by Jon Hellevig for The Saker blog
The coronavirus and related financial crisis ravaging America have revealed the country to be the dysfunctional, borderline failed state that it is. America’s dysfunction is broad in scope but almost entirely traceable to one common origin: the oligarch takeover of the economy, media, healthcare and political system. I have already reported on the first three of these , and here I will dissect what’s so fundamentally wrong with the political system.
Here are the links to above referenced reports:
Extreme concentration of ownership in the United States
The Oligarch Takeover of US Media
The Oligarch Takeover of US Pharma and Healthcare
For someone indoctrinated to believe America to be some shining beacon of democracy, it may come as a shock to learn how restrictive US election laws are and how openly corporate interests have been allowed to buy up what used to be a democratic system. The rules are so rigged and the corrupting influence of money so pervasive that you would be forgiven for thinking we were embarking on an analysis of a tottering banana republic.
Prior to having its attention diverted by the virus, the rest of the world looked on in disbelief as the circus-like US presidential primaries traipsed from state to state. Looking at the cast, one must wonder if this is really the best America has to offer. There was practically nothing of substance separating the candidates, with the sole exception of much-needed healthcare reform, a step advanced by a couple of candidates who were promptly branded by both parties as “socialists.” Meanwhile, emerging from the pack was none other than Joe Biden, a corporate stooge if there ever was one, whose history of corruption has been swept under the rug but whose dementia is becoming increasingly hard to conceal.
Nonplussed? You should be, because this is not democracy. It essentially amounts to a scripted talent show aimed at creating the impression that the American people have a democratic choice. The endless campaigning – often in disarmingly charming milieus such as rural Iowa diners – and numerous “debates” underscore the illusion of choice. But it is in fact the lack of real choice that necessitates such ostentatious pageantry.
In reality, the Democratic and Republican parties share almost identical positions on all major political questions. Neither challenges America’s hegemonic foreign policy and the war machine that imposes it; neither takes meaningful action to rein in the unrestrained oligarch crony capitalism or address the rigged financial markets; and both completely reject reforming the out-of-control healthcare system (with the exception of the few “socialists,” who are also smeared as “Russian assets”). The latest example of how in lockstep both parties march is the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, in essence just another corporate bailout. But such close alignment on the issues of true importance should come as no surprise: this “duopoly” is in fact owned lock, stock and barrel by the financial oligarchs.
In lieu of discussing the issues of true substance, the overseers of this duopoly have imposed over the public discourse an agenda that creates the appearance of an acrimonious political divide but conveniently skirts addressing the inner workings of the system. Heading up this faux agenda are climate change and the culture war, both of which encompass a myriad of sub-issues that serve to distract Americans from the insidious corporate takeover. Much as a mime pretends to be trapped in a phone booth, the two parties feign contention over these issues in what amounts to carefully staged political theater.
That America is not a real democracy but an oligarchy masquerading as one becomes even more clear when one lifts the hood on the election system, which I do in this report by providing comprehensive evidence that the system has been rigged in such a way as to institutionalize the two-party monopoly and reinforce the financial elite’s grip over it.
The three lynchpins of this ironclad grip are (1) the corrupting power of money, which has been institutionalized through campaign finance laws that have been manipulated by the Supreme Court; (2) the ballot access laws, which refer to the pre-screening rules that determine which parties and candidates can be officially registered to stand for election; and (3) the enormous bias of the oligarch-owned, propaganda-spewing media.
I will not address the media bias in this report – it should be self-evident to anyone who has followed American politics in recent years. It is sufficient to recall the blatantly partisan media attacks against Donald Trump over the last four years, which were based on statements ripped from context and exaggerated, interviews with sham experts, distorted facts, and entirely fabricated stories, not least of which was the giant hoax and nauseatingly fact-free Russiagate narrative. More recently, we have seen how the same media hyenas gave similar treatment to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders but a free pass to the establishment’s Joe Biden. It is important to realize how the ownership of American media has been totally concentrated in the hands of the oligarchy, which I documented in the above-referenced report, The Oligarch Takeover of US Media. Such an extreme concentration of media ownership makes it easy to control the narrative and wage a totalitarian information war on opponents, both domestic and foreign.
In in this report, I will concentrate on the two other major distortions: campaign finance and ballot access, after which I will briefly list the other factors that have combined to totally discredit what used to be a democratic process.
- “Money is Speech” – When money talks people listen
The republic was not exactly set up as a true democracy to start with. In the beginning, voting was restricted to property-owning white men. Only late in the 19th century and after one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history, did all men get the right of vote (in theory, but not fully to this day, as we shall see). Women got the right only in 1920. Contrary to the claims of actor Morgan Freeman in a 2017 propaganda video, American history “for 241 years of democracy” has certainly not been “a shining example to the world.” (Note 1).
Early efforts to push back against the robber barons who corrupted the political system with their wealth started with the Tillman Act of 1907, which – although ultimately unsuccessful – aimed to prohibit corporations and interstate banks from making direct financial contributions to federal candidates. Campaign finance restrictions that at least had the appearance of being effective were not enacted until 1971, when, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). However, the oligarchs soon mounted a counterattack to have key provisions of the law nullified on supposed constitutional grounds. This reached the Supreme Court, an institution whose pliability in the face of corporate interests belies its fastidiously independent veneer. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Court did uphold limits on individual contributions but, crucially, removed the caps on how much a campaign could spend and also the cap on so-called “independent expenditures,” which is money spent by ostensibly third-party corporations formally in favor of a particular candidate or against an opponent. The fig leaf is that these independent expenditures are made to look as if they are not in any way coordinated with the candidate or the candidate’s committee or party, although in reality of course they always are.
In Buckley v. Valeo, the Court invented the absurd theory that money equals speech, and therefore a limitation on how much money could be used for these independent expenditures was supposedly an unconstitutional infringement of First Amendment protections of free speech. (More about this absurdity below).
In 2010, a new concentrated attack on campaign finance restrictions emerged when the oligarchy’s pocket courts further proceeded to remove the remaining obstacles for the super-rich to buy American elections. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court struck down, again on extremely dubious free speech grounds, the rules that had prohibited corporations from funding election campaigns under the flimsy condition that the money be officially structured as uncoordinated independent expenditures. Only two months later, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the Deep State court par excellence) ruled that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited, either in size or source.
The super-rich have always dominated the funding of political campaigns – either directly with their money, or through the media they own, or by their shadowy non-profits – but these rulings finally obliterated a century of campaign finance laws and opened the spigots for unlimited political corruption by oligarch special interests, thus removing essentially all barriers to controlling every aspect of the electoral system. These decisions also led to the rise of the notorious Super PACs, the giant slush funds that can raise unlimited amounts of corporate funding – money that is often used on either abusive mudslinging ads aimed at opponents or for whitewashing the preferred candidates. But, of course, there is absolutely no coordination with the candidates themselves. (Trust us).
