Do we have a democracy in the US, or a plutocracy? Or somewhere in between? Or something completely different? How much does money really influence American politics?

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Sassan, you are surely right that a lot of people have it a whole lot worse in much of the rest of the world. When I "bitch" about the problems of the US, I am not usually bitching for myself, because I DO have it good, even though I'm in the lower 40% of income and standard of living. I have a small house, a car, enough money to pay my living expenses (including the computer!), good health insurance and enough money to pay for the low-cost entertainment that pleases me.

But I DO bitch for those who don't have it as good as I do. I have a friend who has severe migraines once or twice a week, but no health insurance and no job, so even while migraines are treatable, she is receiving no help. I see way too many homeless people pushing shopping carts on the street and sleeping under bridges. Homeless people freeze to death here every winter. It angers me that Republicans swear that they will accept no new taxes, while cutting programs like Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security for people who have no other source of income or health care. For the elderly, in particular, many of them worked their whole lives in low-income jobs, which means their SS benefits are low to begin with (the rich pay a smaller percentage of their income into SS and get higher benefits) and if Social Security and Medicare are cut, they may not even be able to save their homes, let alone keep food on the table. Doesn't that reduce them to just about the same place as the poor in other countries?

There is an upsetting number of people in this country who want to turn it into a theocracy. How is that different from the Muslim world? Germany was supposedly the most enlightened and advanced country of Europe, but that didn't stop it from sliding downhill and creating the biggest genocide in world history.

What I am getting at is that, although the US HAS BEEN a great country, it may not stay that way if the Christian extremists get their way. And their propaganda machine is impressive. Electing charismatic candidates who then turn their backs on the poor and middle class is not the way to keep our country great. So can you understand our bitching? It's not really bitching as much about now as it is about the seeming wave of the future. Which doesn't look good.

I did take a little hostile attitude to start off and I apologize. I agree that we are far from perfect as a nation - but I don't think making the claim that we are somehow not a democracy is a non-hostile or accurate position to take. While we do live in a free country and we have the right to express that sentiment - the very fact that we have the right to express that sentiment is what makes us a free and democratic country.

I agree we have a lot of faults in our system and we need to make improvements - but the type of people my original ranting or frustration was directed at were those atheists who call themselves rationalist but come across with such claims that America is a "dictatorship" or that we somehow don't live in a democracy (although we don't live in a democracy by definition) but for all practical manners. In addition, these people tend to give excuses for terrorists who commit acts of terror and they themselves ramble up with anti-American and anti-west sentiments by calling us imperialist. Sort of - the Nim Chimpsky and George Galloway types of atheists - those defeatists, isolationists, and apologists. So I apologize if my ranting came out the wrong way to others such as you.

One more thing: I do see the extreme religious right as a threat - but we have a great constitution which the courts have upheld. I don't think anyone, including those on the right that pander to the religious elements of their base, truly want to turn America into any sort of theocracy - but I too see that as a threat and would never vote them into office, including Ron Paul. On the other hand, I don't consider George W. Bush as that type of Christian or religious fundamentalist. I hope you would agree with that sentiment. I see maybe Michelle Bachmann and some other loons like that to some extent - but nothing comparable to the Islamic world. In addition, I don't think any of those loons have a chance of being elected and making a difference with their visions in contrast to the apocalyptic and dangerous loons which compromise the Islamic Republic. I don't see how some atheists can ignore the very threat civilization faces with nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic maniacs.

"I did take a little hostile attitude to start off and I apologize." -Thank you!

"I agree that we are far from perfect as a nation" -Thank you!!

"but I don't think making the claim that we are somehow not a democracy is a non-hostile or accurate position to take. While we do live in a free country and we have the right to express that sentiment - the very fact that we have the right to express that sentiment is what makes us a free and democratic country."

Of course it was a non-hostile position - did the question I posed as the subject of this discussion sound in any way hostile? If you violently disagree with me, that is one thing, but remember I violently disagree with you as well. And notice how I can make my arguments to you without being rude or disrespectful, characteristics which undermine reasoned discussions by the way.

