Thursday, September 08, 2022

Only The Fiction Of Democracy Remains

scheerpost  |  There is a fatal disconnect between a political system that promises democratic equality and freedom while carrying out socioeconomic injustices that result in grotesque income inequality and political stagnation.

Decades in the making, this disconnect has extinguished American democracy. The steady stripping away of economic and political power was ignored by a hyperventilating press that thundered against the barbarians at the gate — Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, ISIS, Vladimir Putin — while ignoring the barbarians in our midst. The slow-motion coup is over. Corporations and the billionaire class have won. There are no institutions, including the press, an electoral system that is little more than legalized bribery, the imperial presidency, the courts or the penal system, that can be defined as democratic. Only the fiction of democracy remains.

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism calls our system “inverted totalitarianism.” The fa├žade of democratic institutions and the rhetoric, symbols and iconography of state power have not changed. The Constitution remains a sacred document. The U.S. continues to posit itself as a champion of opportunity, freedom, human rights and civil liberties, even as half the country struggles at subsistence level, militarized police gun down and imprison the poor with impunity, and the primary business of the state is war. 

This collective self-delusion masks who we have become — a nation where the citizenry has been stripped of economic and political power and where the brutal militarism we practice overseas is practiced at home.

In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union, economics was subordinate to politics. But under inverted totalitarianism, the reverse is true. There is no attempt, unlike fascism and state socialism, to address the needs of the poor. Rather, the poorer and more vulnerable you are, the more you are exploited, thrust into a hellish debt peonage from which there is no escape. Social services, from education to health care, are anemic, nonexistent or privatized to gouge the impoverished. Further ravaged by 8.5 percent inflation, wages have decelerated sharply since 1979. Jobs often do not offer benefits or security.

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