For more details on US campaign finance laws, please see the Appendix to this report.
Congress is the 5% serving the 0.1%
The number one precondition for American electoral success is either being rich yourself or being financed by the super-rich and their corporations. Usually both prerequisites need to be in place, especially for the higher offices. In no other country in the world does money play such an outsized role in politics.
Practically all US presidents have been millionaires in present day value and most of them multimillionaires. (Note 2). Interestingly, though, while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were not millionaires when taking office, they miraculously became so after leaving the White House. This came through windfall profits from book deals and speeches to Wall Street bankers. The same happened with Hillary Clinton. (Note 3). Obama even rather quite shamelessly booked those millions while still in office. This stream of easy money is tantamount to payment for services rendered for being a loyal servant to the Deep State (the same Deep State that installed him in the first place). It also shows future inhabitants of top positions that obedience is quite lucrative. (Note 4.)
If we look at the current members of Congress – the 100 senators and 450 members of the House – 200 are millionaires and that does not even include the value of their primary residences. Including that asset would put the figure at close to 500, or a whopping 90%. (Note 5). And that is even before considering the assets formally held by spouses, in trusts or offshore. The net worth of the average congressman is at least five times the US median. (Note 6). Interestingly, most appear to mysteriously get richer while actually serving in Congress. Moreover, the wealth increase tends to be disproportionate to what could be accumulated based on their salaries. In brief, Congress is the 5% serving the 0.1%.
During the 2015-16 election cycle, presidential candidates spent $1.5 billion, congressional candidates $1.6 billion, political parties $1.6 billion, and political action committees (PACs) raised and spent $4 billion. The “independent expenditures” of Super PACs amounted to $1.6 billion. (Note 7).
Clearly, had President Trump not been a billionaire he would never have had a shot at the presidency. This time around, Mike Bloomberg, the world’s tenth richest man and the consummate corporate insider, made a stunningly explicit bid to buy the Democratic nomination, spending over half a billion dollars on campaign ads in only a couple of months. Even before facing a single voter, Bloomberg, a preposterous choice to lead the Democrats, was given credibility as a serious candidate and was able to avail himself of a large platform from which to spread his message. That Bloomberg, with his billions and his establishment-approved policies, still managed to fail so spectacularly was a news item in and of itself, causing a lot of head-scratching among the pundits. He is the exception that proves the rule. (Note 8).
Practically all of the top Democrat candidates – except Bernie Sanders – were heavily funded by billionaires, as shown in the infographic below.
For candidates who don’t happen to already be fantastically wealthy, campaign financing from big donor corporations and the top 1% is decisive. This is why congressmen tend to spend about 40% of their time soliciting campaign contributions, as former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren revealed in his bestselling book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. (Note 9). Lofgren says outright that in “practice, the American political system allows only two political parties, which are wholly dependent on corporations and wealthy individuals to fund the most expensive campaigns in the world.” (Note 10).
The Democratic Party is a corporation by its own admission
Emblematic of the scam that US elections are was the Democratic Party’s admission to being a corporation.
In a trial against the DNC for the alleged rigging of the 2016 primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, the DNC’s attorneys asserted that the party has every right to favor one candidate or another, notwithstanding party rules that state otherwise, because the party is a private corporation and is therefore free to change its rules as it sees fit. Unsurprisingly, the court accepted this claim. (Note 11).
In actually democratic countries, meanwhile, parties are obligated to adhere to fair and transparent statutory legal procedures in their operations. (Besides, even a corporation would have a fiduciary duty to follow the rules it has proclaimed).
- Ballot access restrictions
That money has corrupted the system should hardly come as a surprise, but what is less apparent at first glance is how political competition is obstructed by a massive bulwark of byzantine regulations – the ballot access laws – that are designed to protect the deeply ensconced two-party duopoly.
The dominance of the two parties has not come about as a result of voters’ sympathies as expressed in natural democratic competition, but rather through devious manipulation of laws for the aim of securing monopolies for the establishment parties. Each state has enacted its own laws for determining the procedures for parties and candidates to be officially registered to run for office. Rather than attempting to level the playing field, these laws guarantee automatic ballot access to the monopoly parties while barring the door to rivals who could potentially threaten the absolute power of the oligarchs that these parties represent.
While the Democratic and Republican parties get on the ballot automatically, challengers must attempt to file separately in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Ballot access laws are determined by each state separately, and different rules apply for presidential, congressional, state and local elections. Presidential candidates from non-monopoly parties have to petition for ballot access in each state. This means navigating absurdly cumbersome procedures in each state separately and, among other things, having to collect some 1.5 million signatures nationwide. Furthermore, the rules and timing are different in every state, making it very difficult to overcome each state’s barrage of obstacles while meeting all of the deadlines.
In those states where a third party is unable to overcome the filing hurdles, voters are denied the opportunity to vote against the oligarchy. And of course a vicious cycle takes hold: because it is practically impossible to get on the ballot in all states, third-party candidates who are not on the ballet everywhere are seen as lacking national appeal, making them less attractive to voters (and, of course, this reinforces the difficulty of getting on the ballot in the future). Voters are loath to “waste their votes” on candidates who are deemed not to have a winning chance, an impression solidified by the lack of media coverage for such candidates.
Most states also apply rules requiring that a party meet a certain vote threshold in a recent election in order to keep its ballot status for the next election. For example, in Alabama a party needs to garner 20% in a state-wide election to retain ballot access. Such thresholds are set so high that they form an automatic party liquidation guillotine: few third parties ever make it on to the ballet and almost none make it regularly. This means that no momentum is ever achieved and the process of reforming the party and relaunching attempts to make the ballot must be done every few years. For would-be third-party activists it’s a hopeless proposition.
Such arbitrary restrictions and onerous obstacles toward even standing for election is practically unheard of anywhere else. Such a system doesn’t exist anywhere in the free world and may be bewildering for those accustomed to thinking of America as a beacon of democracy. The restrictiveness of America’s “democracy” is more appropriately compared to any number of “third-world” countries in which either only one party is allowed (such as North Korea) or where opposition parties exist but are cast to the far periphery of the political system. America certainly falls squarely in this category, but its innovation is to scrupulously maintain the façade of democratic processes, which essentially amount to carefully staged sparring, mostly over irrelevant issues, for the sake of maintaining the illusion of political plurality.
