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How Democracies Die

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/01/13/how-democracies-die


“Betrayed citizens … harbor an inchoate hatred for [the] ruling elite.” I have to say, my hatred of our ruling elites is fully formed and completely ripe.


Absolutely, both the Republicans and Democrats have sold us out to their corporate masters, as Hedges has so accurately described on many occasions, but it is part of a much more extensive and systems wide cancer.

For instance, no discussion of this subject is complete without mentioning the role of the court system. Court decisions which have opened the floodgate of money in politics, court decisions which have upheld Trumps travel bans, court decisions which have upheld voter discrimination, gerrymandering and so much more have played a major role in our decline into fascism. Then, too, when Trump has defied court orders, courts have too often gone silent. In short, Congress and the Presidency aren’t the only branches of the government to turn their backs on the people.

Lastly, given the way both Presidents and Congress have for decades given the military everything the military wants and even more, it is hard to tell which branch is actually in control.

Again, the Republicans and Democrats are only one part of a much larger problem.


Ever since the 1985 Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) formation the “reason” that Toller writes about has been and continues to be rationalization for pro 1%, corporate friendly, anti 99% actions enabled by Democrats.

This has created a legacy for the Democrats that includes 1) more of FDR’s New Deal being repealed during Bill Clinton’s regime than during any other POTUS regime, 2) decriminalizing corporate fraud to the extent that no banker was even indicted for causing the 2008 economic crash, whereas more than 1,000 bankers were jailed for their roles in the 1980s savings and loan scandal (S&LC)* and 3) putting US taxpayers on the hook for more than $20 trillion in bank bailout schemes.

  • note that the S&LC negatively impacted a few million people in the US whereas the 2008 crash negatively impacted billions of people on every continent.

So, what’s ahead?..considering that fascism is ruinous and self-destructive.

Hedges, like a Breugel painting, lays out image upon image in a maddened hellscape.

I want to hope, however, that the US can find its way out of this direction. All of Hedges images, his lists of fascist attainment, point to political sloth among us. We’d rather someone else construct and operate the government machinery. As the author of my political science textbook said: we need 100,000,000 active citizens to preserve and attend to this system. Efforts are underway for revitalizing the civics that Trumpists discard in their thirst for lasting authority and power. And the Constitution awaits an outcome, like a beef hind on the cutting board awaits the cleaver.

There were times when the Constitution provided enough for our political imagination. Since I’m not well-versed in history, I look to pictures drawn by Melville, Dickinson, James, Twain, Cather, or the Lowells. They depicted America that was imperfect and wanting, case histories of broken people trying to form more perfect unions.

I’m good with not knowing where we’re headed, so long as we’re not lazily skidding into fascist totalitarianism. It will take a 100,000,000 of us–which we may not have-- to apply the civics we know to our Trumpist counterparts in our families and communities.


The fascist rot here has deep temporal roots. Hedges observes (presumably of today):

War criminals are seen as patriots unjustly persecuted by the detested deep state and the liberal class.

But I remember the deification of Ollie North, and the parallel crucifixion of Gary Webb. The so-called “deep state” (deep media included) has been establishing the foundation for fascism forever. Just as the deep doodoo establishment’s addiction to smearing Shiite Islam as a mortal threat to all makes it difficult to substantively challenge Orangeman’s latest historic crime. Brick by brick, purely procedural quibbles from Dem misleadership keep building the case for dictatorship.

Of course, anyone other than Bernie at the top of the 2020 ticket would also be a gift for the ongoing slouch toward fascist dictatorship. Count on Dem misleadership to deliver this gift.


The U.S. Republican Party, replicating the fascist parties of the 1930s, is a personality cult. Those who do not bow obsequiously before the leader and carry out the leader’s demands are banished.

Exactly, Mr. Hedges!

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Recourse to history repeatedly demonstrates the cyclical nature of it all, with some form of collapse always at the end. Our path will apparently be no different.


The end of the Democratic party as a party of the people ended when Carter was elected President. And it just got worse with Clinton and then the one I call the “black Clinton”, Obama who was a continuation of the Clinton Admin (and in some ways Bush II). The only Dems in the running for Prez now are definitely Sanders and Warren who I do not entirely trust. All the rest are “imposters”.

