If Jails Can’t Care for Prisoners, Prisoners Should Walk Free

            Prisoners are the ultimate wards of the state, which exerts complete control over every facet of their lives. Among the government’s responsibilities to their most vulnerable charges are its duties to provide inmates with adequate nutrition, housing, security and medical care, the latter of which has been codified by two landmark Supreme Court rulings. In the first of these decisions, Estelle v. Gamble (1972), the Court held that prison authorities who deliberately refuse to address the medical needs of an prisoner constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution and that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain’…proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.”

            The death of Lashawn Thompson fits this description to a T.

            While awaiting trial on a misdemeanor case of battery last summer, Thompson, 35, was remanded to Fulton County jail in Atlanta, in the psychiatric wing, because he was behaving erratically. “Three months later Mr. Thompson was found dead in a filthy jail cell after being eaten alive by insects and bed bugs,” according to family attorney Michael Harper, who posted nauseating photos of  Thompson’s squalid cell on Facebook. “Jail records obtained via Georgia’s Open Records Requests establish that the detention officers and medical staff at the jail noticed that Mr. Thompson was deteriorating, but did nothing to administer aid to him or to help him.”

            Thompson’s face and torso are seen covered in bugs.

Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky who specializes in bed bugs said he’d never seen anything “quite to this level” but confirmed that prolonged exposure to a large number of bed bugs can cause fatal anemia if untreated. “Bed bugs feed on blood and very large numbers of bed bugs feed on very large amounts of blood,” Potter said.

“It’s no secret that the dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions of the current facility make it incredibly difficult to meet the goal of providing a clean, well-maintained and healthy environment for all inmates and staff,” the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, said in a statement. Appalling conditions have been an ongoing, unaddressed problem for years—and not just in Atlanta.

Joshua Lemore, a 29-year-old Indiana man who struggled with schizophrenia, was arrested for pulling a nurse’s hair at the hospital where he’d been taken for a wellness check in 2021. He was locked in solitary confinement— a barbaric practice mostly banned in Europe—without human contact or medical care. He didn’t eat, no one checked on him and he starved to death 20 days later. The total lack of psychological help for a detainee in mental-health crisis wasn’t unusual: “The [Jackson County] jail was cited in 2019, 2020 and June 2021 by the Indiana Department of Corrections for being out of compliance with a state law requiring it to arrange for 24-hour emergency psychological care,” according to USA Today.

            Also in 2021, Larry Price Jr. joined the long list of mentally-ill prisoners arrested for minor offenses who die of neglect and abuse in American jails and prisons. A homeless schizophrenic, the 51-year-old Arkansas man had entered a police station where he rambled threats against cops and made his hand into the shape of a gun: “terroristic threatening in the first degree,” according to the district attorney. Price “was found by guards lying in a pool of his own urine and contaminated water, unresponsive in August 2021 after having been detained for more than a year,” ABC News reported, “his once 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound frame emaciated down to 121 pounds, according to the Arkansas State Crime Lab.” The Lab determined he had died of hunger and thirst.

            The Bill of Rights and a pair of Supreme Court rulings are supposed to prevent these outrages—but those aren’t enough. Of the tens of thousands of Americans who perish behind bars each year, many alleged having been denied medical care or adequate food. Prisons that outsource inmate healthcare to for-profit outside contractors have even higher death rates.

            Each year of incarceration takes two years off average life expectancy.

If government refuses or cannot afford to provide for the basic needs of people accused or convicted of a crime, which obviously includes access to healthcare and sanitary conditions, it should not be in the imprisonment business. We need a federal law that allows a prisoner suffering inhumane conditions, and their family members and lawyers, with a right to file an emergency ex parte petition for immediate release.

If the conditions are determined to be systemic and facility-wide, the entire operation should be shut down at once. That’s the case where I live in New York, at the city jail on Riker’s Island. After “years of mismanagement and neglect”—the Department of Corrections’ own spokesman’s words—a 2021 New York Post exposé found “as many as 26 men stuffed body to body in single cells where they were forced to relieve themselves inside plastic bags and take turns sleeping on the fetid floors.” Despite an annual $1.2 billion budget, “Dozens of men crammed together for days in temporary holding cells amid a pandemic. Filthy floors sullied with rotten food, maggots, urine, feces and blood. Plastic sheets for blankets, cardboard boxes for beds and bags that substituted for toilets.” Nothing has improved since.

            Lest you worry that American streets would suddenly be filled with released murderers and rapists, chill. One out of four prisoners is there for the terrifying crime of violating parole. Another one out of five is awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor or civil infraction.