The restrictive ballot access laws also greatly diminish democratic competition in state legislative elections. In 2012, about one-third of all state House and Senate candidates ran unopposed – quite similar to how it was back in the USSR. (Note 12).
Examples of how the oligarch-owned monopoly parties are favored
The ballot access laws vary enormously from state to state, both in terms of the nature and severity of the requirements. North Carolina, with a population of about 9.8 million, requires almost 90,000 signatures. (Note 13). Oklahoma requires a petition signed by voters equal to 5% of the vote cast in the previous election. An independent presidential candidate, or the presidential candidate of a non-qualified party, may get on the ballot with a petition representing 3% of the last presidential vote. To remain qualified for the next election, a party must garner at least 2% of the total vote in the gubernatorial election.
In Nebraska, the rigged rules fast-track parties that received at least 5% of the vote in a statewide race. Nevada has doubled down on the election rigging by demanding that a party achieve 10% in the preceding general election for Congress.
Another example of egregious hurdles is Maryland’s requirement that an independent candidate collect four times as many signatures as a major-party candidate. In Florida, an independent presidential candidate needs 110,000 signatures, while Texas requires independent candidates to collect signatures equaling 1% of the previous presidential vote.
Georgia gives automatic ballot access to a political party whose candidate received at least 20% of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election or whose candidate in the last presidential election received at least 20%.
Kentucky uses a three-tiered system for ballot access based on the results of the previous presidential election. Only parties whose candidate for president achieved at least 20% of the popular vote are considered “political parties,” whereas those getting between 2% and 20% get the status of “political organization,” and those with less than 2% of the vote are deemed a “political group.” These classifications then determine the hurdles that must be overcome to get onto the next ballot. Clearly, parties that can’t even be classified as parties struggle to make headway.
Pennsylvania extends the “political party” status to a party that manages at least 2% in the most recent election, but after a two-year grace period a party must meet the outrageous threshold of having voter enrollment of no less than 15% of the state’s total party enrollment.
Et cetera and so on and so forth. Some states have been more innovative than others in putting in place a system that suppresses democratic choice.
Follow the links below for a closer look at all of the restrictive ballot access rules:
Only billionaires can attempt to overcome the hurdles – and even then often in vain
Only a well-established national movement – or a billionaire – could put together an organization that could even theoretically overcome the filing hurdles in all 50 states. This system of obstruction of the democratic process has worked precisely as intended: with the sole exception of billionaire Ross Perot, there has not been a single viable candidate outside of the monopoly parties.
In the 2016 election, while the Democratic and Republican parties were automatically on the ballot in all 50 states, the only other party that managed to get ballot access in all states was the Libertarian Party. The Green Party, which is a viable and increasingly popular alternative in many other countries, was left off the ballot in six states. The Constitution Party made it on to the ballot in just 24 states.
The billionaire Ross Perot ran in 1992 as an independent and in 1996 representing the Reform Party, which was set up specifically for his campaign. However, because the party had difficulty navigating the restrictive ballot laws, he was forced to run as an independent in some states. In 1992, he received 18.9% of the popular vote, making him the most successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of the popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election.
You can collect all the signatures you want, but it won’t help
It was estimated that in the 2016 election an independent candidate would have needed to collect a staggering 880,000 valid signatures to meet the thresholds in all states combined. (Note 14). But because the monopoly parties regularly challenge the legitimacy of the signatures that are collected, opposition parties must collect double that amount to stay above the thresholds. This is because there is a very real and proven risk that as many as half of the signatures can be declared invalid on absurd technicalities that are concocted following legal harassment by the monopoly parties. For example, signing “Bill” instead of “William” or leaving out a middle initial are among the many pretenses for signatures being disqualified. (Note 15).
Not only must candidates collect a prohibitive amount of signatures, but whoever ventures to do so should also be ready for a protracted legal battle to defend against endless litigation instigated by an army of attorneys that the monopoly parties can summon in order to obstruct third parties and independents in their efforts to register. The establishment lawyers, aided by corrupt state officials, go to great lengths to challenge the accuracy of candidate filings and often reject the authenticity of signatures on whatever flimsy or fabricated grounds they can find. (Note 16).
A case in point is the outrageous treatment that independent candidate Ralph Nader was subjected to in his 2004 presidential bid. (Note 17). After Nader’s campaign had managed to gather and file the needed signatures in all 50 states, the Democratic Party and its stooges mounted a campaign to challenge all of Nader’s filings. They ended up filing 29 complaints in 19 states against Nader’s campaign with the aim to get Nader stricken from the ballot. And, sure enough, they succeeded in taking him off the ballot in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio and several other states. Pennsylvania’s measures aimed at keeping independent candidates out included, in addition to the punitively high number of required signatures, a prohibition on people from out-of-state collecting signatures on behalf of a candidate and the requirement that every signature sheet be separately notarized. In Pennsylvania, a lawyer for the Democratic Party successfully invalidated – for ridiculous reasons – the authenticity of over 30,000 of Nader’s signatures. (Note 18). For Pennsylvania Democrats it was not enough, though, to simply take Nader off the ballot, they also proceeded to present him with a large bill for lawyers’ fees as a punishment for having had the audacity to encroach on the duopoly’s turf. Nader then became the first candidate in American history to be penalized, with a legal bill totaling $81,102, just for the crime of attempting to run for public office. (Note 19).
This later unfolded into a giant corruption scandal, which ultimately put members of both duopoly parties behind bars. It emerged that the Democratic Party had illegally enlisted an army of state officials to participate in the concentrated attack on Nader’s campaign. Not only were they working at taxpayers’ expense, but they even received about $2.3 million in government bonuses for their subversive activities. But, remarkably, even as it was proved that Nader’s petitions were challenged via illegal means, his $81,000 bill for the legal fees of his inquisitors stood. And no lessons were gleaned from the affair. Two years after Nader’s failed bid, Pennsylvania’s Green Party tried to run Carl Romanelli for US Senate against Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Rick Santorum. Romanelli managed to collect more than 100,000 signatures (more than the formally required 67,000), but he too ended up being challenged and knocked off the ballot. And, again, the Democratic Party’s legal fees were billed to Romanelli as the losing party. Since then in Pennsylvania numerous other independent candidates have been equally destroyed through various means.
With the path to the presidency littered with the bones of brutally snuffed out third-party bids, both Democrat-cum-Republican Donald Trump and Democrat-cum-Republican-then-independent-and-Democrat again Michael Bloomberg understood that working within one of the two parties – and using their massive financial resources – was a far more promising strategy than mounting a quixotic third-party bid. But the flip-flopping history of party affiliation of those billionaire tycoons clearly shows how the two parties are essentially interchangeable electioneering tools for the elite and that neither party is overly concerned with ideology or convictions.
