off this political coup d'etat.

Thus, despite what our politicians and political pundits like to make us believe has changed, the many things that remain the same unfortunately are spelling disaster for our nation and for democracy. They became obscured only for a brief period of time by the tears, grief and patriotic bombast that accompanied the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedies that occurred in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

These past 12 months, however, have allowed us to step back and take into account this corrosiveness of economic and political greed that has been and is presently gnawing away at democracy in this country and which has only been exacerbated since September 11 by a president-select, his political co-horts and their corporate paymasters seeking self-aggrandizement while wrapping themselves in the flag.

Clearly what Bush and his right-wing extremist co-conspirators are currently seeking to do is to transform this nation from a populist democracy into a corporate plutocracy. One can discern the method to such madness by not only examining their current domestic legislation but their future political agenda.

The establishment of the uncalled for Homeland Security Act and the insidious and the invasive giant government Total Information Awareness computer system that is being set up to spy on Americans is only one facet of how this political regime is setting out to essentially undermine people's faith in democracy.

Likewise, those political commentators who see the coming domestic agenda as centered around both the lowering of taxes on the rich and making such cuts permanent miss essentially what is in fact taking place. True, lowering taxes will be a major priority in the coming months, but also on that same political docket are plans to raise taxes on the lower income classes so while the federal budget is being drained dry of funds needed to maintain government goods and services, save the military, a policy of "compassionate conservatism" -- read turning the people against their own government -- can be implemented.

As the New York Times' incisive op-ed economics commentator Paul Krugman points out: "What do we learn from this catalog of cruelties? We learn that 'compassionate conservatism' and 'leave no child behind' were empty slogans -- but while this may have come as a surprise to the faith-based John J. DiIulio, some of us thought it was obvious all along. More important, we learn how relentless and extremist today's movement really is.

"Some people -- moderate Republicans who aren't ready to admit what has happened to their party, and Democrats who think their party can appease the right by making its own promises of smaller government -- still don't get it. They imagine that at some point the right will decide that it has gotten what it wants.

"But the right's ambitions have no limits," Krugman concludes, "and nothing moderates can offer will appease it. Eventually the public, which actually benefits from most of the programs the right is determined to abolish, will figure that out. But how fast voters figure it out depends a lot on whether moderate politicians clearly articulate the issues, or try to escape detection by sounding like conservatives."

At the same time these man handlers of democracy are seeking to fundamentally change the nature of the American character they are also seeking to firmly establish the US as an imperialist power in the world, namely by arbitrarily assuming they know what is right for the rest of the world, where and when "nation building" is to take place, and how to transform the rest of the rest of the world into simply a raw materials provider for an economy that increasingly begins to resemble a house of cards.

Although he was addressing the US involvement in World War I, A. C. Townley, the founder of the Northern Plains populist Non Partisan League in the early 20th century, had it right when he charged that "It is absolute insanity for us to lead ourselves or anybody else to believe that this nation can succeed in war when hundreds of thousands of parasites, the gamblers in the necessities of life, use the war only for the purpose of exacting exorbitant profits. We are working, not to beat the enemy, but to make more multi-millionaires."

This imperialist mentality by the US is not some new secret policy being hatched in the dark recesses of the West Wing. It was in Dovas, Switzerland, in 1999 that Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state, declared: "The US today has the reach and the power of an imperial state, yet domestic perceptions have not caught up with that reality. Such lack of understanding is not healthy, but leads to isolationism."

Yes, that's the same Henry Kissinger who was recently selected by the Bush administration to head up the official investigation into Sept. 11. As the New York Times' sharp-minded and sharp-tongued op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd notes, "It's an inspired choice. Bold, counterintuitive, edgy, outside the box. Who better to investigate an unwarranted attack on America than the man who used to instigate America's unwarranted attacks? Who better to ferret out government duplicity and manipulation than the man who engineered secret wars, secret bombings, secret wiretaps and secret coups, and still ended up as a Pillar of the Establishment and Nobel Peace Prize winner?"

Now facing a new year, a year that could well determine our fate as a people and as a nation, it is time that progressive populists take political leadership, educate, organize and above all speak truth to power, while at the same time keeping in mind the words of the activist former Yale University chaplain William Sloan Coffin, "It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, 'let justice roll down like mighty waters,' and quite another to work out the irrigation system."

A.V. Krebs operates the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, PO Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203; email;

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