It is fair to assume that America is host to an incredibly ignorant population who know very little about their government and how it affects their daily lives. That sad fact was exposed in a brilliant 2008 book revealing that only 20% of the population can name the three branches of government and 49% think a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution. However, the population’s ignorance of their government aside, it is highly probable that every American supports democracy; unless they are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To Americans aware of ALEC and its intent to create a corporate oligarchy and privatized government, it is not surprising that if ALEC members were asked to sign a pledge to support democracy, they would refuse, and that is precisely what happened in a little-reported story last week.
Last Thursday while ALEC was holding its annual meeting in Washington D.C., a group of working family activists, AFSCME, the Postal Workers union (APWU), AFT, and Jobs with Justice appeared at the meeting and asked ALEC members to sign a pledge “upholding the will of the people and support democracy, or leave their states.” The people at ALEC’s meeting did not sign the pledge and corporate-controlled media did not report the event because a revelation that an organization dedicated to serving corporate interests represented by the Republican Party refusing to support democracy would not play well with the public. In fact, for about 30 years ALEC has quietly been dismantling America’s democracy while hiding in the shadows, and it is just recently that a very tiny minority of the population even know ALEC exists.
Those Americans who know about ALEC and the Koch’s assault on democracy are rightly incensed that a small number of very rich Americans are responsible for authoring legislation robbing Americans of their rights and freedoms with a view towards government by corporate oligarchy. The anger at the people behind ALEC such as the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and the largest corporations in America, is truly justified, but the truth is that ALEC’s real power is not the Koch brothers, corporations, or the richest people in America. It is true their funding allows them to write template legislation responsible for destroying democracy, create a nation of peasants, and attempt to privatize and hijack the government using public dollars, but without loyal Republican legislators in the states and Congress, neither ALEC, the Koch brothers, nor wealthy corporations would have the power to dismantle America’s democracy.
There is so much focus on template legislation written by ALEC and paid for by the Koch brothers, that Americans furious their democracy is being stolen, their tax dollars handed to the rich, and their government transferred to corporate rule forget that without loyal Republicans introducing and voting for ALEC’s laws in state legislatures and Congress, America’s democracy would not be in jeopardy. The irony is that the Kochs, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, and the State Policy Network are using the democratic process to dismantle America’s democracy, but it is through the democratic process that Americans can neuter those groups, take back their democracy, and force government to follow the will of the people and not the interests of the rich.
It is fortunate that ALEC, the Koch brothers, and corporate influence on government is finally being exposed, and it partially explains why ALEC was furiously writing legislation Republicans introduced and voted for to restrict the right to vote; particularly in Republican-controlled states. In some areas of the country, the exposure was too little too late, and laws such as stand your ground, right to work for less, and privatized public education are likely going to stay in place for a decade or more even if voters begin voting Republicans out of office in the next election. It does not mean that all is lost, but it does mean that it will take a long time to turn America around; especially in parts of the country where people are resistant to, and suspicious, of change and it is why ALEC targeted those areas first. It is also why the Koch brothers and their surrogates are spending millions upon millions of dollars in those areas to restrict voting rights and undermine education by portraying real democracy as an evil usurpation of their religious freedom, gun ownership, and responsible for government intrusion in their daily lives. It is an evil ploy, but it is successful because the population is inherently stupid and ignorant of how government works to benefit their well-being, and increasingly, their very survival.
It is no coincidence that Republicans have been successful in portraying President Obama as a dictator who suspended the Constitution and imposed tyrannical rule. Let’s face it, when nearly half the population actually believes a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution, it is little wonder they believe conservative propaganda from Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh that their only recourse to restore the Constitution and preserve their way of life is electing Republicans.
The good news is that America is still a representative democracy; at least for a while, and there are still enough Americans who understand their freedoms, well-being, and diminishing economic fortunes are being stolen by Republicans serving ALEC and its wealthy backers who deserve every bit of rage those who know they exist can muster. However, focusing on ALEC and the likes of the Koch brothers and ignoring their true source of power, Republican legislators, is about as stupid as ignorant Americans with no clue how government works. It is time to acknowledge that the reason ALEC and the Koch brothers will not pledge to support democracy is because their source of power, Republicans do not support democracy. If the American people cannot comprehend that simple fact, then maybe they do not deserve democracy after all and should get out of America now because they are ruining it for everyone else.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.