The Constitution is not to blame
The morass of elections laws is often defended on the premise that it should be the prerogative of the individual states to set their own laws even for federal elections. However, Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution says that, while election laws are primarily set by state legislatures, Congress has the power to alter them as it sees fit. And indeed, Congress has done so by enacting uniform nationwide campaign spending laws – those very laws that were undermined by the Supreme Court’s nationwide rulings. In 1967, Congress also passed a law that mandated single-member districts across the country, which demonstrates that the Constitution and federal structure of the United States are not actually obstacles to conducting democratic reform of the ballot access laws, if only there were the will to democratize the country.
Richard Winger, in his article “How Ballot Access Laws Affect the U.S. Party System,” demonstrated that the Supreme Court has been a conniving partner in letting states tighten their ballot access laws with practically no limits. Although the Court has from time to time made a token gesture against some excesses in the ballot restrictions, such instances have never managed to set a precedent for curbing undemocratic practice. Winger writes that the Court’s ballot access decisions, taken together, have actually had the effect of increasing the severity of the laws, rather than ameliorating them. (Note 20).
Winger’s article also gives a lucid account of the history of these restrictive rules and how the screws have been gradually tightened.
There is nothing good in the supposed stability that a two-party system brings
Winger writes: “In a normal two-party system, there are still significant third parties. In the United States, there were significant third parties before 1930, but there have not been any since then. The reason there are no longer any significant third parties is because the ballot access laws have become severe.” (Note 21).
Apologists for the US two-party system argue that governments are typically more stable in two-party systems, because viewpoints on the fringes of societal discourse are supposedly neutralized. Wikipedia, for example, hilariously writes: “First-past-the-post minimizes the influence of third parties and thus arguably keeps out extremists.” (Note 22).
However, a US-style managed two-party system protected by rigged laws and court rulings provides as much stability as the USSR one-party system did, all while destroying political competition and depriving the system of the flexibility and mechanisms to adapt to new realities. A two-party system lacks any safety valves to let steam out, meaning the problems just pile up until the pressure is such that the whole system implodes. This has now happened with the US economy, a circumstance for which the rigid two-party system deserves heavy blame. The economic catastrophe in the US is in plain sight for anyone to see, same with the US healthcare debacle, but it is the rotten political monopoly of the corporate elite that has so steadfastly prevented the real issues from being addressed.
What is interesting – and underscores the undemocratic nature of the system – is that surveys consistently show that independents easily outnumber both Democrats and Republicans and that voters overwhelmingly would want to have another choice. (Note 23). In fact, 43% of Americans identify as politically independent. (Note 24).
More problems have piled up to destroy US democracy
In addition to the three main issues discussed above, I will briefly list a number of additional problems that contribute to the huge democracy deficiency in the United States.
(4) The US does not have a proportional voting system, which would force the monopoly parties to be alert to the real needs of society and which would guarantee political representation for competing ideas. Instead, plurality voting is practiced, which means there is a system of single-member districts where the winner takes all even if it does not achieve a majority of votes (first past the pole). In some states, the system is modified with a runoff between the two candidates who got most votes in the first round. A truly democratic system would require a proportional distribution of seats based on party totals.
Some of the election systems are truly absurd. A good example is California’s so-called “top-two” primary system, in which all candidates from all parties must participate in a primary, while the top two vote-getters – even if from the same party – move on to the general election. That really shows that the sham two-party system is, in reality, a one-party system.
(5) The problem with the single-member voting districts has been exacerbated by the practice of gerrymandering, which refers to the system of manipulatively redrawing the boundaries of electoral constituencies. This is done to establish an unfair advantage for one of the monopoly parties or for certain favored candidates within a party. In either case, the effect is to diminish competition.
(6) Large parts of the electorate have been disenfranchised, that is, unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote. Every state except Maine and Vermont prevents inmates from voting while in prison for a felony. Once released from prison, voter eligibility varies widely by state. A few states – mostly Southern states with large black populations – permanently deny the right to vote to all ex-convicts. That is nothing short of an extra-judiciary punishment, which is designed to prevent the poor and most oppressed sectors of US society from participating in the electoral process.
Over the last half century, the number of disenfranchised individuals has increased dramatically along with the rise in the inmate populations, from an estimated 1.17 million in 1976 to 6.1 million today. (Note 25). Nationally, 13% of the African-American population (an even higher percentage in some states) are now denied the right to vote because of felony convictions. (Note 26).
How capricious the system is can be seen from a case in Alabama, where a man was blocked from voting because he owed the state $4. (Note 27).
(7) Another absurd feature of the American election system is voter registration. In order to retain the right to vote, American voters must register in advance. In a true democracy, it is the obligation of the government to ensure that all citizens have easy and equal access to voting. It is the government’s duty to put in place a system for registering voters and not mandate that voters undergo cumbersome procedures. In democratic countries – like Russia – a voter is automatically enrolled based on residence. It is the obligation of the government to ensure that all citizens are entered in electoral rolls. Usually, this is done through the requirement that each individual provide his or her address to the authorities. But the US voter registration system is a totally arbitrary process that is frequently used to prevent – again – the poor and oppressed from voting. But sometimes the arbitrariness of this works the other way: voter registration laws are sometimes made so lax that non-citizen immigrants can unconstitutionally vote. This is the case, for example, in California, which does not require proof of citizenship for voter registration.
It gets more absurd from the point of view of a democracy when we consider that, when registering a voter, a party affiliation – Democrat, Republican or independent – must be indicated. The inability to conceal one’s political preferences means that there is no voting secrecy in the US. And this is public data for anybody to see, for example, a potential employer.
Altogether, there are 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that indicate a party when registering voters. In aggregate, 40% of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29% are Republicans, and 28% are independents. Nationally, the Democratic advantage in the party registration states approaches 12 million. (Note 28).
(8) After voter registration, there is the problem of voter identification at the poll station. For example, California has no law requiring that voters present photo identification, although sometimes it ends up being required anyway. But when voters do need to identify themselves they can provide any one of the following as proof: a California identification number, the last four digits of their social security number, a copy of a recent utility bill, a sample ballot booklet sent from the county election office, a student ID or a driver’s license. Of course, a passport can also be presented, but why bother when a utility bill is enough.
(9) Interference in politics and elections by law enforcement and intelligence agencies under the control of the US Deep State. Even with practically all aspects of the electoral system totally rigged in favor of the two monopoly parties, the establishment has lately been having problems with ensuring the desired election outcomes and therefore has resorted to openly employing their administrative resources in the State Department, law enforcement (DOJ, FBI) and intelligence agencies (CIA and the other 16 sisters) to interfere in elections. Most blatantly this has occurred in connection with the events subsumed under the Russiagate witch hunt. While cynically levying false accusations at Russia for meddling in the US elections, these agencies were actually engaged in this mendacious – not to mention treasonous – activity themselves. (Note 29).
