Limited democracy, which characterizes our American political system, cannot endure another of its inherent crises. Change is coming. It will bring either furtherance of democracy or radical curtailment.
For explanatory purposes, examine the western world just prior to the great crisis of October, 1929. The people running things chose their way out of the great depression, some by radically increasing their democracy under Franklin Delano Roosevelt as chief executive; others chose to curtail democracy under Adolph Hitler.
It’s Present, not Future
The polarity between more democracy and less is underway. In Washington State, everybody can vote by mail. In Texas, the right to vote is being whittled away. In some places, abortion rights are enshrined in constitutions. In others, women have no rights at all. In some of the world’s places, gay marriage is common. In others, homosexuality carries the death penalty.
Political parties in the United States each take almost 50% of the vote. Neither more democracy nor less has triumphed, but small, quantitative changes add up historically to big, qualitative change. One more crisis will push us one way or the other.
Choose Your Crisis
As Finland and Sweden join NATO and the war in Ukraine continues, the siege of Russia is set. American oil companies, already taking over Russia’s European markets, will not be restrained from bringing nuclear war closer and closer.
In the East, America is re-establishing bases in the Philippines, training South Koreans, and strengthening ties with Taiwan. As America’s proxy war grew strength in Europe, President Biden tried to turn it toward China. Mighty navies and air forces crisscross the South China Sea. An American general predicts war with the world’s second largest economy within two years.
Sea levels and carbon in the atmosphere continue to rise. Thousands of tons of ice have already melted. Giant ice shelves hang precariously over the ocean. Storms, floods and droughts are already taking lives and threatening food production.
Bank failures within the United States terrify economists. Untamed inflation forces governments to choose between potentially disastrous monetary policies and, for them, unthinkable fiscal policies against the ruling rich. Smaller nations are joining the interlocking BRIC economies that challenge the “American Century” of domination. Reactionaries in the U.S. Congress announce their intention to bring about a worldwide financial meltdown.
The leadership that is offered has hardly any credibility. The most popular politicians capture less than 50% approval ratings. Institutions, such as the U.S. Congress, can’t get above 30%. In “democratic” America, fewer than 50% of the voting age population turns out even in the most highly publicized elections. 30% do not even register.
Choose your crisis, all of them are at hand.
A Program for More Democracy
Our choice has to be more democracy, not less. Our choice is peace; clean air and water; pro-worker economic policies; and leadership we can believe. To take the limits off our American democracy and give people say-so in international and economic affairs, which we do not have and have never had, we must organize.
Organizing is an incremental process. If we take the side of working families on every issue, if we build the organizations that win for working families on every issue, we will be ready to demand and win more democracy during the next crisis. The alternatives are unthinkable.
I’m on KNON.ORG “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. My weekly podcasts are on their web site and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my old personal web site