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

658 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2022 Last revised: 18 Jan 2023

Date Written: 2023


Even President Trump's inaugural identified as his central issue "whether our government is controlled by the people." Polls show government corruption to be a leading public concern. But it has until recently been ignored by the bipartisan political establishment which controls government for a 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 past masters of the ruling system of plutocratic corruption. More diversionary identity politics promised no plausible solution to the systemic political corruption that Trump described in his fraudulent campaign that closely followed the totalitarian playbook. See also this author's "The Amendment Diversion,"

That plutocratic rule generates extreme inequality while threatening catastrophe on several other vectors, such as predictable pandemics, has focused increased public attention on its cause. A corrupt plutocracy becomes inherently unstable as public awareness of its systemic corrupt 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 professional 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 unifying strategy to solve the deepening problem that America's signature democracy has again been hijacked and replaced by plutocracy. Piecemeal soundbite solutions 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 liberal plutocrat 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 about what the infamous Citizens United decision in fact held. (Ch. 4). These strategic diversions and fictions motivated by advertising values direct attention to the historically unprecedented circumstance that after two generations progressives still lack a widely known effective strategy for resolving the current crisis.

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 an amendment is neither 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 that of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech 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 empower the delivery of that peddled influence. The entirely unprecedented 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. Plutocratic corruption is systemic because it was legalized by the supremacist Court.

The fraudulent idea that constitutional amendment is the "one option" for reform of the supremacist rulings in the Buckley line of cases 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 enhanced 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 of judicial supremacist enablng of corrupt plutocracy have objectives other than restoring democracy. Similarly professional activists who focus on the appointment of Supreme Court justices as an intuitively significant political goal also exemplify the strategic failure of professional activism which promotes this alternative to the amendment fraud. A problem with this approach is that it is dependent upon vicissitudes of partisan politics, when structural reform of the Court's proper role in a democracy is necessary. (Ch. 8). A more detailed history of constitutional amendments pierces the professional activists' empty slogans. It 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) Professional activism is a root cause of the problem that arose in the late 70's at approximately the same time that the corrupt plutocracy itself arose.

This book exposes the general void in contemporary progressive strategic thinking on the historical and still central progressive objective of overturning the ruling corrupt plutocracy and its judicial supremacist allies. This book rejects the fraudulent claim that a constitutional amendment or any other such piecemeal strategy can provide effective and sustainable systemic reforms to solve the contemporary crisis of democracy. Before naming these strategic solutions, Chapter 10 describes the essential Swing Issue Voting (SIV) strategy by which progressive voters can unite at the grass roots -- and free itself from professional activism -- in order 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 identifies the several strategic 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. The author's separate work on Art. III jurisdiction stripping is referenced, as is use of the "good behaviour" clause to check judicial supremacy.. Finally the book provides a fully realized draft of a proposed federal statute for another such reform, that would implement the 11th Amendment restriction on judicial supremacy at the state level. This "states rights" approach would make a useful initial demand for effective national statutory reform while also creating space for further strategic discussion of the several other available systemic state 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 (2023). Available at SSRN: or

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