A Process That Makes Democracy Look Bad

The circus-like U.S. political process, with a media that treasures trivia over substance, is giving democracy a bad name in the world and making alternative structures look good by comparison, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller 

The “Great Debates” between candidates Clinton and Trump encapsulate what is wrong with the U.S. political process. There’s been little substance; it’s all about personalities and sound-bytes and gotcha. Never mind the grand issues of our time and how they should be addressed seriously and comprehensively — income inequality, corporate control of media, corporate-dominated electoral funding, global warming, long-term global refugee issues, jobs going overseas in perfect conformity with capitalist principles, Wall Street corruption, race relations, health care, etc.

None of these have easy — or palatable — answers and so the system reverts to entertainment over substance. The Romans got it right way back — it’s all about bread and circuses. We have only the trappings of democracy to pretend that the people are actually deciding anything.

The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads "Vote Trump" on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads “Vote Trump” on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

And it’s not new. Just read historical accounts of the savage political campaigns going back to our Founding Fathers down to the vituperative language of today. Sadly, this all may just reflect the human condition, locked in eternal struggles for power since cave men. Might generally makes right; but might today no longer flows from the cave-man’s club. Today it is control of the media, the banks, the political establishment. There will always be a political establishment defending its own.

Let’s not forget Winston Churchill’s famous quote that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Corruption and incompetence may still be preferable to assassination or revolution that produce leaders nobody ever voted for. 

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