The Myth of Democracy

THE RECENT ISSUE of Sojourners ("To the Highest Bidder: Stopping the Sellout of Democracy Before It's Too Late," November-December 1995) seemed to me ironically to carry the seeds of its own critique. Embedded within the overall theme of rescuing American democracy from the evils of money was the fabulous collection of memories of and an interview with Daniel Berrigan ("'We Could Not, So Help Us God, Do Otherwise'"). The obvious irony: If Berrigan ever claimed as part of the Christian call the reformist engagement with the imperial institutions of government, I missed it.

Two premises from the various articles are subject to question. First is the implicit notion that the control of U.S. governmental powers by monied interests is a new phenomenon, and one that can be reversed in order to recover some mythical past in which the situation was different. Second is the premise that a Christian coalition on the Left that engages the political institutions with the purpose of reshaping them is a warranted and timely response to the heavily publicized right-wing variety.

From its foundation as a haven for the expatriate English gentry, American governmental institutions have been captive to the will of those with money. There has never been a time in U.S. history when "democracy"-in the sense of government by the will of the people-has been a realistic option. Of course, "popular opinion" is duly consulted when the corporate powers exercise their kingmaking functions. But it is the nature of the beast that control of the system will always remain firmly in the grip of the few.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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