What is most troubling about President Bush’s focus on spreading democracy worldwide is that American democracy is hurtling towards becoming a fake democracy – and perhaps has already become one.
First, consider the long-standing axiom that democracies do not start wars. Supposedly it supports the “Bush doctrine” of seeking democracy in all other nations so that Americans have greater peace. But through preemptive wars like the one we started in Iraq? If so, the U.S. is a fake democracy. Now, I understand Bush logic. War in the pursuit of others’ democracy is as justified as war in defense of our democracy. And all the people who voted for Bush understood this? And all the men and women serving and dying in Iraq, and their families, support this doctrine?
Second, understand the Bush II administration’s effectiveness at eroding American democracy through distraction of its citizens. For the 2004 election, never have so many Americans voted so eagerly for a president that has failed so miserably. The war on terror succeeded as a distraction for time-poor Americans getting their information from corporate-corrupted mainstream media. So millions of Americans looked away from a foolish and failing Iraq war, from an economy being decimated by huge budget and trade deficits, from corporate greed imposing terrible impacts by exporting American jobs, from the invasion of illegal immigrants offering lower costs to business, and from a world made more insecure because of Bush’s war on terrorism.
The latest Bush distraction is his emphasis on exporting democracy at the very time U.S. democracy looks more like a fake democracy. Which raises the question: When does a genuine democracy become a fake democracy?
The answer is: When the “consent of the governed” no longer has meaning. Permission or approval lose meaning when: too few citizens vote, there is too little difference between candidates that have a chance of winning, corporate money shapes the policies and actions of government, and gerrymandering promotes reelection of incumbent congressmen.
In a fake democracy, citizens play a role defined by the power elite, but are not truly empowered or engaged. In Cuba and other fake democracies, citizens are hostages to raw state power that controls personal freedom. In the U.S., citizens are hostages to consumerism. Controlled distraction replaces brute force. Instead of overt government propaganda, U.S. Citizens are victims of sly corporate media.
At the same time that Bush supporters were celebrating his second term in inaugural balls there was no public outcries about how undemocratic all the celebrations were. The general public could not attend official balls by paying a reasonable amount of money. No, they were for the power elite who really determine government policies and actions; that is what they were really celebrating.
To say the U.S. has a representative form of democracy is to hide the greater truth that we have little more than a formal democracy, not one in which citizens can trust their representatives to serve the public interest. Our representatives serve the power elite. To recognize that there no longer is any public disgust and outrage that ordinary Americans have virtually no access to their “public servants” compared to corporate and other special interests, is to recognize how much we have become a fake democracy.
So how can a fake democracy have the gall to see itself as having the moral authority to compel other nations to be democracies? Only a fake democracy that was the only remaining global superpower could have the chutzpah to attempt this and the weapons to pursue it. What foreigners see is that an American fake democracy is most likely to help create other fake democracies.
Sadly, through oppression by consumerism, most Americans have no ability to see their government as so many foreigners see it. They have eyes wide shut. I was impressed by what Peter S. from the United Kingdom said recently on an Internet blog site:
Nearly everything about America is fake. From fake tits to fake democracy. And they want to inflict all this on the rest of us! …The whole notion of America (at present and past) as something worthwhile is, in a word, obscene. …But like all vast controlling nations, America is crumbling.
What should morality, patriotism and conscience require of Americans? To understand that love of country – not government – means taking care of its political system and when necessary, as it is now, repairing its democracy. Taxation with misrepresentation is just as bad as taxation without representation. To save the Republic, we must put politicians in their proper place, servants to we the people, we the sovereign. This is what real patriotism requires. We must tell elected officials they no longer have “the consent of the governed” because they have not earned it.
We must put business leaders in their proper place, acting responsibly for the good of their workers, customers and country, not just their managers and owners.
We the people must put honesty back into fashion. We need leaders in the public and private sectors whom we can trust. Oppression by dishonesty and corruption within a representative democracy is as repulsive as oppression by a king, tyrannical government, or foreign power.
What President Bush should understand is: Heal thyself – fix your own democracy first. And this is the kind of theme and message the Democrats need to articulate – repairing American democracy.
Joel S. Hirschhorn’s current book is “Sprawl Kills – How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health and Money.” His next book is “Fake Democracy – Status Quo Busting to Save Our Republic. He can be reached through www.sprawlkills.com.