There is a lot you are unaware of Sassan. Did you know, for example, that 94% of elections go to the candidate who has spent more money? That means, without knowing anything about the candidates or their politics, I could tell you who won any given election with 94% accuracy. This is not rule of the masses, it is de facto rule by the rich. The fact that I can point this out, that I have free speech for example, does not make this a democracy, because I could point it out until I am blue in the face, but it wouldn't give me the money I would need to win an election. Obviously, if elections can be bought, and THEY ARE (if you think they aren't you just haven't done the research), then the richest, most powerful people in this country can and in fact do influence American politics to make it easier and easier for them to continue to do so. It's all about power dynamics - I would suggest turning off Fox news, turning on MSNBC, watching Dylan Ratigan for example, and get yourself informed.

I will make it brief: in regards to elections being "bought". I do agree that it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court struck down the "Campaign Finance Reform Laws" as unconstitutional which would have made things better. Saying this - look at the way Obama raised money when during the primaries and on his way to the Presidency - from significant numbers of small donors; and he ended up raised more money than John McCain. So "technically", you can say that "money bought the election" but it was the people that put him over the top and enabled him to have raised more money than McCain and the Republicans - so I don't think that election was "bought". In addition, although we need some campaign financing laws on the books that are not unconstitutional, both parties have the same opportunities for raising money. I do agree this is a problem though as we need a viable 3rd party such as in Europe which often times have 3,4,5 multiple parties that garner a good % of the vote and in turn are necessitated to form alliances between the different political factions.

I would suggest turning off Fox news, turning on MSNBC, watching Dylan Ratigan for example, and get yourself informed.

There goes your judgement. You ASSUME that all I do is watch Fox News and that I don't have a brain of my own to judge on the issues. In fact, you couldn't be more wrong. While Fox News certainly does lean to the right and sometimes goes over the top - I would contend that MSNBC is much more to the left than Fox News is to the right. Fox News at least has Democratic commentators on the various shows and more often than not, they present both sides of the issue. Did you see how rudely Ed Schultz treated Rick Santorum the other night on his show? Anyhow, I enjoy Rachel Maddow as I don't see her as a phony or a panderer but if you rely on MSNBC for your news you are more than an ideologue. From time to time I like to watch Fox News as they are more entertaining and from time to time I like to watch MSNBC (Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews) although Chris Matthews is not the old Chris Matthews, he has gotten rather boring - but if I do watch any of those channels, it is for analysis, not news. I find CNN to be more unbiased with their news than both of those channels - in addition, I don't rely on my news simply with American media. I like to watch BBC everyday which I do; I like to watch EuroNews which I do; from time to time (especially on coverage of the Middle East) I even watch Al Jazeera. In addition, I access most of my news from various internet sources and base my views on multiple sources rather than a single source of biased news (as at the end of the day everyone has their biases) and I make sound decisions based on the issues and the experience I have on particular issues that are important to me such as Islam, foreign policy, and the Middle East.

So again, if you base your news habits on MSNBC - that speaks volumes in by itself.

Shows what you know. Yes, Obama raised more money through small donors than anyone else has ever done - but guess hwat? He also raised more money through LARGE donors than anyone else has ever done. The single greatest donor to his campaign was Goldman Sachs, so, do the math and figure out whether he is not also just as bought as anyone else from either of our two parties. So regardless of what news organizations you are watching, you still remain ignorant of the facts.

 

I have seen Ed schultz be rude to his guests before, and subsequently I stopped watching him. I also agree with you that Chris Matthews is good, but not as good as he had been. I do enjoy Maddow as well, but I think you should give Dylan Ratigan a good look. He speaks to the issues I have been raising whereas most other commentators do not. Certainly noone on Fox is going to point this stuff out, and watching Fox is a humongous waste of time. They are far more biased and ill-informed than my toilet paper is. I also watch BBC, EuroNews, Al Jazeera, and even watched quite a bit of the Iranian news program PressTV, although the constant refrain of Israel and America being the enemies of the world gets tired very quickly. And I did not say you only watch FOX news, but if you are watching it at all then you must have some funny ideas of what constitutes news.