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Jetzt geht das schon wieder los…

If nihilism means the facilitation of violence in every facet of our society, I’d say, our government has “nailed it.”


“…bordering on rotten.” For me.

One of the main reasons for the drop in US Life expectancy is the rising rates of suicide coupled with the opioid epidemic. As more and more people who used to see themselves as comfortably middle class see jobs disappear they are slipping into despair and address that through heightened drug use. The mantra is that in a society of individual responsibility , any who can not provide for themselves and their families are “failures” and or “shiftless and lazy” this leading to a growing cycle of deflated self worth. In order to supplement meager incomes peoples shift to crime and garner criminal records making it even harder to succeed as that carried on their record forever.

Entire towns are seeing local sources of employment dry up and move elsewhere, leading to closed and shuttered storefronts and malls and ever every growing cycle of despair . It easy to see how a guy like Trump, blaming Mexicans and immigrants for all the societies ills have an appeal to these people.

The problem is the system. It is Capitalism itself. It is the glorification of the individual over the society . It is money being put ahead of everything else.


Last night we viewed The Great Hack. --Cambridge Analytica weaponizing Facebook demographic info. Worth watching.

One line that stuck out for me: Breitbart’s raison d’etre: demolish the whole thing, so the oligarchy can then mold the broken bits into their own preferred form. (Note: Steve Bannon, of both Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica.) The Great Hack reveals how Cambridge Analytica successfully manufactured anger, apathy, and desired voting patterns in several different countries.

This is why millions voted for Trump. They wanted him to demolish the system that was failing them. --but what comes next?

“Democracy was not extinguished in 2016 when Trump was elected. It was slowly strangled to death by the Republican and Democratic parties on behalf of their corporate masters.” Dear Chris Hedges is correct, but this strangulation began back in the 1980s. We’ve been losing our democracy (whatever we may have had of it) bit by bit ever since.

Where the far right has constructed both a structure and a process (media, think tanks, lobbyist law changes, Citizens United, voter purges, gerrymandering), there is none working or even identified to resuscitate our withered democracy.

Apathy reigns.
And where some seem to actually care about our scary fate, there is no plan, no structure (Uh, --voting’s not it.), no process.
Only resistance.
That’s not enough.


Remember also how controversial it was to put Lt. William Calley on trial for the My Lai massacre, and yet, there was a (limp) conviction. Later came Ollie North, as you say, whose convictions were vacated and who remains venerated by Repugnantcans. Nowadays, it’s Eddie Callahan with full Presidential honors for his war crimes. What an ugly trend from bad to much worse.


He failed to mention Chelsea Manning. We have a even larger problem, however. I call it global heating, presaging the sixth extinction.


There is something different in this missive by Mr. Hedges.

Or something different in me perhaps, following the Iranian plane tragedy.

The heart for me is this by Chris Hedges:

"an ineffectual political system, a retreat by huge sectors of the population into a world where facts and opinions are interchangeable, the seizure of national economies by international banks, and global finance capital that has forced larger and larger segments of society into a subsistence existence, obliterating hope for the future."

But there is something wrong here - something even Mr Hedges is missing ~

How have ‘we’ allowed this to happen - and what is it that has so neutered ‘us’ that we are where we are ?

It is too tempting to lay the blame on ‘them’ - the elites.

But there are millions - hundreds of millions - of ‘us’.

So what has gone wrong with the idea and the practice of democracy - of Cicero’s

"participation in power".

It must be that many of us are simply ‘wanna-be’s’ - I am thinking.

I think it predates all of us… it goes back thousands of years. It might even be part of human evolution, to keep a people united and not killing your own tribe.

If we are “content” we will suffer many abuses. And pretend we are not appalled by what we see lest we suffer a greater loss too.

Empathy, compassion and understanding can overcome this. That is why they do everything to prevent people from seeing each other as equals… as humans just like us.


I hope you are right - yours is a much brighter vision than mine right now.

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The more that hope and believe enough to at least try, the better off we all will be. Sometimes it feels like we are just a voice in a void. But the more we speak, the more chance someone will hear.

Remember that commercial… I think it was shampoo or something silly…

“And then she told two friends, and then they told two friends… And so on, and so on, and so on.”

They did a graphic of a matrix growing massively with each further generation of “telling”.

I think this method is our best hope. Minus the shampoo.