By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
With Cuba and Cubans back in the news cycle – not only with the release of 3,522 prisoners from Cuban jails before the pope’s visit, but also with the first meeting of something called the Bilateral Commission last Friday, September 11th, I have an opening to comment on something that happened last month.
The Bilateral Commission was created August 14 during a visit to Havana by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as he presided over the official reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, and the raising of the American flag for the first time since 1961. The joint US-Cuban commission is a joint working group that both sides can use to establish cooperation in such areas like human trafficking and transnational crimes, environmental protection, prevention of natural disasters, health, civil aviation, law enforcement, as well as combating drugs.
It was something that Kerry said during his speech at the opening of the embassy that has bothered me for a month. After praising the progress made by both nations and their leaders in making large strides in the improvement of relations, Kerry then – stepping outside his role as a statesman – launched into a partisan diatribe – and called for “a genuine democracy” in Cuba.
This may seem as something a Secretary of State would say at a moment like this in Havana.
Yet the hypocrisy is so thick that I didn’t know whether to reach for my lens cleaner or the Alka-Seltzer.
Why is this hypocrisy?
It just so happens that many key people no longer still believe the US even has a “genuine democracy”.
Why no less a leader as Jimmy Carter has publicly proclaimed that the the country is “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery”.
A little more than a month ago, the former President was interviewed on a radio program by Thom Hartmann about the current state of American elections, particularly after the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opened the doors to “unlimited money” in our political discourse.
Here is some of what Carter said:
“It [Citizens-United court case] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. senators and congress members.
“So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
“The incumbents, Democrats, and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger, so it benefits both parties.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also disagreed with the controversial Citizens United ruling as she was one of the dissenters in the court’s narrow 5-4 decision – a ruling that erased campaign-spending caps. Ginsburg called it the “most disappointing” in her 22-year tenure on the court “because of what has happened to elections in the United States and the huge amount of money it takes to run for office.” RollingStone
Here we are in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign where there are a couple dozens of candidates out there – how can we possibly talk about not having a genuine democracy in America?
Yet the comments by Carter – the 39th President – mirror the conclusions of a study titled “Testing Theories of American Politics,” published by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page in the journal Perspectives on Politics, issued by the American Political Science Association in September 2014.
The study determined that –
“ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
“economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence.”
The study found the United States was more of a system of “Economic Elite Domination” than a majoritarian democracy. ThinkProgress
“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” HuffingtonPost
How can we yell foul in the middle of a democratic election?
In early August, The New York Times front page – as if to validate Carter – declared: “Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving,” and reported that:
Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.
A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans.
The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs.
Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.“
Finally, the New York Times article answered its own question, of whether the country was in a new Gilded Age or well beyond it — to a Platinum Age and stated:
The intensifying reliance on big money in politics mirrors the concentration of American wealth more broadly.
In an era when a tiny fraction of the country’s population has accumulated a huge proportion of its wealth, the rich have also been empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other regulatory changes to spend more on elections.
To peruse the top donors in presidential politics is to take a cross section of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
It then on and outlined who they were; 67 are billionaires or married to one, some inherited wealth, others self-made: “shy investors who earned billions in high-frequency trading, oilmen made rich by the fracking boom, and entrepreneurs whose bets in the health care industry have made them both wealthy and politically connected.”
These are the people who get to choose who runs for president in America.
Pity those poor Cubans, in their third-world sham elections. What they need is a little doze of American democracy. Yes, back to John Kerry. Here is more of what he said:
“We remain convinced that the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas and practice their faith, where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully; where institutions are answerable to those they serve; and where civil society is independent and allowed to flourish.”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Too bad it doesn’t work that way back here in the good ol’ US of A.
John Lawrence says
“where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully” Does Kerry really think economic and social justice is realized more fully in the US? That’s laughable. In Cuba medical care is free, and Cuban doctors help out all over the world. They have an acknowledged superior medical system and high level of expertise. We have just seen what the result of the US policy of regime change (removing dictators so that democracy can be installed, yeah right) has brought the world: a 60 million person refugee crisis for Europe.
Healthcare may be “free” and the education and quality of it’s doctors on a very high level but it’s not quite the paradise many think it is. And yes many of it’s problems can be attributed to the embargo but not all. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1215226
Talk to any Cuban expat and I don’t mean just older die hard anti Castro types but also younger more liberal leaning. None that I’ve ever known would like to go back to the type of health care system that Cuba has. Not that they’re saying our own doesn’t have a lot to be desired but as the saying goes, the grass is always greener.
John Lawrence says
This is from the link you provided:
“This highly structured, prevention-oriented system has produced positive results. Vaccination rates in Cuba are among the highest in the world. The life expectancy of 78 years from birth is virtually identical to that in the United States. The infant mortality rate in Cuba has fallen from more than 80 per 1000 live births in the 1950s to less than 5 per 1000 — lower than the U.S. rate…”
I don’t see what’s not to like. Is it because doctors don’t get rich in Cuba? Is that the rub?
Who said anything about paradise?
Ok here’s a better link: http://moon.com/2012/01/cubas-healthcare-system-has-its-downside/
I’m not saying their system is all bad, but it needs some improvements.
Desde la Logan says
Compare Cuba’s healthcare system to other Latin American nations. Don’t compare Cuba to the U.S. Cuba’s system is vastly superior to other comparable countries. If you’re poor in Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, etc. and you have a medical situation you’re screwed (poor people here too). Not the case in Cuba.
bob dorn says
If only we could tax corporate contributions to campaigns.
Apparently Sect. Kerry didn’t say ‘…like we have in the USA.” Y’all are inferring that. He made a clear wish statement that I, for one, fervently echo for our own country — as well as for Cuba.
Frank Gormlie says
Kerry was clearly implying “like we have” in calling for a genuine democracy.
I’m only judging from what you quoted. Not enough evidence.
That’s the difference between ‘imply’ and ‘infer’.
Philly Joe Swendoza says
The United States today is the most dangerous country in the world & is on a path to becoming the first great totalitarian society of the 21st Century. Just as the USA became the first slave republic in modern history, it will not be a jack-boot tyranny, but more like Huxley’s “Brave New World” or Orwell’s “1984.” Let us pray that God does not look like Uncle Sam or GI Joe or Donald Trump.