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The Visionless Society

Posted by Erin Bechtol
01.04.18

Imagine yourself in early 2019. The Democrats, despite never articulating a political vision other than not being Donald Trump and refusing to roll back Republican legislation such as the 2017 tax bill, have regained the House of Representatives by a slim majority. They vote articles of impeachment. The Senate Republicans, pressured by many within their own party to abandon Trump because of his ineptitude, increasingly erratic behavior and corruption, call on the president to resign. Trump refuses. He uses the megaphone of his office to incite violence by his small, fanatic base. The military, whose deployment as a domestic police force is authorized by Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, is called into the streets to quell unrest. The United States, by the time the violence is snuffed out, is a de facto military dictatorship.”

With this peek into a borderline-apoocalyptic future, Chris Hedges sets the tone for his interview with Ralph Nader about the decay of American politics and the two-party system. As tensions continue to rise in our domestically and we enable a leader whose taunting rhetoric brings us ever closer to nuclear war, the outlook becomes increasingly grim. Still, many of us try to maintain faith in our democratic institutions. But the US, Nader says, is losing its democratic foundation.

“Can there be a democracy when you don’t have a competitive electoral system? No. Can there be a democracy when people who come in second win the election? No. Can there be a democracy when it’s tougher to get on the ballot than in any other Western country in the world by an order of magnitude? No. Can there be a democracy when money rules? And not just the money that politicians raise, but the third-party money. No. Can there be a democracy when people have no influence on the military budget? No.”

So what then? Without the democracy that we pride ourselves on, how do regular citizens fight for their rights against corporate interests and the politicians who serve them? What steps do we take? “Resistance, Nader said, must be local. First we need to organize to take back our own communities.”

Opportunities to get involved abound, whether it means running for office in local government, staying informed and organizing against damaging policies, or helping to make a nonviolent city. Whatever form it takes, Nader points out that there is one vital factor:

“Justice needs money,” he concluded, calling on enlightened elites to spend a billion dollars to fund resistance movements outside the Democratic Party. “The abolition movement needed money. The suffrage movement needed money. They got it from wealthy people. Civil rights movement. The Curry family. The Stern family. The early 1950s, 1960s. Environmental movements got money from rich people. Don’t wait for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is an instrument. On the first round you’ve got to use it and control it. On the third round, when you’re mobilized, you can throw it aside. It’s a hollowed feature that is a part of the duopoly. But it’s there. These parties are very vulnerable. They’re shells that rest on money and television ads that nobody likes.”

For more insight into the problems we face and how to address them, read Hedges’ full interview with Nader here. To help fund efforts to to abolish war, champion human rights, end poverty, challenge injustice, and protect our planet, click here.

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