 

"both parties have the same opportunities for raising money." Sure they do, and they both suck the dicks of big corporations to pony up the dough they need to have a chance at winning an election, which is why we need to get the money out of politics. A third party won't do any good if they can't raise the same kind of money that these two do, because as it has been shown, money wins elections. I agree with you that more parties would be good for the country, and that the "Campaign Finance Reform Laws" would have made things better, but if you think this at all then you must be beginning to see that there is a real problem with corporate money entering American politics and that it is bad both for our "democracy" and for the world as a whole.

Bottom line: small donors are the people who put Obama over the top - this is undeniable.

And PLEASE, why are you watching Iranian-government sponsored terrorism television? :yawn:

George Galloway makes me sick. He is an evil and sick human being. Truly an evil man.

And to add: I never said things were perfect with our country. All I have said is that despite the imperfections, we still have the most free society in the world and greatest constitution. Even Europe doesn't have the free speech protections that we have here in the United States.

I don't think you know what the bottom line is. Certainly you didn't know who donated to Obama's campaign, so in what way are you qualified to speak on what actually happened in that election?

 

I watched Iranian-government sponsored terrorism television for the same reason you WATCH American-government sponsored terrorism television (FOX): to get an idea of what their angle was. Except that I saw how biased PressTV was, and only ever watched it to see what they were talking about that the Western press weren't. Sometimes they were talking about issues that Western press completely ignored. But I always took it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Fox is so unbelievably biased I couldn't possibly stand to watch it anymore. They take every opportunity to lie, distort the truth, and reshape every message so that you can't get anything but the furthest-right of opinions. It is shameful.

 

And while you say on one hand that we have such a great country here and so forth, on the other hand you came into this discussion with a terrible attitude (which you later apologized for?), telling us who would dare raise a voice against the country you love that we were "bitching and moaning". Did you really expect me to take that sitting down? You can speak all you want about how great America is, how your father came here and made a better life for himself and his family, how much you feel indebted to the wonder which is America, but what you can't do is tell others who see major problems with our country that we have bad attitudes, that we should just be grateful for what we have and, the implication being, we should just shut up and stop whining. How dare you?

A third party would only further fragment our already ineffective government, unless we had laws that allowed runoff elections between the top 2 finishers in an election. Which is not likely to happen. I will never forget how Ralph Nader, by running as a 3rd party choice, effectively threw the election to GWBush, which was certainly the LAST thing that the people who voted for him or Gore wanted. When people bemoan the damage that Bush did to the country, they shouldn't forget that Nader caused the whole thing in the first place.

@Natalie. Our electoral system is indeed obsolete, and it enshrines our plutocracy. Europe has a better electoral system generally speaking, as does Australia, which has modified the British system and removed "first past the post". Instead they rank their candidates, and recount consecutive vote totals until one candidate has a absolute majority (50%+1).

HOWEVER, what I see happening in those countries through the decades, unfortunately, is not 'that' different from the political happenings in North America. I suspect that no matter what "system" one uses, if society's values stay the same (we are presently in an overall right-wing/conservative/me-me-me phase of socio-political life, this comes through at elections, no matter the system.

This I believe to be entirely due to the importance of cash, which corrupts the what should be an intellectual democratic process.

TNT, thanks for understanding my point. I tend to be pretty pessimistic about any society making "intellectually" good choices, because intellect is not a particular strength for most people. The rule of emotion is far stronger. People who run for office understand that quite thoroughly, which is why we get attack ad and horror story campaigns and anyone who tries to appeal to the intellect comes in dead last. We just saw that in Nevada's special election for the House. I knew it was going to happen, even though I hoped for better. :-(

Sassan K,

US is superior to any pure theocracy or dictatorship. However we do not benefit by being passive agents who cowtow to the power structure and promote patriotism at the expense of freedom and civil rights. Cant you see the drift of things in the US?

Sassan,

Keep in mind that the greatest 1st amendment protection is given to political speech. It is a cherished value -complaining about the stinking government. The more totalitarian the greater the restriction on political speech. And if you think things in US are peechy maybe you aint paying attention.

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