Jimmy Carter says that the US is no longer a functioning democracy

The former president has some very harsh but accurate words about the state of the US, following the ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United allowing the almost unlimited and unregulated amounts of money into the political system.

It 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’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

And right on cue comes a report of five Republican candidates, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, being summoned (and I use the word deliberately) to appear before the mighty Koch brothers to see how worthy each one is of being given bags of gold. It is not clear why Fiorina is in the mix since she has no chance of winning except perhaps to avoid reinforcing the image of the Republican party being an all-male enclave and/or signal that they would look favorably on her as a vice-presidential pick.

The Koch audition is part of a series of auditions such as those before Sheldon Adelson. And these are just the high-profile ones. There are other billionaires shopping around for a candidate to buy.

Big moneyed interests have always enjoyed an outsized influence in American politics. But that influence was always exercised discreetly, behind the scenes, allowing the candidates to look as if they were the more powerful partner. Now there is no pretense. The oligarchs are making it perfectly clear that they are running the show.

Carter is the latest to use the word oligarchy to describe the US. I have noticed that more and more mainstream observers are using the word that was once used almost exclusively by leftist commentators to describe other countries. The fact that a former president, and someone who can hardly be considered a radical, is describing the US in such stark terms should be a cause for concern.


  1. Charles Trowell says

    Jimmy Carter was a so so president but he has done more for this country and its people as a former president than most others have done while holding the job. If only we could say that of all our former presidents. And he is not afraid to tell people how it is either.
    I have much respect for this man.

  2. Nick Gotts says

    Interestingly, according to Ed Brayton, Rand Paul refused to obey the summons, citing a prior engagement. It’s uncomfortable to feel even a tiny bit of respect for such a pusbucket, but fair’s fair.

  3. Nick Gotts says

    Further to #3. Of course it may be that Paul has already been bought by some other oligarch and is merely acting on instructions.

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