Lack of Democracy in the U.S.
Published on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Lack of Democracy in the U.S.
In spreading democracy throughout the world, brazen hypocrisy prevails for Bush-Cheney
by Ralph Nader
 
You would think that Bush-Cheney would be sensitive to avoiding the weakening of democracy in our country while going around the world with Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, hectoring other countries about their anti-democratic practices. After all, the moral authority to admonish comes from the power of example. Instead brazen hypocrisy prevails. Bush and Cheney inherited past democratic institutions and practices, which they are tearing down in many directions.

On the way to Russia recently, Secretary Rice told accompanying reporters of her and the President's concerns over the centralization of power by President Vladimir Putin (who was overwhelmingly elected) at the expense of the states, as well as his prosecution of giant oligarchs. The crimes of these oligarchs were obvious to everyone during and after the great giveaways by then President Yeltsin of so much of Russia's natural resources. Of course, Rice has a point. Putin is cracking down on the media and some political rivals. But rankling Washington, he also prefers Russian companies in the bidding for oil and gas fields. Furthermore, he opposed demands by U.S. companies to be exempted from liability in Russia for negligent damage. Rice softens her stance by saying that today's Russia is not the Soviet Union.

But let's look at what Bush-Cheney is doing to democracy in the USA. First, these two authoritarians have centralized more power in the White House-Executive Branch at the expense of Congress, the courts and the states than previous Republican leaders would ever have done. From the Patriot Act to pursuing tort deform, from federalizing many class actions in federal courts (usurping the role of state courts) to the pre-emptive banking laws and regulations to the "Leave No Child Behind" takeover, these two pro-Vietnam war draft dodgers have generated a cascade of powers into the Oval Office.

Second, the two-party Electoral College duopoly with its "wealth elections", exclusive control of debates, and ballot access barriers, have effectively stifled competition by third party or independent candidates. Our country is dominated by a two-party elected dictatorship that carves up most districts into one-party monopolies - re-districted either by Republicans or Democrats who control the state governments. About 95 percent of House of Representatives' Districts are monopolized by one party and where elections are really coronations. Bush-Cheney and Representative Tom DeLay have worsened this downward trend.

No other country in the western world is down to a two-party duopoly. Many countries have four, six, eight, ten viable parties, instant runoff voting and often proportional representation so that more votes matter.

Bush-Cheney have set records for secret arrests and jailings without charges and without allowing defendants to have attorneys. Dragnet roundups have proved to be wasteful and harmful to thousands of innocent prisoners who were never tried, including people suspected just of being material witnesses. Bush and John Ashcroft have yet to catch and convict a terrorist, though they have arrested over 5,000 people suspected of terrorism. The two convictions they secured were overturned by courts in Michigan.

The violation of due process, probable cause and the rule of law has damaged America's standing in the world where billions of people believe, given the illegal invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, that the Bush's government stands for "might is right." Former General Wesley Clark has called the Bush Administration "a threat to domestic liberty." While the respected columnist and editor, Michael Kinsley, writing in the Washington Post, said "in terms of the power he now claims, George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world."

In Cicero's words, "freedom is participation in power." Bush-Cheney have made sure fewer people are participating, while poverty, hunger, consumer debt, non-living wages, the uninsured, environmental damage, electoral shenanigans, tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy, militarization of both foreign policy and federal budgets keep worsening.

Recently, spokesmen for foreign countries - including Russia and China - have begun to mock Bush-Cheney, urging them to look at their own backyards. It is easy to dismiss such charges from more authoritarian nations, including the communist dictatorship in China. But remember, these officials, coming off the iron rule of Stalin and Mao and their predecessors, think they are making progress by comparison. What are the excuses of Bush-Cheney? They are coming off the traditions of Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Bush-Cheney, instead of standing on their and others' shoulders, are driving America backwards into the future. Keep that in mind, Secretary Rice, during your foreign travels. Fig leafs of hubris do not make an exemplary foreign policy.

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