(10) Finally, in winding up this discussion of the distortions in the American political system, I would be remiss if I did not mention a particularly lurid piece of American Kabuki theater – the public debates among the candidates. Whereas in more democratic countries debates are usually open to all candidates who meet a reasonable minimum threshold in America the show is reserved exclusively for duopoly candidates. The debates themselves are mostly platforms for empty clichés, prepared one-line zingers and vacuous rallying cries about the greatness of the country. The show is carefully managed in such a way as to keep meaningful issues from being addressed, thus preventing any challenge to the agenda of the establishment.
When televised presidential election debates started in 1976, the organizer was the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. However, the LWV withdrew in 1988 in protest of the major-party candidates attempts to dictate nearly every aspect of how the debates were conducted. (Note 30). In the statement announcing its withdrawal, the LWV prophetically stated that “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” This allowed the duopoly to seize full control of the debates through a vehicle called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which since its inception has been headed by former chairs of the national committees of the two major parties. In order to exclude third-party candidates, a rule was instituted that to qualify for a debate candidates must garner at least 15% in opinion polls and must be on the ballot in a certain number of states, which in itself is extremely hard, as we saw above.
Ross Perot is the only third-party candidate to have crashed the party of CPD-organized debates, having found his way onto the stage during his 1992 presidential run. The CPD itself was against Perot’s inclusion, but both major party candidates, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, were convinced that Perot would do more damage to the other one and therefore wanted him included. As it turned out, it was Bush who miscalculated with that gamble. (Note 31).
At a 2000 presidential debate, meanwhile, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was not even allowed to sit in the audience – much less participate – even though he had a ticket to be a spectator.
Typically for America, the CPD presidential debates are also a great platform for corporate sponsors, who display their advertisement during the show. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris was a major sponsor in 1992 and 1996, while Anheuser-Busch sponsored presidential debates in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
The way the Democratic Party has been rigging its primary debates – in an already familiar pattern – provides further insight into how the debate shenanigans work. In this recent primary season, the DNC actually changed the rules in order to exclude the undesired Tulsi Gabbard, who had committed the mortal sin of expressing views that questioned establishment orthodoxy. (Note 32). This came after the DNC earlier changed a different set of qualification rules so as to let Michael Bloomberg, who was not even on the ballot in the first primary states, buy his way onto the debate stage. (Note 33).Jon Hellevig
Some international comparison
The extreme disparity of the burdens placed on new parties versus the old established parties in the US has no parallel in any other democratic nation in the world. (Note 34). A research project conducted jointly by Harvard University and the University of Sydney ranked the United States worst in the West for fair elections. (Note 35).
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – which is about the only international organization allowed to monitor US elections – has frequently criticized the US for its restrictive ballot access laws and other serious shortcomings. (Note 36).
Concluding remarks – RIP democracy
I have earlier written an essay on how I view the essence of democracy, which appeared as Book II “On Democratic Competition” in my philosophy book All is Art http://www.hellevig.net/allisart.pdf (Note 37). I regard true democracy as a function of societal competition, or more precisely, the competition for regulating power relations in society.
It thus follows that democratic competition must be fair and conducted on equal terms for all participants, that is, all citizens. Democratic competition is the cumulative result of complex interrelations in all spheres of social life, and it is largely the overall condition of a society that fosters or hinders such competition. The quality of a democracy – whether it is an authentic one or it is badly compromised – is a function of all these conditions in their infinite variances.
For it to be fair and conducted on equal terms, this competition must be free from monopolistic forces that prevent all members of society from participating on equal terms. As we saw from the analysis of what counts as the democratic system in the US, all of the major components affecting the democratic processes have been consolidated in the hands of the plutocracy. The oligarchs have essentially privatized the political system and are able to exert disproportionate and usually decisive influence on outcomes that should be open-ended. Having bought the state legislatures, the oligarchs have enacted self-serving ballot access laws. With their money, they totally control all election-related avenues for mass communication, including the televised debates. They own the media, which denies 99% of the population a platform for their opinions and effectively filters out all alternate views.
Freedom of speech should be seen not only as a right to voice one’s opinions in the local bar but as entailing equal access to the means of communication, i.e. the media. Of course, this is not the case, which means there is not a level playing field for democratic competition – and this means no real democracy. The oligarch takeover of the US media has meant that huge censorship and propaganda machines have replaced what should be open and free discourse. The absence of true competition in the media has meant that not just is there no real freedom of speech but that the media has issued to itself a license to lie with impunity while sanctimoniously proclaiming the existence of a free press.
Elections should be considered only as the culmination of democratic competition when all other necessary conditions in a society are in place. But where such conditions for a democratic choice are absent, it can actually be more harmful for democracy (the sovereign power of the people) to carry on voting at the polls in what amounts to sham elections. To do is to perpetuate the system and implicitly provide one’s consent to the falsehood. What the US political elite is trying to sell us is that democracy means nothing more than periodically conducting elections between nearly identical oligarch-owned parties. In other words, we are to believe that as long as the form remains the substance can be cast aside. But if measured by that standard, even the USSR was democratic – once in a while people were dutifully summoned to the polls to confirm the absolute power of the monopolist.
As I have defined democracy, it must be seen and analyzed as a social practice, a phenomenon brought about by people’s interactions in all their myriad forms. This understanding of democracy as a social practice has not been properly appreciated. Scholars have tended to define democracy through formal and legalistic criteria, such as the existence of certain institutions and certain formal supposed legal safeguards of those systems (a system of courts, periodic elections, etc.). But as long as scholars do not move beyond those concepts to analyze what the institutions actually stand for, they fail to detect – or fail to admit – the obvious deficiencies of democracy in countries in which these formal criteria are met but where the democratic processes have seriously eroded. This is particularly pertinent in countries – such as the US – where much effort has been expended to maintain the illusion of democracy. My aim has been to bring about the understanding needed tackle this question by looking at the constituent phenomena of the social practice of democracy.
Today, precious little real democracy remains in the countries that boast of being democratic. The concept of “democracy” has been totally detached from the actual reality and is being maintained as a ritual symbol. Now utterly devoid of content, the word is incanted as a charm to instill the feeling among American and European regime subjects that they belong to a good and virtuous society and that they are empowered to influence the course of that society.
