October 6, 2005
The Associated Press

'American Democracy is in Grave Danger'

by Vice President Al Gore
Speech at Media Conference

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.

. . . The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me. . . .

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. . . .


Enver Masud, "Broadcasting Fairness Doctrine Promised Balanced Coverage," The Wisdom Fund, July 25, 1997

Jennifer Van Bergen, "The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America," Common Courage Press (September 15, 2004)

Arianna Huffington, "Kafka Does Iraq: The Disturbing Case of Abdul Amir Younes Hussein," The Wisdom Fund, September 24, 2005

Robert Pear, "Buying of News by Bush's Aides Is Ruled Illegal," New York Times, October 1, 2005

Jennifer Van Bergen, "The Case of Dr. Dhafir," CounterPunch, October 7, 2005

Paul Craig Roberts, "The Police State Is Closer Than You Think,", October 8, 2005

Norman Dombey, "Tell us who fabricated the Iraq evidence," Independent, October 9, 2005

Si Kahn, Elizabeth Minnich, "The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy," Berrett-Koehler Publishers (October 10, 2005)

Dana Milbank, "Colonel Finally Saw Whites of Their Eyes," Washington Post, October 20, 2005

"Canada, U.S. slip in Press Freedom Index," Associated Press, October 20, 2005

Lev Menand, "Leading Historian Says U.S. 'Empire' To Fail," Harvard Crimson, October 20, 2005

AUDIO/VIDEO: Robert Fisk, "War is the Total Failure of the Human Spirit," DemocracyNow, October 20, 2005

Lewis H. Lapham, "We Now Live in a Fascist State," Harper's Magazine, October 21, 2005

James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," New York Times, December 16, 2005

Eric Margolis, "Bush Promises Victory in Iraq - But for Whom?,", December 26, 2005

Ruth Conniff, "Impeachment Buzz," The Progressive, December 27, 2005

Paul Craig Roberts, "America's Moral Crisis, a History of Hitler's Secret Prisons and a Brief on the Illegality of Bush's War,", December 28, 2005

Editorial: "The Imperial Presidency at Work," New York Times, January 15, 2006

[Hitler used the Reichstag fire to create an atmosphere of crisis. Both the judicial and legislative branches of government collapsed, and Hitler's decrees became law. . . .

In this first decade of the 21st century the United States regards itself as a land of democracy and civil liberty but, in fact, is an incipient dictatorship. . . .

It is paradoxical that American democracy is the likely casualty of a "war on terror" that is being justified in the name of the expansion of democracy.--Paul Craig Smith "Tyrant in the White House," CounterPunch, January 16, 2006]

[A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President.--Al Gore, "America's Constitution is in grave danger,", January 16, 2006]

[Two years ago, in a report entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality, the American Political Science Association concluded that progress toward realizing American deals of democracy "may have stalled, and even, in some areas, reversed." . . .

The following year, on the eve of President George W. Bush's second inauguration, the editors of The Economist, reporting on inequality in America, concluded that the United States "risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society." . . .

But this crowd in charge has a vision sharply at odds with the American people. They would arrange Washington and the world for the convenience of themselves and the transnational corporations that pay for their elections. . . .

Until we offer qualified candidates a different source of funding for their campaigns - "clean," disinterested, accountable public money - the selling of America will go on.--Bill Moyers, "Restoring the Public Trust,", February 24, 2006]

[Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the judiciary.--Julian Borger, "Former top judge says US risks edging near to dictatorship," Guardian, March 13, 2006]

[President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.--Charlie Savage, "Bush challenges hundreds of laws," Boston Globe, April 30, 2006]

VIDEO: Aaron Russo, "AMERICA: FREEDOM TO FASCISM," May 31, 2006

Editorial: "Block the Vote," New York Times, May 30, 2006

Greg Palast, "How They Stole Ohio,", June 1, 2006

[There are now 37 million Americans living in poverty, and at 12.7 percent of the population, it is the highest percentage in the developed world.--Paul Harris, "Wake up: the American Dream is over," Observer, June 8, 2006]

Enver Masud, "'Islamo-fascism' is an Oxymoron," The Wisdom Fund, August 31, 2006

Charlie Savage, "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy: The Bush Plan for America," Little, Brown and Company (September 5, 2007)

Naomi Wolf, "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot," Chelsea Green Publishing (September 5, 2007)

"Enemy Aliens and American Freedoms -- Reflections on Independence Day," The Wisdom Fund, July 4, 2009

[Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we're slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.--Sara Robinson, "Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?,", August 7, 2009]

Ralph Nader, "'Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!'," Seven Stories Press (September 22, 2009)

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding campaign finance laws and free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court held 5-4 that the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and other associations.--Decided January 21, 2010

[Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d'etat in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power.--Chris Hedges, "Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction,", January 25, 2010]

Sheldon S. Wolin, "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism," Princeton University Press; (February 1, 2010)

Noam Chomsky, "The Corporate Takeover of U.S. Democracy,", February 3, 2010

[Our government is not broken; it's been bought out from under us, and on the right and the left and smack across the vast middle, more and more Americans doubt representative democracy can survive the corruption of money.--Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, "What Are We Bid for American Justice?,", February 20, 2010]

[The Garani massacre, which we are still working on, killed over 100 people, mostly children.--David Heath, "WikiLeaks is asking for urgent help,", June 15, 2010]

[The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world.--Maude Barlow, "The World Has Divided into Rich and Poor as at No Time in History,", July 2, 2010]

EDITORIAL: "The Secret Election,", September 18, 2010

Hope Yen, "Census finds record gap between rich and poor,", September 28, 2010

[We will blunt these rising anti-democratic forces only when we organize outside conventional systems of power. It means dismantling the permanent war economy and the corporate state. It means an end to foreclosures and bank repossessions. It means a functional health care system for all Americans. It means taking care of our poor and unemployed. And it means a system of government that is freed from corporate interests.--Chris Hedges, "March to Nowhere,", October 5, 2010]

VIDEO: Chris Hedges, "Death of the Liberal Class," Nation Books (October 17, 2010)

[ . . . the Justice (sic) Department told the court that murdering American citizens is a "political question" that is not subject to judicial review. The "freedom and democracy" government then invoked the "state secrets privilege" and declared that the case against the government's power to commit murder must be dismissed in order to avoid "the disclosure of sensitive information"--Paul Craig Roberts, "America's Devolution Into Dictatorship -- Licensed to Kill,", November 11, 2010]

June 2, 2011

Paul Craig Roberts, "On Western Democracy: A Farce and a Sham,", November 4, 2011

Stephen M. Walt, "The Myth of American Exceptionalism," Foreign Policy, November 2011

Norman Pollack, "The Obama Era: Liberal Fascism in America,", February 20, 2013

Bill Moyers, "We are this close to losing our democracy,", December 12, 2013

William M Arkin, "American Coup: How a Terrified Government Is Destroying the Constitution," Little, Brown and Company (September 10, 2013)

Democracy is Not Always the Best Form of Government, Intelligence Squared, March 16, 2014

[VIDEO: A new book that's the talk of academia and the media, Capital in the Twenty-First Century . . . shows that two-thirds of America's increase in income inequality over the past four decades is the result of steep raises given to the country's highest earners.--"What the 1% Don't Want You to Know," Moyers & Company, April 18, 2014]

Empire - The Rise of the Oligarchs, May 25, 2014

John W. Whitehead, "The FBI: America's Secret Police,", November 8, 2014

Interview: NSA Whistleblower William Binney

DOCUMENTARY: Citizen Koch, 2015

[The East India Company remains history's most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power -- and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current.--William Dalrymple, "The East India Company: The Original Corporate Raiders,", March 4, 2015]

Jimmy Carter, "Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an 'Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery',", July 30, 2015

[When a military officer simply chooses not to follow the clear order of the president, it is a slap in the face for the American system of government.--Stafford Smith, "The military ignores Obama's order to release Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo,", August 14, 2015]

Ralph Nader, "Rigged Corporate Elections, Clinton Criminals," Empire Files, December 22, 2015

[Obama stands up and he says, "Look, it's all very well for you to criticize me, but don't you remember what happened to Dr. King?"--Patrick L Smith, "A veteran CIA agent spills the goods on the Deep State and our foreign policy nightmares,", February 7, 2016]

Juan Cole, "How the US Went Fascist: Mass Media Make Excuses for Trump Voters,", February 24, 2016

Sarah van Gelder, "More Confessions of an Economic Hitman: This Time They're Coming for Your Democracy,", April 30, 2016

Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes What Hillary Clinton Really Represents, April 17, 2016

Chris Hedges, "Welcome to 1984,", May 14, 2016

"First Evidence Surfaces of Foreign Money Pouring into U.S. Elections After Citizens United,", August 4, 2016

