I had an interesting question posed to me the other day. Suppose that the 0.1 percent of the nation’s richest people took over our government, stripped away our rights and our constitution and enslaved the people of this country, who would the military support, the government or the people?
Interesting question. I guess we’d have to start by asking if it’s even remotely possible that such a thing could happen. Could our democracy founded in the tradition of "Of the people; by the people; for the people" ever really be hijacked? Could we wake up one morning and find ourselves living in a country like Russia or Iran where the people may think they have a voice and a say in what transpires, but in reality they do not?
What would a coup look like in America? Would it be a military overthrow? Would the generals conspire against a sitting president and Congress and just take over the place through force? That’s not likely, but since we’re talking about hypotheticals we can raise it as a possibility.
Or perhaps the overthrowing of America would be a more subtle and gradual process. We’ve already witnessed an erosion of public participation in the electoral process. In the last few presidential election years fewer than 60 percent of eligible voters voted. That means that over one-third of those who could participate in democracy don’t bother. These numbers are exacerbated in non-presidential years. Over one-third of the nation’s voters could care less about democracy. What happens when that number drops to 50 percent or worse? Suppose the day comes when only 30 percent, or less, of the people vote?
That is the beauty of democracy. You don’t have to do anything. You can just turn your back on it and let others participate. You can rest assured that there are others out there who see the benefit of participating in our democracy and controlling our government. To some degree we’re already seeing the effects of lethargy. The fewer people who participate in the process the easier it is to gain control of the process. For those who want to gain control over the process for their own gain then it is conceivable that the fewer people participating works to their advantage.
On a smaller scale, here in Vermont each State Representative represents approximately 2,000 people. If they all voted then the Rep would have to work hard to get to all 2,000 voters. However, if only half of those who could vote did vote then the workload would be cut in half. It’s a lot easier to connect with a thousand people than two thousand. Now, let’s say that we’ve devised a system that makes it harder for people to vote and you’re able to knock that number down from 1,000 to say 700. Of those possible 700 votes you only need 51 percent to win, which hacks it down to only 351 voters.
As you can see before long this gets to be pretty manageable. A politician can just about go to the home of each and every voter and have a meal. They could make promises, or in the event of an overthrow, make threats that would encourage these last few remaining voters to vote for him/her.
The same might be said on the national level. The fewer people that vote the easier, and cheaper, it is to secure the votes you need to control the governed. Of course, it would be out of reach for the poor and middle class and even the upper middle class to afford to influence votes on a national scale, but would this be the case for the extremely wealthy -- the 0.1 percent?
To do so, it would seem as though these folks would have to come together and pool their wealth. They would have to conspire to overthrow our government like those in the past who have come together to overthrow regimes through the centuries. They would have to see it as being in their best, financial interests to invest the money necessary to buy the votes.
Can it happen to America? Some would say that it could never happen here. Some might argue that it’s already happening with the advent of our news sources being controlled by partisans and the introduction of Super Pacs designed to influence the electoral process.
But back to the original question: Who would the military side with? Presumably those who make up the military are not in the .1 percent so it would stand to reason that they would side with the people. Then again, money is a powerful tool. If it can be used to buy politicians then couldn’t it be used to control the military? Once you have the protection of the U.S. Military at your beck and call, what else do you need? You can send people into to war so that the companies you own that have government contracts making war toys will prosper. You will make more money to secure your holdings; including the government you bought.
Watch this video, "I Am a Ukrainian" and ask yourself if this could never happen in America:
Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.