Robert Reich: Democracy’s Two Enemies – OpEd


The stakes in the midterm election, now just a few days away, could not be higher. In many ways, these midterms will determine the future of American democracy.

But let’s be clear. There are two enemies of democracy in the upcoming midterms:

Election deniers, undermining Americans’ faith that our system is unbiased.

And big money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy, undermining Americans’ faith that our system is fair.

We must fight both.

Election deniers are dangerous enough, but big money is also poisoning our politics.

So far, the 50 biggest donors in the midterms have collectively pumped a record $1.1 billion into political committees and other groups supporting candidates. Most of this is going to Republican candidates.

Corporations are also setting contribution records. The total cost of the 2022 midterm elections is projected to exceed $9.3 billion, on track to surpass the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion.

As political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded years ago after examining in detail 1,799 policy issues before Congress, “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.”

Why? Because moneyed interests have bribed lawmakers to do their bidding.

Trumpism is a clear and present danger to American democracy — but so is the corruption of our system by big money. 

And the two are related.

If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who are working harder than ever but getting nowhere, and who understand that the political-economic system is rigged against you and in favor of the rich and powerful, what are you going to do?

Hopefully, you’ll reject Trumpism. You’ll see it for the snake oil it is.

But there’s a chance you might just believe Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and that the system is rigged. And you might just be willing to throw out our current democracy in favor of dictator and his enablers who promise to bring power back to the people.

In other words, the overwhelming dominance of big money has created a deep cynicism about our democracy, which Trump and election-denying Republican candidates are exploiting to the hilt. 

Those of us who love democracy must do more than vanquish Trumpism. We must also vanquish the corrupting influence of big money on our system.  

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