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Getting Serious About Power

Getting Serious About Power

Caroline Fredrickson

It was 1971 and Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, who had been president of the American Bar Association and a member of the board of the giant tobacco company Philip Morris, had come to believe that American capitalism was facing a dire threat. Americans were angry about corporate abuse and corporate pollution; President Richard M. Nixon had responded by signing the National Environmental Policy Act and creating the Environmental Protection Agency through executive order.

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Really, you let a neoliberal corporate shill lecture us on what and how we should try to do to stamp out corporate power and her? Paleeeze!


I live in CA where we have 2 Senators and gave Clinton 3M votes that did not count. I tell my Grandson he has a real tool in his hand with his cell phone. They organize and communicate easily plus photo and look up anything. Mine have integrity, brains and a decency no Trumper ever showed to me. But our family also lost 3 generations to Hitler who Trump’s German family. Trump’s US family 3 generation criminal businesses. Can they do the same now with their coalition with the wealthy like Hitler? I think so.

In fact, this bill IS a Democrat protection act. The part liberal media never mentions–even CD–is the provision that raises fivefold the amount of donations a candidate has to have in 25 states before they can qualify for federal funding. In practice it makes it impossible for Greens and other third parties to compete. But I presume that’s no problem for the author, who never mentions the existence of other parties, seems to assume that there always are and will be two choices–the Republocrats and the Demublicans. If only two parties are allowed, in our system in which corruption is essentially mandated, you have in effect one party. Yes, there are a couple of true progressives in Congress who ran as Democrats. But never fear, the Party has “six ways from Sunday to get back at you.” They will be defeated or sidelined. To win enough votes to qualify as a viable party, the Dems have to pretend to be less rightwing than the R’s. This is easier for them to do when the R’s hold the power–then they can vote the way their constituents want, secure in the knowledge that the corporate funders will get their way. It’s trickier when the Dems are in power–then they have to have a few sell-outs, just enough to ensure that the corporate lobbyists get whatever they want. Of course, as with everything the oligarchy does, it’s critical that they have the support of the “mainstream”–corporate–media. Thus you will not see the NYT or WAPO pointing out that Obama’s policies differ little from W’s. As long as his STYLE was very different, which it sure was–that was good enough for a public that takes its thinking orders from the corporate media.


Ms. Frederickson begins this essay with the familiar opposition of conservatives-versus-the-left, but in the middle, she slyly substitutes the Democrats for the left. She correctly states, as I and others here have written many times, that the Democrats win elections when they run on progressive platforms because voter turnout spikes. Ms. Frederickson tells the Democrats to do this, but she ignores the fact that the Democrats are not progressive. Only four days ago, the Democratic Speaker of the House - the Speaker of the House - derisively dismissed the real progressives in her caucus as just a handful who will have to come around to the middle. Steny Hoyer keeps himself busy pushing progressives out of primaries. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee passed a boycott of anyone who helps a primary challenger to an incumbent. The previous Democratic Presidential nominee hates Medicare for All and bragged about her ability to “work with” the Republicans. Obama the Trojan Horse - need I say more? Electing Democrats gets us only Republican policies enacted with bipartisan support.

I need to reread the Powell memo - I’m beginning to think that “electing right-wing Democrats” was part of his plan.


I don’t know about Powell, but it was certainly the plan of Blue Dog Bill Clinton and his Republican wife…


The author states that the cited study found that the vast majority of voters who turned out for Obama in 2012 but stayed home in 2016 would have voted for Clinton had they bothered to turn out. I suspect the study didn’t give them the option of choosing Sanders. Whatever, their voting preference, Clinton clearly didn’t provide sufficient inspiration for them to get of their asses and go to the polls.

The article was at best milk toast. She acknowledges that issues must drive the campaign and that seemly to her surprise progressive issues are very popular. She goes into bla bla land and seems to forget that winning the White House in 2020 will require a very progressive candidate on the top of the ticket.

My guess, she considers Clinton to be progressive.


