By Ralph Nader
In 2006 a book was published called Losing Our Democracy by civic leader, Mark Green. His 21st book, it was the usual Mark Green brand of meticulous research with memorable examples. One would have thought such an important subject would have received wide coverage and circulation. In fact, it was almost completely ignored by reviewers and the media interviewers. In 2017, the danger of having the door shut on the practice of democracy by its citizens is more important than at any other time in recent history.
Republicans prefer to use the words “liberty” and “freedom,” not “democracy.” Why? Because democracy includes these rights but adds “justice,” which holds those in power accountable and brings them down to earth where people live, work and raise their families.
Look at some ways democracy’s doors are closing. Thirteen Republican senators (all men) are now meeting secretly behind closed doors to further deny American families access to affordable, accessible healthcare. They arrogantly (or cynically) have refused to hold a single public hearing. In 2009-2010 the Senate held over 100 bipartisan public hearings and 25 days of floor debate before passing The Affordable Care Act, having accepted numerous Republican amendments.
Today, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the dictator of the Senate, aims to jam this cruel and vicious legislation through the Senate by the end of June, a bill which would take away health insurance from 23 million people, many of whom will die or remain sick, and destroy many critical protections for vulnerable Americans. The legislation also gives a huge tax cut for the rich at the expense of America’s sick children and adults with disabilities.
This is just one example of Americans being denied access to justice in “the land of the free.”
Voting suppression and gerrymandered one-party districts exist in many states. More doors closing. Your right to your day in court against the perpetrators who caused your wrongful injuries has been rolled back in the House of Representatives and in many state legislatures, literally closing democracy’s door to your local courtrooms.
The US Supreme Court, with a 5 to 4 corporatist majority, thrives on closing doors on workers organizing through labor unions, consumers standing up for their rights and citizens demanding environmental health and fair taxation for corporations.
Astonishingly, the Trump White House suggests that its federal agency heads do not have to respond to inquiries from members of Congress, while Congressional leaders are trying to hold back reporters’ access to legislators on Capitol Hill.
At the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Ajit Pai is pushing to shut out or make more expensive the people’s access to the Internet and to their own public airwaves. Of course, this will benefit big business.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, led by former Wall Street executive Jay Clayton, is moving to make it even more difficult for shareholders – the owners of publicly traded corporations – to exercise their rights of ownership. Many shareholder rights have already been nearly stripped bare by previous corporatists. Closing doors to the owners in favor of corporate bosses in a touted capitalistic economy is what is partly meant by the corporate state – using government to further entrench the corporate supremacists.
The mass media is shutting out the works of citizen groups who are the advocates for more open doors for justice on behalf of consumers, families, marginalized groups, workers and the environment. See breakingthroughpower.org and ask why, over eight days last year, this historic gathering of civic leaders and justice builders was blocked out by the big print and electronic media. In an age of narrow and sensationalized coverage, it is more difficult than ever for the civil society to participate in mainstream discourse via the media.
Doors are closing on small individual debtors. Fees for regular people to file court cases are going up and judicial procedures are reversing their historic purpose and closing doors on the powerless.
Many consumers are closing doors on themselves by not fighting for their existing rights or to create new rights Buying from giant absentee companies like Amazon closes the doors on Main Street, with its community-binding small businesses that pay property taxes for schools and other public facilities.
What used to be heralded as our sacred right to “freedom of contract” has been frozen by the fine print contracts that we either sign on the dotted line or click to accept. These inscrutable contracts strip us of our consumer rights, block our right to go to court, including banding together in class actions, and often give the vendors the power to change the terms, unilaterally claiming terms buried in the fine print give them the ultimate power of control.
Third political parties that wish to give the voters more voices and choices are held down by the big two-party duopoly. Independent new parties know what closing democracy’s door is like from ballot access obstacles to exclusion from the candidate debates.
Citizens of America, the Fourth of July is coming up – the day in 1776 when American patriots rebelled against King George III’s closed doors and exclusion from justice. Then and now, everyday people find themselves shut out by the powers that be. Today, millions of shut out Americans face daily denial of healthcare, secretive companies repeatedly telling them to get lost and bureaucrats invoking government secrecy.
Raise your voices, Americans! Shake off the clever slogans and lies of the craven politicians and the intricate chains enveloping your credit/debit economy. Challenge an educational system that avoids giving the next generation the citizen skills and experience necessary to open the doors of democracy and secure its many blessings.
Start with the Congress to whom you have delegated, but not surrendered, your Constitutional power. This Fourth of July, you can make your voices heard in front of your senators’ and representative’s local offices, and call on your friends and neighbors to do the same through social media. No one can stop you from opening that door, at least not yet. Visit breakingthroughpower.org for a Citizen Summons to your legislators that can start opening the doors.