I am growing very tired of the asinine argument that we’re no longer a democracy because we’re supposedly dominated by “corporate interests.” It is especially tiresome that so many people make this argument without giving any actual specifics. Of course, the reason there are no specifics is because the concept is absurd.
Every single citizen of this country has the right to vote, unless they have been convicted of a felony. That’s everyone; even those who suddenly have to jump through a few extra hoops in recent years in order to do so. However, since 1980, too many people are opting to not exercise that right, in part because so many “intelligent” people have told them their vote doesn’t count. That’s not the only reason, of course, but ask yourself this question; if you are told often enough that slogging through the snow on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to cast a vote won’t matter in the end because “corporate interests” have hijacked the vote, why would you show up? If you are told repeatedly that “both parties are the same” and that “Democrats are as bad as Republicans,” where would you find the enthusiasm to bother to stand in a long line and cast a vote, even if you already know that the Republican Party is the party of selfish, obnoxious dicks?
Yes, that’s right. No matter how much your idealistic brain says that everyone should always show up to vote because it’s their civic duty, the fact of the matter is, in a truly free country, people have a choice as to whether or not to vote and who to vote for. Think about this, too; if you’re one of those who routinely votes for independent and third-party candidates, thus effectively throwing a vote to the Republicans, what “corporate interest” is making you do that? I only ask because you’re at least as big of a problem as the person who doesn’t show up at all.
I know reality isn’t a big thing to many progressives, but there are two things that every single one of us need to understand going forward.
1. All corporations are trying to maximize profit, which means they want to sell as much as they possibly can. People drive corporate profits, not the other way around. The reason most movies and broadcast TV shows are shit and the reason Selena Gomez sells more albums than Leonard Cohen isn’t because corporations are working against Leonard Cohen, but because the people are more likely to buy Selena Gomez albums than Leonard Cohen. It’s not some vast conspiracy, it’s about profit and loss statements. While many record company executives may prefer Leonard Cohen music and have everything he’s ever done in their Spotify queue and they may have no Selena Gomez music in there, the fact is, it is Selena’s sales that make it possible to keep Cohen making albums. If you want to know why everything at the movie theaters is CGI-driven, dark and obnoxious, it’s because that’s what brings people into the theaters. Character-driven dramas almost never pull in $100 million in the first couple of weekends.
2. Democracy is all about math. The reason our democracy may seem “broken” these days is because a significant portion of the voting population no longer cares about the vote. And no, I don’t mean the people who choose to stay home. I’m talking about “progressive political junkies” who will only support the candidate who says exactly the “right thing.” That is batshit crazy, given that a democracy is all about the vote. Regardless of the height of your ideals, they are pointless unless your ideology gets the most votes, which can also mean making sure the wrong ideology gets knocked out. If you want to get rid of what you consider “corporate interests” in politics, there is exactly one way to do that, and it’s via the vote. The first step to changing the democracy is in winning elections. You can put together a laundry list of everything you think the government should do, but the fact of the matter is, unless you get rid of Republicans at every level, you can, in the words of my late grandmother, “wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up first.”
Here’s the deal; even if there are corporate interests screwing with the electorate (and there are), each one of them only has a single vote. Since 1980, at least, a political party that represents, at best, 24-25% of the electorate has had an inordinate amount of control in the government, primarily because our side of the aisle, PUBs and professional lefties, have been chasing corporate windmills. We elected the most progressive Democrat in modern history to the White House in 2008 and 2012, but we proceeded to kneecap him in 2010 and 2014, by crying and whining about “conservative Democrats,” “corporate interests,” “Wall Street” and other windmills at which we have a habit of tilting, even though they have little to no real influence in the electorate. If you think the average family’s main concern is how many billions the Koch Brothers have, put down the narcotics, get out of your basement and actually interact with other people because you have no clue. None.
What we need to do is to stop complaining about everything and start proposing solutions to problems. I love Bernie Sanders, but for God’s sake, his stump speech is tiresome; long on complaints and short on details of just how he plans to do all of those wonderful things he plans to do. The average voters doesn’t give a flying fuck about “income inequality.” They don’t want to make as much money as Bill Gates or Donald Trump; they just want to be able to work and pay their mortgage. They don’t care about the “one percent,” and they are not envious of them; they just want to send their kid to school without incurring six-figure debt and to be able to pay for their medications without losing everything they have.
And the same “corporate interests” PUBs who have been hamstringing Democrats for decades now and giving Republicans far too much control are drooling over the prospect of a Bernie Sanders presidency at the same time they work against Democrats with their attacks on Hillary Clinton and her “corporatism.” (Another word that has no real meaning. Does a “corporatist” support Goldman Sachs and Bank of America or Ben & Jerry’s and Credo? I only ask because they’re all corporations. Just sayin’…) I hate to break it to you, but Bernie ain’t doing a goddamn thing if he’s faced with the same Congress you people gave Obama for six of his eight years.
Our problem isn’t “corporate interests.” Our problem is that we whine and cry about every damn thing, but we do little to nothing to encourage people to vote. Then, when they don’t show up to vote because we have failed to give them a reason to, we blame “corporate interests.” Much like right wingers don’t give their side credit for anything bad or stupid, left wingers have much the same problem. Take responsibility. Give Obama and the Democrats credit for the things they do and give the Republicans credit for everything they do, as well. Encourage people to participate and watch what happens to our democracy. Watch it transform in front of our eyes. It’s really not that difficult; we did it before.