American Democracy Now An Oligarchy by Joel S. Hirschhorn + Ivy League Study Says the General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy

by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Writer, Dandelion Salad
April 24, 2014


Image by P.T. Manolakos via Flickr

History has been made. But few Americans are aware of it or angry about it. I say: Wake up Americans. A war has been waged against US democracy, from the inside. Time to pick a side and fight back.

If you are not totally brain dead, distracted by pain or pleasure, or consumed by narcissistic obsessions, face the ugly, painful truth.

Republicans with political power in Congress and the states and, even more appallingly, on the Supreme Court have succeeded in turning their beloved republic into a-money-buys-power oligarchy. One person, one vote was the enemy and it is being defeated. One dollar, one vote is the new Republican political value. American democracy is more delusional than ever. To think otherwise is even more delusional.

I present three arguments supporting the conclusion that there has been a conversion of US democracy into something worse than a plutocracy. Political power is more dependent on money than ever before.

First, Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and many controlling state governments, together with their rich supporters, have steadily and successfully eroded voting and election laws. Their goal has been simple: Fight the demographic advantages of Democrats that give them more voters by making it more difficult for those citizens to actually vote. This has been documented in a New York Times top story and many other places. Republicans see the obvious. Namely that their older,-largely rural, white male shrinking proportion of the population is insufficient to win many elections and, even more significant, that many of their policy positions will never prevail with many demographic groups.

As Damon Linker observed about this statistical reality, this is a “tacit acknowledgement by the Republican Party that it’s in dire demographic straits — and that one of the key pillars of its ideology over the last half-century is crumbling right before our eyes.” Their solution, besides vicious gerrymandering of House districts, is to make it ever more difficult for groups likely to favor Democrats to vote in all elections. This direct assault on electoral democracy depends considerably on money coming from the wealthiest people to finance the actions to change election laws.

Second, the Supreme Court is now controlled by a Republican majority that has been successfully producing decisions to remove limits to money dumped into the political system by the richest Americans. For example, recently the McCutcheon decision continued the Roberts Court program of gutting campaign-finance laws. Hard to believe, but this decision came to the aid of just 1,219 people in the US—that’s four in every 1,000,000 of our population, who ran up against a contribution limit. But this is consistent with the insanity that money is the same as free speech, which the Supreme Court has made the law of the land.

As Robert Reich correctly noted: “The court said such spending doesn’t corrupt democracy. That’s utter baloney, as anyone who has the faintest familiarity with contemporary American politics well knows.” Political money is used to greatly impact lawmaking and elections. Political power obtained through political spending is, of course, essential for the richest Americans to maintain and perhaps intensify the economic inequality that now distinguishes American society. It is how an oligarchy is obtained and sustained.

I hope that Brent Budowsky is correct. Namely that “Roberts and his four conservative Republican brethren will ultimately be impeached by historians who will condemn, and future courts that will reverse, politically illegitimate and constitutionally deformed rulings that would turn America into a constitutional oligarchy.” But change “would turn” into “have turned.”

Third, as still more proof of the profound historic change in the US, a recent study from Princeton University that analyzed considerable data concluded that the US has become an oligarchy. Here is what this important study said:

“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”


“Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

In other words, it is time for Americans to stop believing delusional truths and recognize that US democracy has become a myth, especially if there are ever to be serious actions by the majority to fix and restore democracy.

Americans, especially younger ones, need to understand the historical path from democracy to plutocracy to oligarchy. Most Americans are suffering because of economic inequality and they need to understand that the economic system is under the control of the perverted political system. Anyone who is not in the Upper Class or proverbial top one percent who votes for Republicans is living in some fantasy world. Such voters have been brainwashed and manipulated by, for example, FOX News and blowhards like Limbaugh.

Republicans want even more power. And if they get it, what would you expect from those working so hard to make US democracy a joke and replace millions of voters with one percent oligarchs? What Republicans have been doing is nothing less than domestic political terrorism. If Republicans and Tea Party loyalists were true patriots, they would rebel against the oligarchy created by Republicans.

Finally, make no mistake and think this condemnation of Republicans equates to advocacy for Democrats. The ultimate solution if a better, more democratic US system is to be obtained is not to rely on putting Democrats in control who also have some billionaires on their side. No, what is required is a number of constitutional amendments obtained through an Article V convention that are necessary to structurally reform the political system, especially getting rid of the power of political money. In recent months there has been a historic increase in support from important people for constitutional amendments and greater public support is desperately needed to finally use the constitutional option given by the Founders to the nation.

Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through


[DS added the video report.]

Ivy League Study Says the General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy

TheRealNews on Apr 24, 2014

Benjamin Page says that the analysis he conducted with Martin Gilens of public opinion surveys and elite policy preferences of the last 20 years shows economic elites virtually determine governmental policy.


From the archives:

Bernie Sanders: Oligarchy USA

Bernie Sanders: Inequality–A Threat to American Democracy

Chris Hedges: The New Global Neo-feudalism Society (Q&A)

Boycott Corporatocracy! Boycott Corrupt Elections! by Rivera Sun

85 Billionaires and the Better Half by Michael Parenti

12 thoughts on “American Democracy Now An Oligarchy by Joel S. Hirschhorn + Ivy League Study Says the General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy

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  9. Most good, caring people I know either think we can vote our way to a democracy (despite the oligarchic system), or sincerely do not know what can be done to end this oligarchy and Empire.

    I have long advocated a General Strike by all those who can manage it, but I have no other suggestions. I don’t see how an Article V Constitutional Convention could keep the Plundering Class from using their wealth and influence to take control of such a convention for their own selfish interests.

    • Ed, I absolutely agree with your prescription summed up in two words:
      General Strike. I’ve been advocating it ever since Raygun fired the PATCO workers.

      All of us working-class people have the most formidable tool at our disposal to use if we ever wake up to reality, namely the Seven Magic Words: “Take to the Streets, Withhold Your Labor!”

      The Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, the Rockefeller Family, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, etc, etc, can’t function without workers.

      Closing down commerce and all non-essential services is what the oligarchs, plutocrats, and the super-rich fear the most.

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