The indoctrinated classes speak of liberal democracy (by which they mean Western democracy), which they imagine to be a representative government put in power by free and pluralistic elections. The fantasy extends to a belief that the system is based on a separation of powers among a legislature, executive and judiciary. Of course, this is no longer the case: these branches operate in unison and the plutocracy presides over them all. Other incantations include the “rule of law”, “open society”, “Western values”, “human rights” and “market economy.” All of these are hollow shells of ideas that in our day and time mostly serve the purpose of virtue-signaling. The reality is that Western societies have turned into full-fledged repressive surveillance and propaganda states, in which any features of an open society were long ago eradicated. There is absolutely no market economy, but rather a totally monopolized crony capitalist system in which, as we are seeing now, corporate interests are bailed out at the first sign of trouble.
Scholars claim that liberal democracy supposedly is based on the principles of classical liberalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, their most pathetic theory is the so-called “democratic peace theory.” This fantasy posits that these “liberal democracies” are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other democracies. Several factors have been promoted as justifying the democratic peace theory, one more hilarious than the other:
- Democratic leaders are forced to accept culpability for war losses to a voting public;
- Publicly accountable statespeople are inclined to establish diplomatic institutions for resolving international tensions;
- Democracies are not inclined to view countries with adjacent policy and governing doctrine as hostile;
- Democracies tend to possess greater public wealth than other states, and therefore eschew war to preserve infrastructure and resources.
(List derived from Wikipedia).
Let’s imagine that to be true, then what explains that these Western countries have been ready and raring to incessantly wage wars of aggression against the rest of the world, the countries they define as not belonging to the club of democracies? Moreover, these Western “liberal democracies” do not go to war with each other, because they are all essentially occupied subjects of the United States.
In my book, I describe the conditions for an ideal, true democracy. But that does not mean that I think that such a democracy is possible; on the contrary, nothing of the sort can ever actually exist. Any open society will be attacked by oligarchs, who will try to subjugate it under their rule – and most often they succeed. This is true both domestically in their own countries and abroad. The US-based oligarchs and their helpers in Europe have over the last century assaulted every single nation on the planet. No country should ever leave itself vulnerable to such aggression. Each should devise a sovereign system of governance that is fair and based on real justice (social, economic, and moral) without playing the fool’s game of so-called Western “liberal democracy.” China has set a good example of this.
NOTES COME AFTER APPENDIX
CAMPPAIGN FINANCE LAWS, SMOKE AND MIRRORS
The US is obsessed with campaign finance regulations, which are structured so that if anything is restricted by one rule, it is allowed by another. There’s a Russian adage that perfectly describes the essence of the US campaign finance laws: “If it is forbidden, but you very much want it, then go ahead.”
Below is a summary of the campaign finance laws governing federal elections.
Candidates are free to use their personal funds for campaign purposes without any limits, but accepting campaign contributions from others is restricted – unless you use any number of the gaping loopholes available to circumvent the restrictions. An individual person can contribute only $2,000 directly to a candidate, per election. But whereas donations to individual candidates are limited to that relatively small amount, the backdoor is wide open. Individuals can donate as much as $777,600 per year to party committees, while if a spouse is included, a family contribution can reach $1,555,200 per year. These limits are reported as they stand after having been generously increased tenfold in 2014 in a drive to allow ever larger sway over the elections for the super-rich. According to oligarch shills, this enormous money would not be fatal for democracy, because it is “only allowed to go to special accounts earmarked for specific purposes, such as party headquarters maintenance, recount preparations and presidential conventions” and that the “money cannot legally be used for other purposes.” (Note 38).
One of the backdoors designed for circumventing campaign finance restrictions is for a lobbyist to assist a congressman in amassing campaign finance by arranging fundraisers, assembling PACs, and seeking donations from other clients. Yet more effective than gathering hard money (direct contributions to a candidate) is to work with soft money campaign finance. Soft money is the real hardcore of campaign finance. Soft money exploits the loophole in federal campaign finance and spending laws that exempts contributions made for general party-building rather than – ostensibly – for a specific candidate. This is a form of political money laundering, because the state party committees send the soft money up to the national party headquarters, which then can spend the money at its discretion without restrictions. (Note 39).
In addition to contributions given directly to candidates (candidate committees) and parties, individuals can contribute to a variety of political action committees (PAC). The limit for individual contributions to these are $5,000. Connected PACs can be set up by corporations, non-profits, labor unions, trade groups, or health organizations. These PACs are allowed to accept contributions only from managers and shareholders or members in the case of unions and non-profit organizations. The sponsor of a Connected PAC may absorb all the administrative costs of operating the PAC and its fundraising activities. A slightly other form is the Non-Connected PAC, which must bear its own administrative costs. PACs can give $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special). They can also give up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC.
Another vehicle designed to circumvent the original campaign finance restrictions is something called a Leadership PAC. These are PACs set up by elected officials and parties that make “independent expenditures.” If the expenditure is supposedly not coordinated with the candidate, there is no limit to how much can be spent on that candidate’s campaign. Leadership PACs are non-connected PACs, meaning they can accept donations from individuals and other PACs – so there’s another backdoor wide open. A leadership PAC sponsored by an elected official cannot use funds to support that official’s own campaign, but no worries, it may fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling, and “other non-campaign expenses,” as they call them.
Move one level up on the ladder of campaign finance schemes and you encounter the “independent expenditure committees,” commonly known as Super PACs. These are campaign finance vehicles that masquerade as third-party groups allowed to advocate for or against any candidate or issues, “as long as there is no coordination, consultation or request by any campaign or candidate.” That’s a fig leaf, if ever there was one. Everybody knows that coordinating is exactly what they do.
Tired of dabbling in a few thousand dollars, the heavy hitters have embraced these Super PACs. These represent the ultimate invention in free-for-all campaign finance, as they can raise unlimited amounts of funds, with the additional beauty that corporations, too, may invest as much as they want. While traditional PACs can donate directly to a candidate’s campaign fund, the Super PACs are not allowed to make direct contributions to candidates or parties and must ostensibly limit themselves to political spending independently of the campaigns. They are allowed to pay for ads supporting their favorite candidate and discrediting the opponents as long as they “act independently” and “do not coordinate” with the official campaign of the candidate they support. So according to the legal legend, Super PACs are independent from candidates, but obviously the reality is that their directors have close personal connections to the candidate and the campaign they support. (Note 40).
Super PACs are the ultimate dens of the political spin doctors, where nasty and abusive mudslinging ads attacking the opponents of the candidates that they are whitewashing are devised.
