How to Overthrow the Government

Review & Commentary

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  1. Review

    The "body politic" in America must be in critical condition if a nationally known, conservative political commentator issues a manifesto on "How to Overthrow the Government." Arianna Huffington has made this prognosis and issued a call to action for "We the People" before it is too late. Her syndicated column appears twice weekly in newspapers around the country, including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and the Chicago Sun Times. A frequent guest on television talk shows including Cross Fire and Politically Correct, she is a contributing editor to Talk magazine. Both Newsweek and People magazines recently named her one of Washington’s most influential commentators. A former supporter of the Gingrich ‘Republican Revolution’, she was radicalized to issues of social justice when she was living in the "idyllic" county of Santa Barbara, California. There she was exposed to "homeless shelters, homes for abused children, and festering health problems in the middle of one of the richest communities in America."

    Her thesis is that we no longer live in a democracy which, we need to remind ourselves, is a "form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system." (The American College Dictionary) We now live in a plutocracy, "a government or state in which the wealthy class rules." (ACD) She writes that the recent history of the country is "a tale of two nations" divided "between the money elite getting rich from globalization and an increasing number of citizens left choking on the dust of Wall Street’s galloping bulls." During the past decade, the pay of CEO’s has gone up more than 440 percent, while 35.6 million people remain below the poverty line and eight out of ten families have seen their incomes go flat or go down.

    The economic boom of the 90’s has distracted people from realizing that we are in the midst of a national crisis. Our political system has become increasingly corrupted by the influence of money. The principle of "one person, one vote" has been replaced by "special interests," driven by greed and funded by a small corporate elite using money to control the agenda of both political parties. Ms. Huffrngton writes, "Like a swarm of ravenous termites reducing a house to sawdust, they are making a meal out of the foundations of our democracy. " The basic cause of the corruption of our democracy is the influence of "big money," particularly "soft money" in the political process. The result is that we have the best President and Congress that money can buy. It is obvious to everyone, except incumbent politicians, that campaign finance reform is one of the critical moral issues of our time and that some form of public financing for political campaigns must be developed.

    Ms. Huffington does not speak in generalities, but names names, and cites words and actions of Democrats and Republicans. No one in her sight on the political landscapes escapes her prophetic scrutiny for their share in creating a political system "characterized by greed, graft, duplicity and out-and-out lying" which has led "millions of citizens to turn away from democracy in disgust and resignation." Two out of three Americans did not vote in the last national election. Surveys show that nearly two thirds of eligible voters did not vote because they "agreed with the statement, ‘Public officials don’t care much what people like me think. "’

    Our political world is also divided into two "camps." The two major political parties are indistinguishable, but the division is between those who consider low voter turnout and the disengagement of people in the political process as a threat to our democracy and those who do not. The problem, she writes, is "that almost every elected official is in the latter camp." These officials have no problem with people dropping out of the political process because disengaged people do make waves, and politicians can continue to avoid the risks of leadership for the safety of pandering to public opinion polls. Ms. Huffmgton stresses the need to find new ways of increasing voter rights and participation, including using the Internet. She has chapters on the "the politics of personal destruction, " and a "case study" on how money corrupts the political process, focusing on the pharmaceutical industry.

    Ms. Huffmgton concludes her book with "A Call to Action" which consists of thirty-two things we can do to "help save your country." She also provides "A Call to Action Directory " which lists good government organizations, advocacy groups, foundations, and community service organizations, with addresses and web-sites, she has either been personally involved with or whose work she admires. She emphasizes that reform will occur only as citizens become outraged enough to demand that their leaders change or "force them out of business." She suggests that "when power elites cling to power even at the expense of the people’s expressed will, perhaps it is time to take a lesson from the revolutionaries who founded this country, and in the spirit of that other reform — the Boston Tea Party — toss them all overboard."

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