In American politics, the past not only sticks with us, but it often provides the best definition of what's going on in the politics of the present, so it can be useful to revisit some powerful words from our history.
Today's media and political powers, for example, keep using the word “conservative” to describe current political trends in our democratic republic. Poor choice of words. From the Koch brothers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from GOP House Speaker John Boehner to such anti-worker governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, an autocratic power grab is underway to enthrone corporate power and moneyed elites to rule unilaterally over our government, economy, and environment. There's nothing conservative about that.
Rather, a word from America's past best encapsulates their goal: plutocracy. It's the direct opposite of democracy, which is government by the many, by all of the people—by us. Plutocracy, on the other hand, is government by the wealthy—by them and for them.
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The struggle between democracy and plutocracy has defined our political history from the Revolution of 1776 forward. And now, here we go again. Wall Street banksters, corporate chieftains, speculators, and other pampered plutocrats are out to crush the hard-won laws, rules, institutions, and social compacts that We the People have struggled to put in place over the years to undergird our democratic authority.
Busting unions, unleashing corporate money in politics, restricting access to courts, and gutting financial and environmental regulation—all of these and more are about supplanting our democracy with their plutocracy.
Call them what they are—not conservatives, but self-serving plutocrats. Or nail them with another good word from the past: “Kleptocrats,” advocates of government by thieves.