Among those core principles are that government derives its power from the consent of the governed; that the rights of the individual are paramount, and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights of all.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United effectively holding that large interest groups have the same inherent rights as individuals, and that money is an expression of free speech, is directly contrary to the principles upon which is this country was founded.
Just as the Founders fought the injustice of monarchy, large interest groups have emerged as a modern day threat to our individual liberty and economic well-being. Under Citizens United, these groups are free to pour money into politics through “Super PACs” with no real accountability on who is contributing or how funds are spent.
As for the candidates themselves, is it any wonder many of their voices today seem shrill and inauthentic? Essentially, we are hearing a crescendo of hype and strained rationalizations designed to draw media attention. We are not hearing a sincere debate on the important issues of the day.
Meanwhile, as the mainstream media and cable news outlets vie for advertising dollars and audience share, they have effectively become a megaphone that primarily serves, not to educate and inform as is their supposed mission, but to amplify the dissonance, turn political debate into a form of entertainment and gin-up ratings.
And who gets hurt the most? Minorities and the poor who have no representation in the halls of power or among the Super PACs and other interest groups that effectively set the political agenda.
But this is also a period in which the middle and working classes are being hammered as never before by lack of job opportunities and stagnating wages. And in the wider world, refugees from the Syria and the Middle East pouring across borders to escape conflicts the U.S. helped ignite.
For its part, the union movement in this country is largely defunct, and what’s left of it often, with few exceptions, seems more focused on preserving its power and privilege than in fighting to improve pay and working conditions for the majority of working Americans.
The Democratic Party establishment, meanwhile, has been largely co-opted by the special interests. Why else would so many Democrats vote to repeal Glass-Steagall and send so many of our youth oversees to fight unnecessary and counter-productive foreign wars?
And when Democrats are not being co-opted, many are intimidated by right-wing propaganda machines and ‘think tanks” spewing supply-side propaganda in the name of “economic research.”
Democrats need to stop apologizing, stop being intimidated, and stand up and fight for core principles.
We need to strengthen public financing of campaigns, limit contributions to reasonable amounts, and ensure accountability in campaign funding and spending.
Democrats need to reform the tax code – to ensure those who benefit most from our economy pay their fair share. We need to encourage investment in infrastructure and jobs producing plant and equipment here at home, and eliminate the big tax breaks for those whose job it is mainly to shuffle money from one paper holding to another or stash it in overseas bank accounts to avoid taxes.
We need to spend less on military adventurism, and more on investment here at home, on infrastructure, jobs creation and training, quality health care and educational opportunity for all Americans.
We can shrink the size of our military and keep America safe by working with allies and being smarter and more nimble in how we deploy our military forces. And we can improve our image and relations abroad by doing more to resettle refugees and help fight extreme poverty and inadequate health care across the globe.
And we should acknowledge that government investment will need to grow to stimulate growth and economic opportunity for all Americas, not the privileged few. Such investment should be designed yield a positive return and an improved quality of life for ourselves and future generations.
In short, we need to remember where we came from, reaffirm our “democratic” roots that go back to the founding of this great Republic, and put a halt to our country’s slide towards Oligarchy.