Yes, we do need to create, enter, host, deliver deliberations about power. Who has it and for what purposes, and how do the rest of us hold them accountable. Notice there was no mention of scale anywhere in the article. Notice all the thinking hovered around but really had nothing to say about democratic practices or republican forms of government. Our current republicans host only one of all the great republican traditions, and that one is the very most vicious one: raw greed, fed by raw imperialism. Our current democrats are entering impasse because a growing minority are discovering the bulk of the D Parth HATES, LOATES, DENIGRATES, AND OBSTRUCTS democracy, any democratic practices, and any toleration of anything actually democratic.

What if, among all the things the US Founders got wrong, they all, federalists and anti-federalists alike, got one really big thing right: there is no substitute for democratic republican form; they were simply unable to create it with the Constitution. Instead, the net result of the US Constitution is an empire in disarray, a nation resembling the tower of babbel, and a treasury hosting all the world’s religious wars: to whom do we not sell weapons? Okay, we give the money to Israel to buy them from us. And Pakistan. And Egypt. etc.

What would happen if we tried talking with our neighbors and reclaiming some actually democratic practices of deliberation, and actually tried creating a republican local government? Our neighbors all have other things to do. Like Cheney during the Vietnam war had better things to do that wear the uniform.

If we are going to discuss power, we might want to consider with whom we have adequate trust to even have the discussions. Like it or not, the only candidate who actually understands the depths of our political chaos, and rapidly emerging economic chaos, and rapidly emerging climate chaos, is Bernie. He will not likely get the POTUS nod, because Nancy P & Chuck S would rather see him prevented from being there; if money cannot take care of it, well, they have their ways. Why else would those two so glibly pander to the billionaires and so casually dismiss 40%+ of their own party as “only five or so”.

What is all that chatter about power? Note that the academics talk about it because they do not have any of it.

Read " Democracy in Chains ". A nice little blueprint for the right wingers. John Roberts was appointed to carry out Powell’s Memo. In my opinion, of course.

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One issue worth noting is how this article promotes the necessity of BIG MONEY set to work for a progressive agenda.
But, in a culture where big money has corrupted politics into politricks, i remain doubtful that money can be assembled that could challenge the Big Money* that rules. After all, they* own most of it don’t they? Do the math. Why would the owners of most of the money support a politics that undermines their false claims of authority and legitimacy?

I suspect a progressive campaign that wins hearts and minds on an authentic progressive platform, that depends not on colossal amounts of money but the power of media and social networking, followed by dedicated voter turnout would be a more likely solution. The author’s suggestion that the new machine should operate fundamentally like the old machine smells of intended confusion.
The progressive agenda still lacks (unfortunately) the social momentum necessary to renovate government. Until enough hearts and minds can know the difference between democracy and falsehood, the road remains a long one. One step at a time. Big money is not the answer. Big Money does not create the democracy that will revolutionize how $$$$$ serves the people.

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this is a pretty good post for anyone serious about progressives actually achieving some power. I’d add that consideration should be given to using voter initiative in states that allow it to advance progressive positions where there is public support, especially on environment, labor, minimum wages, health care, and on reproductive freedom.
I’d caution that those interested in actually advancing such an agenda have to beware those who are only interested in ideological purity (as it takes a coalition to win elections) and to be careful where the public is more skeptical of the progressive line - such as on immigration, law and order, curbing abuse in government social programs, support for Islamism especially when aimed at destroying Israel, and preferences for non-whites over whites. All those issues need to be nuanced.

Actually if the DNC hadn’t cheated Bernie out of a nomination for the Presidency the is an excellent chance he might have won. If the Democrats are serious about regaining control of the levers of power then they might want to start by practicing some actually democracy themselves and eliminating super-delegates as well as large corporate donors. Just sayin’

I took your advice, got my hands on a copy of that book, and finished reading it a couple days ago. The story is both very well told and very depressing - but important. It should be required reading for every citizen. I thank you very much for the recommendation!