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Quotes from Who Will Tell the People

Who Will Tell the People, The Betrayal of American Democracy, by William Greider, examines contemporary U.S. politics with a critical eye. The short quotations are intended to give a flavor of Mr. Greider’s observations.

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The practical result is a lawless government — a reality no one in power wishes to face squarely since all are implicated, on way or another. The clear standards that citizens expect from law — firm definitions of right and wrong, commandments of thou shalt or thou shalt not — are corrupted by a fog of tentative declarations of intent. The classical sense of law is lost in sliding scales of targets and goals, acceptable tolerances and negotiated exceptions, discretionary enforcement and discretionary compliance.

Chapter 4, “The Grand Bazaar”

Bush’s office and OMB became a shadowy court of appeals where Republican business constituencies could win swift redress — without attracting public attention or leaving any record of what had transpired. In most instances, the corporations had already lost the argument somewhere else, in Congress or during the long public rule-making process or in lawsuits. Vice-President Bush privately turned them into winners.

Chapter 6, “The Fixers”

The Democratic party, as a political organization, is no longer quite real itself. The various strands of personal communication and loyalty that once made it representative and responsive to the people are gone. It exists as a historical artifact, an organizational fiction.

Chapter 11, “Who Owns the Democrats?”

The Democrats might more accurately described now as “the party of Washington lawyers” — lawyers who serve as the connective tissue within the party’s upper reaches. The are the party establishment, to the extent that anyone is, that has replaced the old networks of state and local political bosses. But these lawyers have no constituencies of their own and, indeed, must answer to no one, other than their clients.

Chapter 11, “Who Owns the Democrats?”

The Republican party is not a party of conservative ideology. It is a party of conservative clients. Whenever possible, the ideology will be invoked as justification for taking care of the clients’ needs. When the two are in conflict, the conservative principles are discarded and the clients are served.

Chapter 12, “Rancid Populism”

To understand the Republican party (or the Democratic party, for that matter), it is most efficient to look directly at the clients — or as political scientist Thomas Ferguson would call them, the “major investors.” On that level, the ideological contradictions are unimportant. Political parties do function as mediating institutions, only not for voters.

Chapter 12, “Rancid Populism”