Strategy for Democracy: From Systemic Corruption to Proto-Totalitarianism in the Second Gilded Age Plutocracy, and Progressive Responses

544 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2017 Last revised: 23 Jun 2019

Date Written: 2019


Even President Trump's inaugural identified as his central issue "whether our government is controlled by the people." Polls show this to be a leading public concern. But it has until recently been ignored by the bipartisan political establishment which controls government for the corrupt plutocracy. Those who pay to play do not govern for the people who vote. Elected representatives are able to point to a judicial supremacist Court as the cause of legalized and hence systemic corruption. (Ch. 1) This issue of failed democracy accounts for Trump's victory. His" Drain the Swamp" slogan was more convincing to some than reliance on the Clintons' plutocratic political machine. "Lock her Up" also resonated with the view that the Clintons were masters of the corrupt system. More diversionary identity politics promised no plausible solution to the systemic political corruption that Trump described in his fraudulent campaign that matched the totalitarian playbook. See also this author's "The Amendment Diversion,"

That plutocratic rule generates extreme inequality while threatening catastrophe on several other vectors is now focusing increased public attention on its cause. A ccrrupt plutocracy becomes inherently unstable as public awareness of its pervasive, systemic, nature grows. The progressive failure for over two generations to unite in offering any competent anti-corruption strategy to restore democracy from the grip of this system has left the field open either to political activism in search more of charitable funding than political victories (Intro.(A) & Ch.1) or to fraudulent totalitarian solutions as an outlet for voters' increasing frustration, desperation and anger. (Ch. 2).

While some do accurately grasp the cause of political corruption, and its central role in causing systemic dysfunction, no one, much less Trump, has offered an effective strategy to solve the deepening problem that democracy has been hijacked by plutocracy. Piecemeal soundbite solutons are peddled by politicians and their professional activist allies. (Ch. 3) Similarly, Bernard Sanders who made this issue a cornerstone of his lucrative campaign against Clinton had no better strategy to offer than the profoundly futile advocacy of a constitutional amendment. This is the standard diversion from effective anti-corruption strategy. Citizens United (2010) has been the diversionary target of such advocacy, though a deeper analysis of its content and context reveals that it is of minor importance to the systemic problem created by a long line of decisions since Buckley v Valeo (1976). Even worse is the professional activists' sloganeering about corporate personhood which is rooted in a convenient fiction of political activists about what the infamous Citizens United decision in fact held. (Ch. 4)

The immediate cause of the current crisis of democracy is not the lack of constitutional text by means of new amendment, but a judicial supremacist Supreme Court for which no amendment is either needed nor effective (Intro(B) & Ch. 5). Plutocracy precludes progressive amendments. (Ch. 6) Judicial supremacists beholden to plutocrats who elevate them to the Supreme Court, in any event, distort the meaning of amendments as they have the First Amendment, which nowhere requires a democracy to tolerate either influence peddling by elected representatives or the plutocratic financing of paid propaganda in election campaigns as both a form of payment for and a means to obtain that peddled influence. The supremacist Court's 1976 ruling that it does, based entirely on shell-game logic, and in violation of several fundamental and historically recognized constitutional separation of powers principles, has ushered in a second Gilded Age, the current Buckley-era of systemic political corruption. The fraudulent idea that constitutional amendment is the "one option" for reform is largely propagated by the Democratic Party and its professional activist allies. The truth is that there are several alternative reforms for systemic corruption, such as conflict of interest recusal rules. which would be both much easier to adopt and would -- unlike an amendment -- be systemically effective if they were. (Intro.(C) & Ch. 7)

Professional activists who market the amendment diversion as if it were a cure for this problem have objectives other than restoring democracy. Appointment of Supreme Court justices as an alternative political goal again exemplifies the strategic failure of professional activism which promotes this potentially strategic alternative to their amendment fraud. (Ch. 8). A more detailed history of constitutional amendments pierces the professional activists' empty slogans and teaches that the commonly touted, but seldom analyzed, amendment "solution" is a counterproductive waste of political energy, especially if used to counter an act of judicial supremacy. (Ch. 9)

This book exposes the general void in contemporary progressive strategic thinking on the historical and still central progressive objective of overturning plutocracy and its judicial allies. The book rejects the fraudulent claim that a constitutional amendment or any other piecemeal strategies can provide effective and sustainable systemic reforms to solve the contemporary crisis of democracy caused by systemic corruption. Before naming these strategic solutions, Chapter 10 describes the essential Swing Issue Voting (SIV) strategy by which progressive voters can unite to employ strategic voting to achieve sustainable reform. No other vote is effective nor reform sustainable in a systemically corrupt political order. Chapter. 11 then offers the several reforms available for fighting systemic corruption that fall within the provisions of the original Constitution and would provide suitable subjects for SIV. These include the easiest reform, model language for restoring the ethical obligation of conflict of interest recusal by either state or federal incumbents. Finally the book provides a fully realized draft of a proposed federal statute for another such reform, that would make a useful initial demand for effective national statutory reform while also creating space for further strategic discussion of the several other available systemicstate and federal anti-corruption reforms. (Ch.12).

Keywords: anti-corruption, plutocracy, judicial supremacy

Suggested Citation

Hager, Rob, Strategy for Democracy: From Systemic Corruption to Proto-Totalitarianism in the Second Gilded Age Plutocracy, and Progressive Responses (2019). Available at SSRN: or

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