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On Oligarchy

Oligarchy, simply defined, is rule by the rich. America is not a pure oligarchy, at least not yet. We have senators and congressional representatives who have been workers, who have held low-paying, unglamorous jobs. Of course, it takes money to get elected, and most of these politicians have become rich along the path to political power.

Although oligarchy is not complete in the United States, it is strong, and growing stronger. Increasingly, political power is being held by people who were born rich and have never known true financial hardship.

George W. Bush is well-known to come from an extremely rich and powerful family. Heck, his father was accused of being born Òwith a silver foot in his mouth.Ó

No matter how many times he poses in ratty jeans next to a stump somewhere outside Waco, George W. Bush and his band of Republican Radicals are not the outsiders they pretend to be. Bush and his cabinet are insiders, drawn from the corporate boardrooms and lobbyist backrooms of America. Apparently, they believe that Americans are just too stupid to notice.

Let us be honest, however, and acknowledge that the oligarchy is not exclusively Republican. John Kerry and Howard Dean, the two democrats who have gained the most attention and popularity as challengers to George W. Bush, were both born into very well-to-do families.

These wealthy candidates will tell you that it doesnÕt matter that they were born wealthy. ThatÕs a load of bull, of course. Few Americans find it easy to trust a politician to make decisions about issues like health care or social security when that politician has never known the fear of not being able to survive if they cannot keep their jobs.

George W. Bush has shown his true blue blood colors as president, casually withholding funds from programs that bring such basic needs as medicine and education to working Americans. Even as Bush has cut and eliminated programs to help out working Americans, heÕs fought to eliminate all estate taxes on rich teenagers who inherit millions or billions of dollars from their parents.

In his career, John Kerry has been much more compassionate than Bush. Nonetheless, if Kerry wins the White House in 2004, people who believe in protecting communities of working Americans ought to watch him like a hawk.

Being from a rich family does not automatically make a politician an oligarch, but it does merit extra suspicion from voters, especially when a politician claims to speak for the majority of Americans. As they campaign this year, letÕs watch what Kerry and Bush do, not just what they say. LetÕs also watch who they get their advice from. George W. Bush has, throughout his occupation of the White House, relied almost exclusively on the advice of wealthy corporate executives. We must make sure that John Kerry does not show signs of the same favoritism for the rich during his campaign.

Those of us who were not born with huge inheritances must do our best not to act the part of the meek, oppressed poor. An inactive, apathetic class of workers would be a depressing confirmation of the oligarchÕs proud disdain of those who must struggle to make a living. The only way to ensure that oligarchy does not come into total possession of American public life is to behave as if the oligarchy does not have the power to resist the democratic majority. No matter what the truth of the oligarchic influence over our politicians, we must participate in the political process as if our participation makes a real difference. We must learn, speak up, and vote.

2004 does not bring us a choice between rich man and poor man. There will be no clear class warfare in this election. So, the average American voter must make an imperfect choice of the oligarch who has shown the most real empathy for and understanding of working Americans. We donÕt have the option of waiting for the perfect proletarian politician. We must work with the more democratic parts of the oligarchy as a first step before we can begin the longer task of undoing the oligarchy. The more we take the effort to think and act for ourselves, independently of the influence of expensive political campaign gimmicks, the less grip that the wealth of AmericaÕs richest families will have on our government.


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