Our democratic institutions have been suffering from severe malaise for quite some time. The disease process has extended over many decades. Unfortunately, it is now quite moribund and may not be amenable to resuscitation.
There was a time in the nation's history, especially during the era of the so-called "robber barons," when presidents were effectively chosen along with elected officials at both the local and national level by the powerful. When the fear regarding the burgeoning popular interest in the ideals embodied in socialism became acute due in large measure to the abuses of the industrial capitalist system culminating in the Great Depression of 1929, the Democratic Party instituted a set of reforms collectively referred to as the New Deal under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These reforms helped curtail the ability of the corporate class to suppress the will of the people, and in that sense preserved democratic institutions.
Now, however, we are witnessing first-hand the deliberate and overt use of vast sums of money coming from powerful corporate interests to finally and possibly irrevocably subvert the democratic ideal and, thereby, return the nation to the Gilded Age. This is due, in no small measure, to the decision by the Supreme Court in the now famous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that effectively equates political contributions to free speech – a patently absurd idea. This decision has successfully and completely unraveled all previous attempts to control and contain the political power of the vested interests in this country.
The level of corruption in government has reached staggering proportions. If this trend remains unchecked, it will lead to not only the subversion of the essence of democracy but also to the continued downward spiral of the overall health and well-being of the nation, for the role of good and effective government is to address the real needs and concerns of all the people. A government whose predominant purpose is to preserve the wealth and status of the affluent class at the expense of the vast majority of its citizens is bound to fail on a grand scale.