In addition to hard and soft money, the American campaign corruption menu includes dark money. Dark money refers to political spending by nonprofit organizations (referred to as 501(c) organizations). These are allowed to raise unlimited amounts from corporations and individuals, and to spend these unlimited amounts any way they wish. They call it dark money because that’s exactly what it is: the identity of the donors and of the campaigns, candidates and other possible recipients of the money, as well as the amounts raised and spent, are exempt from disclosure requirements. The flooding of elections with dark money was made possible by the US Supreme Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo. (More on this below).
Dark money syndicates are distinct from Super PACs. Both can raise and spend unlimited sums of money, but super PACs must disclose their donors, while dark money syndicates don’t have to do that and must not (ostensibly) have politics as their primary purpose. This is no problem for the US oligarchs, as they simply set up both types of entities to get the best of both worlds. This way corporations and individuals can donate as much as they want to the nonprofit, which isn’t required to publicly disclose funders. The nonprofit could then donate as much as it wanted to the Super-PAC, which lists the nonprofit’s donation but not the original contributors.” (Note 41).
Money is speech. Really?
The Super PACs were in essence generated by two highly questionable judicial decisions. In January 2010, the Supreme Court established in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government may not prohibit corporations from making independent expenditures for political purposes. Only two months later, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited in either size or source.
The super-rich have always been dominate in funding political campaigns – directly with their money, through the media they own and by their shadowy nonprofits – but these decisions finally obliterated a century of campaign finance laws and opened the spigots for unlimited political corruption by oligarch special interests in order to give them absolute dominance and free rein for total political propaganda.
The Supreme Court’s extraordinary maneuver to further rig the campaign finance laws in favor of the super-rich was based on two questionable legal theories that took root in the mid-1970s. One held that money is speech and the other that corporations are people. (Note 42). These fabricated legal principles were needed in order to create the framework for the politically motivated claim that a restriction on the amount of money that the super-rich can use for buying elections supposedly meant an infringement on First Amendment protected freedom of speech. Then, because free speech, like any other human right, can only belong to people, the court declared that corporations are people. In the case that established these doctrines, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, defended this juridical fraud by arguing that that limits on using corporate funds for campaigns were supposedly a “classic example of censorship.”
The perverted “money is speech” doctrine first appeared in a 1976 decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which invalidated some campaign-finance reforms that had come out of the Watergate drama. (Note 43). The Supreme Court then concluded that most limits on campaign expenditures, and some limits on donations, are unconstitutional because money is in itself speech and the “quantity of expression”– the amounts of money – can’t be limited. (sic! – or should we say sick!) What the Supreme Court did is to declare that corporations should have a First Amendment right to spend limitless amounts to meddle in US elections.
Obviously, the legal construction of a corporation means that it has some features of a person, mainly the right to register the title for assets and enter into agreements – which is why they are called legal persons – but the extension of corporate personhood to protection of free speech is an extraordinary invention.
The US Supreme Court, the guarantor of oligarch rule
Obviously, these court decisions are totally politically motivated and aimed at securing the super-rich’s overwhelming control over the US government. The US Supreme Court is not an independent arbiter of justice but rather a club of servants for the elite few. The appointment of a Supreme Court judge is an entirely political process. A candidate is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Considering that the presidents and the senators all are totally dependent on oligarch finance, oligarch media and of all the structures of the oligarch Deep State, the Supreme Court justices unsurprisingly serve the same interests. Considering that the Constitution does not set any qualification criteria for Supreme Court judges, better independent judicial protection would be achieved if the judges were appointed by lottery among all serving US judges.
This political process of appointment of judges essentially nullifies the constitutional principle of separation of powers, which holds that the three branches of government – executive, legislative, judicial – are kept independent from each other. With the politicized court the constitutionally intended checks and balances between the branches of power have essentially been wiped out.
These campaign finance shenanigans are part of an endless stream of rulings that show that the Supreme Court is following a political agenda favoring the already rich rather than administering justice. As David Kairys wrote: “At its core, this line of cases is about dominance of the political and electoral system by wealthy people and corporations and about legitimizing a political and electoral system that is unrepresentative, money-driven, corrupt, outmoded, and dysfunctional. Wealthy people and corporate managers shouldn’t dominate politics or have more and better speech rights than the rest of us. That seems like an obvious truth. And yet the Supreme Court’s recent decisions move us away from it.” (Note 44). All Court decisions in these matters (and not only these) have been heavily biased towards enabling the richest one percent to buy outsized influence of the US government. (Note 45). It is obvious beyond any doubt that the money-is-speech theory is nothing but a rhetorical device used exclusively to solidify this trend and to provide First Amendment protection for all money that wealthy people and businesses want to spend on election interference. (Note 46).
The oligarch shill Roger Pilon, in a speech to the libertarian stink tank Cato Institute, said that “the Court has said that regulations of political contributions and expenditures will be upheld only if they achieve a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.” (Note 47). See, compelling governmental interest is the question. With “governmental interest,” we must mean the interest of the government as a custodian of the people, that is, the people’s interest. Then the question really is what more compelling reason could there possibly be to restrict this falsely advertised “free speech” than guaranteeing an equal value to everyone’s vote. Government precisely has a compelling interest in fostering equal participation in the election processes and stopping the corrosion of democratic ideals that results when election costs spiral out of control and only the super-wealthy have influence.(Note 48).
The Supreme Court has been extremely choosy in implementing its newfound love for free speech
It is also clear that the Supreme Court has been extremely choosy in implementing its free speech policy. When it comes to forms of speech other than the dollars drowning the voices of the people, the government and the corrupted courts have had no qualms about passing laws and judicial resolutions that run roughshod over free speech. (Note 49).
More generally, the Court has not employed its free speech theories uniformly, but only when they suit their agenda. (Note 50). In the last few decades, the Supreme Court has limited speech rights for demonstrators, students, and whistleblowers. It has restricted speech at shopping malls and transit terminals. Taken as a whole the establishment’s pocket court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has enlarged the speech rights available to wealthy people and corporations and restricted the speech rights available to people of ordinary means and to dissenters. (Note 51).
The Court has in particular developed as so-called “secondary effects” doctrine, according to which the government is allowed to restrict speech if other purposes justify it. (Note 52). Thus, if the Court in reality believed its fabricated money-is-speech theory, then it would have good reason to conclude that this money-speech may legally be restricted in order to uphold the democratic principle of equal participation in elections, for which purpose it is necessary to restrict the ability of the super-rich to buy the elections wholesale. (Note 53).
