Nation writer Eric Alterman’s 17,000-word essay “Kabuki Democracy” is about one-third interesting points, one-third liberal whining about how all-powerful talk-radio hosts and Fox News prevented a progressive black man from being elected President (oh wait a minute, that didn’t happen), and one-third problems and potential solutions. It points out, however inadvertently, the follies of centralism from the point of view of the left.
If we have a “Kabuki Democracy” with the puppeteers being the vested interest, it’s because the powers that be are powerful and intend never to give up the strings of that power. And what makes them even more powerful is that they can focus much of their efforts in one single place: Washington D.C., where they get what they want or prevent what they don’t want from happening.
If it is true that Senators spend the bulk of their time fundraising (even with six-year terms), would not repealing the 17th Amendment be a way of correcting this problem? How much democracy can there be in a choice between two corporate puppets? If it is true that corporations have corrupted both the political and regulatory process on the federal level, would transferring such powers more and more to states, counties and townships be a way of preventing this from happening? If organizing at the local level may offer Leftists a better chance of changing the political landscape, why not more local government?
This is not to say that corporate money would eventually flow downward, because it probably will. But it is a lot easier to organize in a state senate district than across the nation all at once. A nation of thousands of small communities, counties, townships, etc. may very well provide a better check on the corporate, interest dominated central government than thinking a president can change the system all by his lonesome. The netroots got its start outside the Beltway, not in it. Perhaps if the Left can cross the Rubicon and start believing they can make more of a difference at the courthouse, rather than continually organizing marches on Washington D.C.—or thinking that they someday will control the center (which they won’t)—they might find it more productive and rewarding and also be joined by libertarians and conservatives who feel the same way. Then we can truly have a two-party system pitting the center of power against everyone else.