Have the American people outlived their usefulness to the rich minority in the United States? A number of trends suggest that the answer may be yes.
Reading the article linked above, it's striking to me the parallels with our political situation. Between the two major parties, they've shut the door to any alternative parties, or at least made it very hard for them to get in.
In the state where I live, for example, any party who wants to be on the ballot has to jump through a bunch of pretty onerous hoops... unless they've been on the ballot for several elections running. So, of course that means the two major parties are automatically on the ballot, while any other party has to spend extra effort and money meeting the entry requirements. Add in the costs of buying visibility, and challenging incumbents, and it gets worse. Then, if the challenger is also running on a platform challenging corporate power... what we end up with is two major parties who have a large inflow of money and many structural advantages facing smaller parties with minimal inflow and many structural disadvantages that require money to overcome. I trust you can do the math there.
Then there's the way that voting machines in this state are programmed to assume and encourage party-line voting - the two major parties only, of course - so if a candidate from another party manages to qualify, it takes a special effort on the part of the voter to vote for them (and the voting machine will ask several times to confirm that yes, indeed, you want to vote for candidates individually).
Add in gerrymandering - my district is reliably safe for the odious Republican who "represents" me, so no one ever really runs against him - and there are so many hurdles for the alternatives that they rarely run, and when they do, the national party generally doesn't bother funding them. So not only am I forced to limit my choice to candidates from the two major parties who do not represent my interests (and, indeed, are hostile or indifferent to them), even that "choice" has a pre-determined outcome.
Similar to how the article I just linked to suggests that Americans are increasingly irrelevant to those holding economic power, I'd argue that American votes are increasingly irrelevant to those holding political power. They provide a gloss of democratic legitimacy for what has become a corporatocracy, but entail no real political clout. Indeed, the people in power would probably welcome the acceleration of the current trend of voter apathy (which arises from the realization, conscious or no, that one's vote doesn't matter). Then they can privately fund and promote a small, vocal minority (cast as the voice of "True Americans") to give them cover (hello, Tea Party) and use "their" demands to justify the actions taken in Congress and the White House.
Meanwhile, they've also bought out the mainstream press, either through threats of withholding access, or by appealing to the interests of media corporations, and are taking action to squelch alternative information channels and fact-finders, such as blogs (privacy laws, challenges to net neutrality), educational institutions, unions, environmental groups, and a host of other advocacy groups (including big liberal boogeymen like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU). The existence of ALEC, headed by the Koch brothers, reveals the deliberate quality of much of this maneuvering; it's no longer possible to reassure ourselves with the belief that this steady erosion of citizen influence on multiple fronts is coincidental or accidental. It is deliberate and concerted.
Even things like the spread of anti-choice legislation around the country is part of this dynamic. While it is presented as "red meat for the base" (see comments about the Tea Party, above), it goes beyond even what that base has historically desired; most anti-choice people are willing to concede the rape/incest/health of the mother exceptions to a ban on abortion, but the current legislation does things like redefine rape and potentially criminalize miscarriage in order to close such loopholes. That is, when proponents don't bluntly and publicly go on record as not caring about the health of the pregnant woman, as some have recently. While this is framed as part of the abortion debate, or about the spread of Christian fundamentalist theocracy, the larger effect is more insidious. If such precedents can be established with regards to fertile female bodies, it is not that farther a step down the road to the government control of all bodies. Now put that in context of increasing military action, growing economic desperation, and spiraling greed on the part of those in power - all of which adds up to a need for labor that is easily controlled and exploited. Do you really think that those in power will draw the line at pregnant women, when it comes to extending the reach of government - and by association - corporate control?
As some colleagues of mine and I noted, in a recent conversation, we're seeing disturbing echoes of the previous century, viewed through a distorted and disturbing glass. There's the apathy of Hoover towards addressing domestic problems. There's the use of military action to consolidate government control and funnel money towards its corporate sponsors. And there is the use of racial and ethnic bigotry to channel the anger and frustration of the population, and to justify further repression of the foreign, the minority, and the weak.
The odds against reform are stacked so badly, that I don't know how to reverse this course. The attacks on our sovereignty and welfare come from so many fronts, in increasingly deliberate and concerted ways, in a context that renders them obscure at best and invisible to most, that it's like wrestling a hydra covered in oil. When it comes to addressing large-scale, systemic problems, like global climate change, I am not hopeful. Those with the power to coordinate broad and complex responses benefit too much from the status quo, so I doubt we're going to see much beyond lip service (if that). On the level of the individual, increasingly I suspect that people are going to turn to smaller, more localized networks - we're already seeing the splintering of the internet into like-minded interest groups and cohorts - which will perhaps offer an alternative mode for individuals willing to opt out of the larger system. (Though whether they will be allowed to do so is the next question).