It is also telling that when the Court struck down campaign finance limits by reference to this money-is-speech doctrine, it did not go all the way. What it did was to allow unlimited election campaign finance for corporations. That’s free speech, the Court opined. But at the same time, it upheld other restrictions on campaign finance. In particular, it reasoned that the restrictions on the amounts individuals could contribute to campaigns and other direct contributions (as opposed to the fictitious “independent expenditures”) were justified to avoid corruption. So, miraculously there was no problem with the same free speech principles in restricting the freedom of money-speech of the actual humans for whose protection the First Amendment was actually enacted. Essentially, corporations were given unlimited free speech protections that were denied to actual people. This just goes to show how politically expedient the court rulings are and how flimsy and inconsistent the arguments in support of them are. There is no justice, only rules that the powers that be put in place based on their judgments of how far they can go in a given situation.
1. Morgan Freeman Joins Propaganda War Effort https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/09/24/morgan-freeman-joins-propaganda-war-effort/
2. The Net Worth Of The American Presidents: Washington To Obama https://247wallst.com/banking-finance/2010/05/17/the-net-worth-of-the-american-presidents-washington-to-obama/5/
3. Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 71.
4. Bill Clinton says he left the White House $16 million in debt https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/04/the-clintons-erased-16-million-in-debt-and-accumulated-45-million.html
The Obamas reportedly just bought a $12 million home on Martha’s Vineyard. They’re worth 30 times more than when they entered the White House in 2008 — here’s how they spend their millions https://www.businessinsider.com/barack-obama-michelle-obama-net-worth-2018-7
Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 78.
5. Ranking the Net Worth of the 115th https://www.rollcall.com/wealth-of-congress/
6. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Net Worth Is Higher Than You Think https://www.financialsamurai.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-net-worth-is-higher-than-you-think/
7. Statistical summary of 24-month campaign activity of the 2015-2016 election cycle https://www.fec.gov/updates/statistical-summary-24-month-campaign-activity-2015-2016-election-cycle/
8. Ad spending barrels past $1 billion mark as Mike Bloomberg overwhelms airwaves https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/28/politics/2020-ad-spending-1-billion/index.html
9. Lofgren, Mike. The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), p. 67.
10. Ditto, p. 65.
11. DNC to Court: We Are a Private Corporation With No Obligation to Follow Our Rules https://ivn.us/posts/dnc-to-court-we-are-a-private-corporation-with-no-obligation-to-follow-our-rules
12. Santos, Rita. Gerrymandering and Voting Districts (At Issue) (2018).
14. The New Poll Tax: Ballot Access Laws Foil Independent Candidates https://www.opednews.com/articles/The-New-Poll-Tax-Ballot-A-by-Peter-Gemma-Election_Independent_Independent-Party_Independent-Voters-160901-723.html
15. Bennett, James T. Stifling Political Competition: How Government Has Rigged the System to Benefit Demopublicans and Exclude Third Parties (Studies in Public Choice) (2008).
The New Poll Tax: Ballot Access Laws Foil Independent Candidates https://www.constitutionparty.com/the-new-poll-tax-ballot-access-laws-foil-independent-candidates/
16. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/
17. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6
18. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/
19. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6
20. How Ballot Access Laws Affect the U.S. Party System https://journals.shareok.org/arp/article/view/550
22. Wikipedia: Single-member district
23. The Real Reason You Can’t Vote for an Independent Candidate https://time.com/4436805/lawrence-lessig-randy-barnett/
24. The Sneaky Silencing of Third-Party Politicians https://psmag.com/news/how-states-are-blocking-a-third-party-run#.8g9r7b4l6
25. 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016 https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felony-disenfranchisement-2016/
26. Fix Our Broken System
27. Alabama blocked a man from voting because he owed $4 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/27/alabama-voting-rights-alfonzo-tucker?fbclid=IwAR2Mqjc_KvnNkKuoRLuSpoq5w4Tle7nyLfdX_W5OuTg4jhsr0qYPkDJhJoU
28. Registering by Party: Where the Democrats and Republicans Are Ahead https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_rhodes_cook/registering_by_party_where_the_democrats_and_republicans_are_ahead
29. Tulsi Gabbard: Presidential Candidates Must Also Condemn Election Interference by US Intelligence Agencies https://www.anti-empire.com/tulsi-gabbard-presidential-candidates-must-also-condemn-election-interference-by-us-intelligence-agencies/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Headlines
30. Fix Our Broken System https://www.gp.org/fix_our_broken_system
31. How Third Parties Are Kept Out Of Presidential Debates https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-the-hell-how-third-p_b_11277474
32. DNC Scrambles to Change Debate Threshold After Gabbard Qualifies https://consortiumnews.com/2020/03/05/dnc-scrambles-to-change-debate-threshold-after-gabbard-qualifies/?fbclid=IwAR0ozgCxmPsSlaNSomQUZQ4XHZ-lCVQ5ehqGPjORzsN3KI1VI7crjs9VDGM
33. Michael Bloomberg is the only candidate to give money to the DNC. They just changed their rules to let him onto the debate stage https://www.insider.com/dnc-debate-qualification-rules-bloomberg-donation-2020-2
34. Santos, Rita. Gerrymandering and Voting Districts (At Issue) (2018).
35. Land of the Free? Harvard Study Ranks America Worst in the West for Fair Elections https://www.globalresearch.ca/land-of-the-free-harvard-study-ranks-america-worst-in-the-west-for-fair-elections/5555383?fbclid=IwAR15nyqQ6XyqHSyM5dAujkU9HJI4BO8M41Xw11htkrOEwqcf7IP9JaPSApc
36. U.S. Elections Are Neither Free Nor Fair. States Need to Open Their Doors to More Observers https://theintercept.com/2018/11/05/u-s-elections-are-neither-free-nor-fair-states-need-to-open-their-doors-to-more-observers/
37. Hellevig, Jon. All is Art. On Social Practices and Interpretation of Feelings. On Democratic Competition. (2007).
39. Soft Money Is Back — And Both Parties Are Cashing In https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/04/soft-money-is-backand-both-parties-are-cashing-in-215456
40. How Super PACS Shape U.S. Elections with Advertisements That Portray Candidates in Ways Publicly Identified Campaign Ads Often Avoid https://scholars.org/contribution/how-super-pacs-shape-us-elections-advertisements-portray-candidates-ways-publicly
41. Super-PACs and Dark Money: ProPublica’s Guide to the New World of Campaign Finance https://v2-www.propublica.org/article/super-pacs-propublicas-guide-to-the-new-world-of-campaign-finance
42. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html
45. Overturning the “Money Is Speech” Doctrine https://democracyisforpeople.org/page.cfm?id=19
47. The First Amendment and Restrictions on Political Speech
49. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html
52. Secondary Effects Doctrine https://uscivilliberties.org/themes/4457-secondary-effects-doctrine.html
53. Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/01/the-misguided-theories-behind-citizens-united-v-fec.html