"Chris Hedges vs. Robert Reich on Clinton, Third Parties, Capitalism & Next Steps for Sanders Backers," August 4, 2016

[The seizure of political and economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security? Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?--Chris Hedges, "The Illusion of Freedom,", August 18, 2016]

David Daley, "The Real Way the 2016 Election Is Rigged,", August 19, 2016

Mike Lofgren, "The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government," Penguin Books (September 13, 2016)

John W. Whitehead, "A Deep State of Mind: America's Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup,", October 26, 2016

John Pilger, "Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump,", October 28, 2016

Mark Crispin Miller, "Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes," November 4, 2016

[Our capitalist democracy ceased to function more than two decades ago.--Chris Hedges, "It's Worse Than You Think,", November 11, 2016]

AUDIO: "Threats To Democracy Here And Abroad," Diane Rehm Show, December 21, 2016

[Trump . . . appointed three retired generals to key Defense and Security positions - indicating a power struggle between the highly politicized CIA and the military.--James Petras, "The Coup against Trump and His Military - Wall Street Defense,", December 28, 2016]

AUDIO: "Naomi Klein on Trump Election: 'This is a Corporate Coup d'Etat',", January 20, 2017

Abolhassan Banisadar "Is Trump on the Path to Dictatorship?,", February 10, 2017

Joan Pedro-Caranana "The Menace of Trump and the New Authoritarianism: An Interview With Henry Giroux,", April 11, 2017

[Putin: "In the West, voters cannot change policies through elections, because the ruling elites control whoever is elected. Elections give the appearance of democracy, but voting does not change the policies that favor war and the elites."--Paul Craig Roberts "American Democracy: A Dead Man Walking,", May 2, 2017]

[A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more dangerous to our democracy than anything Donald Trump can do.--Philip Giraldi, "Are They Really Out to Get Trump?,", May 16, 2017]

John W Whitehead, "Twilight of the American Courts,", June 7, 2017

Gerald Sussman, "Political Myth-Making and State Legitimacy,", July 5, 2017

[the two dominant and capitalist U.S. political organizations are (in Sinclair's words in 1904) "two wings of the same bird of prey."--Paul Street, "If Hillary Had Won,", September 1, 2017]

Stephen Kinzer, "America's Slow-Motion Military Coup,", September 17, 2017

[The coup happened months ago. A military junta is in strong control of White House polices. It is now widening its claim to power.--"The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power,", October 21, 2017]

[When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a "democracy," there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. . . . the use of the term "democracy" to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon.--Gabriel Rockhill, "The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was,", December 13, 2017 -- Today, the terms republic and democracy are virtually interchangeable, but historically the two differed.]

[In 2017, Norway was ranked the world's best democracy, recording the highest score across the above criteria, 9.87. Two other Northern European countries, Iceland and Sweden, came second with scores of 9.58 and 9.39 respectively. In last year's study, the United States was downgraded from a "full democracy" to a "flawed democracy" and in the 2017 edition, it only came 21st overall with a score of 7.98 --"The Best And Worst Countries For Democracy,", February 1, 2018]

Chris Hedges, "The Coming Collapse,", May 20, 2018

Paul Craig Roberts, "I Remember When America Was A Free Country,", June 19, 2018

Ralph Nader, "The loss of democracy," On Contact, June 23, 2018

James Miller, "Five myths about democracy,", September 7, 2018


Nick Hanauer, "The Dirty Secret of Capitalism,", October 18, 2019

George Pasker, "We Are Living in a Failed State,", June 2020

Anne Applebaum, "History Will Judge the Complicit,", July/August 2020

Chaos in Washington as Trump supporters storm Capitol and force lockdown of Congress, BBC News, January 6, 2021

Wolff Responds: DC Rage: More Coming Unless Basic Economic Changes Made, January 7, 2021

"'Anarchy in the USA': what the papers say about the storming of the US Capitol,", January 7, 2021

Patrick Cockburn, "The Republican Party has Turned Fascist and is Now the Most Dangerous Threat in the World,", June 22, 2021

Henry Giroux, "The Nazification of American Society and the Scourge of Violence,", October 14, 2022

Bernie Sanders compares US 'oligarchy' to Russia, Sky News, February 26, 2023

"The Undertow": Author Jeff Sharlet on Trump, the Far Right & the Growing Threat of Fascism in U.S., Democracy Now, April 6, 2023

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