The Future of Democracy in the United States
By Bruce Rossley
The current and future state of democracy in the United States and the critical issue of climate change will be the topics of discussion at a major presentation sponsored by San Miguel Democrats Abroad on Thursday, October 23, at noon in the Sala Quetzal at the Biblioteca. This presentation will be made by Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik. There will be no admission charge, but seating is limited.
The elections of 2014, 2016, and 2020 will be the main issues discussed. These watershed elections will likely determine whether the future course of the US will be as a force for democratic reform, or as an authoritarian regime ruled by an oligarchy. At stake is also the US role as a force for climate change mitigation, or as the spoiler in the race to save the world’s ecologic balance.
Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik are democracy and climate change activists who have just returned from Detroit and New York City. In Detroit they helped organize demonstrations to oppose the emergency management foisted on the city, and water shut-offs in the African American communities. In New York they helped publicize the climate march that drew 400,000 demonstrators to New York on September 21, and the civil disobedience Flood Wall Street actions on September 22, where they were arrested with 100 other sit-in protesters.
Those who have read Victoria Collier’s Harper’s Magazine groundbreaking cover story “How to Rig an Election” are familiar with the history of manipulation, computer fraud, and stolen elections in the US—specifically 2000 and 2004. They are also aware that manipulation of vote totals are a possibility in 2014 and 2016. Collier is director and web master of democracymovement.us, the website of the National Election Integrity Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving democracy.
Ptashnik is a former state senator from Vermont, and a longtime environmental and human rights activist. He had championed and helped pass Vermont’s groundbreaking Clean Elections Law (campaign finance reform), the Vermont GMO labeling Bill, civil union for same sex couples, and health care reform. He is now supporting a financial transaction tax (FTT) on Wall Street, and a carbon tax on fossil fuels, as part of his work on climate change. He is currently National Director and Organizer for the NEIC, and is National Campaign Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). The two activists will be speaking about their work at the conference.
Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik spoke of their presentation at the forum by saying, “We are entering a new political paradigm of corporate control over American politics that has not existed since Theodore Roosevelt broke the monopolies of the Robber Barons who dominated US politics in the late 1800s. Today we see an unprecedented attack aimed at rolling back a host of the 20th century’s New Deal safety net laws, social security, civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental protection.”
America was at its prime during the mid 20th century despite the war in Vietnam, but today Main Street is deteriorating, public education is under attack, and the safety net is being disassembled. Now we live in a world dominated by the Koch Brothers, EXXON, ALEC, and Tea Party-Ayn Rand Libertarians, plus the Supreme Court Citizens United decision which declared that “Money is free speech,” and “Corporations are people.” The political playing field is most definitely tilting to the right precipitously, as the court’s decisions have unleashed unlimited corporate dark cash into elections.
Victoria and Ben live in San Miguel in the campo on a permaculture farm called the SM Center for Ecological Sustainability. The center, constructed with natural adobe, is off -the-grid, relying on wind power and solar photovoltaic panels for energy. At the center there are 1,000 square meters of organic gardens, 80 fruit trees, a greenhouse, and a rainwater harvesting system connected to a drip irrigation system. The center has hosted free tours to hundreds of kids from the San Miguel school system and summer programs.