Thursday, August 27, 2009

"A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy"

In a 2003 article, Sheldon S. Wolin makes the case that the supposed "representative democracy" that we like to think governs our society has been eroded by the convergence of private economic interests and the public/governmental sphere. In the article, Sheldon argues that phrases such as "American empire" or describing the United States as "the sole remaining superpower" are misplaced and misleading. He argues:

Instead of those formulations, try to conceive of ones like "superpower democracy" or "imperial democracy," and they seem not only contradictory but opposed to basic assumptions that Americans hold about their political system and their place within it. Supposedly ours is a government of constitutionally limited powers in which equal citizens can take part in power. But one can no more assume that a superpower welcomes legal limits than an empire finds democratic participation congenial.

The article goes on to compare George W. Bush's administration with totalitarian regimes throughout history. Sheldon claims that the totalitarian nature of the Bush administration should be described as "inverted totalitarianism" which "exploits political apathy and encourages divisiveness" and characterizes our elected legislature as a "system of corruption (lobbyists, campaign contributions, payoffs to powerful interests) [that] short circuits the connections between voters and their representatives."

And yet one wonders how Sheldon would characterize the newly elected Obama administration's conduct so far. Has the new president taken steps to counteract the sweeping seizure of power in the hands of the executive branch that characterized the Bush administration? Has the new president appointed independent, "conflict of interest-free" individuals to run top political and economic departments and set the policy agenda for his administration? Despite all of the campaign rhetoric, it seems President Obama is succumbing to the powerful interests that have dominated Washington and our federal government for years.

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