The Supreme Court on Thursday, June 23, struck down a NY gun law that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home—an opinion marking the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade. The current Supreme Court is dominated by conservatives. Photo courtesy of The Commons

Are We Seeing the Death of Democracy?

Democracy seems to be slipping away from us, and new violations keep coming up with sickening regularity. The recent gun violence in Uvalde, Texas, is a grim reminder.

Between 55% and 65% of all American people (depending on the poll you read) favor increased gun controls. Yet the mainly Republican senators who are controlled by the gun lobby are reluctant to even discuss the issue.

The gun lobby itself is made up of weapon manufacturers supported and subsidized by the Pentagon with its bloated budget that has not decreased in size in the last 50 years.

Yet for all that money, we have not won a war in that same period of time. Not one! Unless you consider our illegal incursions into Granada and Panama as wins.

We keep paying out more and more of our tax dollars and receive less and less in return, except that we have a flood of AK-47-type assault weapons flooding our country due to our government subsidizing weapon manufacturers.

We are the world’s largest seller of weapons from handguns to jet fighter planes. Those government-supported and -subsidized manufacturers of weapons are also making and selling guns to the American public.

We, the American public, own more guns per person than any other country in the world. Gun violence in America is far higher than any of our European allies and, in fact, most of the other countries in the world.

Why is the will of the majority of the American public unable to be carried out? One issue, probably the main issue, is the structure of our government.

Two senators from each state gives the smallest states the same power as the largest states. That gave the southern states the power to maintain slavery until they had to go to war to try and defend it. And soon afterward, they were able to legally institute Jim Crow laws and practices.

Another piece of the puzzle is the Electoral College. Twice recently the winner of the popular vote did not win the election because of the power given, again, to smaller states. Another system implemented to save slavery for the South.

Finally is the issue of the Supreme Court and the lifetime terms for its justices.

Justices appointed by the president of one party and having a natural leaning toward that party’s policies might remain on the court through one or two changes of the party in power. Sometimes that is good, but often they do not make decisions that reflect the majority of public opinion.

Presently, the court is moving against the public desires. A majority of the American public feels that abortion is a right that women should have. Yet, the court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Republican Party has hammered together a variety of groups that have little in common with each other except that they are extremely unhappy about one thing that is going on in the United States and are willing to band together with other disgruntled people, regardless of whether they necessarily believe in the others’ cause.

Take antiabortion groups. They are mainly made up of Catholic and conservative Protestant sects. As members of these groups, one would think they would be unable to vote for a presidential candidate who was divorced, who openly flouted his marriage vows and who openly admitted to having groped young women and was proud of it. Yet, because that man suddenly proclaimed that he was a against abortion, they accepted his sins and voted for him.

Other disgruntled groups that now make up the core Republican Party are anti–gun control, anti–school integration, anti–gay marriage, anti-immigrant and anti–government regulation of big business. These disgruntled groups also target social programs (e.g., welfare, food stamps, Medicare, Obamacare, forced busing).

They are also violently against quotas based on race in higher education and some government jobs. Moreover, there are those who still feel that our country’s voting restrictions, originally only male, property owners, not Black, should be back in force.

Many of the red states have erected numerous restrictions on poor, Black, Brown and Indigenous people and their ability to vote already. More are certainly on the way.

Since the Supreme Court eliminated the Voting Rights Act and made corporations into persons, thus allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money to back their chosen candidates for office, we seem to be powerless to maintain any scraps of true democracy.

Have we truly turned the corner to oligarchic control of our country? We have a large segment of our citizenry who are homeless and many more who live in poverty.

This is due to corporate and wealthy citizens who lobbied for tax reforms that have cut their taxes to the bone. This has led to slashing our social budgets, starving investments in infrastructure and growing inequality in our country.

The power of money is ubiquitous in our governments—federal, state and local. The Right feels that homeless people are simply too lazy to work. Poverty can be easily overcome by hard work. Social programs only make the poor lazier.

Housing costs are driven by the free market, they cannot and should not ever be subject to government regulation. Labor unions are anathema. Unions come between the employer and his employees.

The unrestricted market sets wages at a fair level, regulating wages interferes with our free market–driven economy and then everybody loses.

Strangely enough, when unions were at their peak in the 1940s and 1950s, workers’ pay allowed large numbers of workers to join the middle class. The equality between the working class and the well-to-do was the best it had ever been. But the rich and powerful have now been able to destroy unions and increase the inequality in our country.

The problem is not new. Going back to our nation’s origins, James Madison, one of the men who wrote the Constitution, had definite ideas about democracy. In the debates on the Constitution, Madison pointed out that “in England, at this date, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place, undermining the right to property.

“To ward off such injustice our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation, by arranging voting patterns and checks and balances so as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

Gordon Wood in The Creation of the American Republic states that “the Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period, delivering power to a ‘better sort of people’ and excluding those who were not rich, wellborn, or from prominent families from exercising political power.”

So, this is not new, but we’ve seen a resurgence of the rich and powerful taking back the power they lost to the common people during the Great Depression years.

Now the question is, will the common people ever be able to take that power back from the rich and powerful class today? Who today is effectively grinding the poor mercilessly under their heel?

  • Norman Lambert is a native Californian, a former small business owner, a writer, a Democratic Socialist and a secular humanist. He participated in antiwar activities, the farmworker movement, boycotts and picketing. He is accustomed to being on the losing side a lot.

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