As for the rest? We’re not poor. Assuming we still want to incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country but China, cities, states and the federal government will find the money to create a prison-industrial complex that doesn’t feed American citizens to swarms of biting insects.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)




DMZ America Podcast #98: Fox News vs Dominion Settlement, Kathy Griffin’s PTSD, the Horrors of the U.S. Prison System

Editorial Cartoonists Ted Rall (from the Left) and Scott Stantis (from the Right) take a slight detour away from breaking news to discuss crucial issues flying under the radar. But first they contextualize the blockbuster $787 million settlement between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems. Does this mean the beginning of the end for Fox News, or does it just confirm what we all knew Fox was? Next, Ted and Scott discuss their own Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following high-profile controversies in their careers. Inspired by recent revelations by actress and comedian Kathy Griffin,in her struggles with PTSD, following fallout from her own controversial holding up a bloody Donald Trump mask in 2017. Finally, Scott and Ted delve into the horrid state of the American prison system, following an award to thousands of New Yorkers who were wrongly held in solitary confinement in local jails. They discuss the ghastly conditions and abuses now commonplace in prisons across the country, from malnutrition to grossly overcrowded prison cells. Ted and Scott sound the alarm on an inhumane system right here in the home of the brave. Will anyone listen?



Watch the Video Version of the DMZ America Podcast:

DMZ America Podcast Ep 98 Sec 1: Fox News Settles with Dominion Voting Systems

DMZ America Podcast Ep 98 Sec 2: It’s Not Just Kathy Griffin. We Have PTSD Too.

DMZ America Podcast Ep 98 Sec 3: The Horrid State of Our Prisons


“The Final Countdown” with Manila Chan and Ted Rall

I am returning to the airwaves tomorrow, Monday, as a talk show host. I will be cohosting “The Final Countdown” with Manila Chan, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 12 noon Eastern, on Sputnik News. You can listen live here. (Shows will also be archived. Links to follow.) You can also watch the live stream on Rumble.

I have really missed talk radio. I appeared on KFI Los Angeles from 1997 to 2001 on KFIR San Francisco from 2004 to 2007. Although I have appeared as a guest many times since then, nothing beats hosting. It means the opportunity to bring up issues and points of view that I’ve been eager to talk about.

The show will deal with politics and current events, both national and international, as well as popular culture and long-standing trends with deep implications for the way we live. I hope you give it a chance and enjoy it.

The Unpersoning of anti-Biden Democrats

            “Am I real?”

            “Do I exist?”

            “Do you see the real me?”

            Humans have always asked themselves these existential questions. These days, Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. have more reason to wonder about their corporeal status than most.

            Earlier this week, because I felt that I deserved to suffer, I tuned into a political horse-race discussion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Why, host Joe Scarborough wondered aloud about Joe Biden’s oxymoronic announcement that’s he’s not announcing (“I plan on running, Al, but we’re not prepared to announce it yet”), isn’t the President actually, you know, announcing that he’s running for reelection? The April the year before the election ere, ’tis the season for such communiqués.

            Front and center in Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski’s speculation was that Biden wouldn’t have any pesky primaries to deal with before the general election; thus he can take his time before declaring. This would come as news to Williamson and Kennedy, both of whom have formally declared their candidacies for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination and have filed the requisite paperwork.

            Given how early in the race it is, Biden’s rivals already pose a surprisingly significant threat to the incumbent: 10% of Democrats say they’ll vote for Kennedy, 4% for Williamson in a Morning Consult poll. Kennedy does even better among some key demographics: women and voters over 65, both of whom turn out in heavy numbers. An Echelon Insights poll shows Williamson surging, now at 10%.

            When I sat down with Bernie Sanders to research my bestselling graphic biography, it was June 2015–two months later in the race—and the Vermont senator was polling 1% to 2% of Democrats. Yet he went on to nearly defeat establishment favorite Hillary Clinton; he might have succeeded if not for the DNC putting their corrupt thumbs on the scale. At this stage, 10% each for Kennedy and Williamson is impressive.

            Kennedy is political royalty and Williamson is a well-known author and previous Democratic primary candidate. Yet media outlets like MSNBC are lying to their viewers, pretending that they don’t exist and that Biden is running (or might run) unopposed. Resistance is futile. Get used to it.

            Unpersoning is the latest tactic of the Democratic Party establishment and their media allies, including MSNBC. If you don’t admit to the existence of a rival candidate, then you certainly don’t have to cover them or their campaign — so voters will never learn about that alternative option. They’re not real, therefore they’re not serious, therefore they don’t get any votes, therefore they’re not serious, therefore they’re not real.

Beautiful, infantile, effective.

Bear in mind: Scarborough didn’t say Biden wouldn’t face a serious primary challenge (which, in any case, is far from certain based on those polls, and Biden’s own poor ratings.) That would be subjective. Scarborough said there wouldn’t be any primary whatsoever, which is plainly untrue.

But this, as you probably know, is nothing new. Bernie received terribly unfair news media coverage—and in such small portions!—when he ran in 2016 and 2020. My favorite moment was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews comparing Sanders’ candidacy to the Nazi invasion of France.

John Edwards, the progressive candidate in the 2008 Democratic primaries, suffered the same phenomenon. USA Today’s dismissal of Edwards was typical: “The Democratic contest is a two-person race, dominated by Clinton and Obama. That leaves Edwards, a former North Carolina senator who is a close third, and Richardson, New Mexico’s governor who is a distant fourth, waiting for a stumble or a political earthquake to create an opening for them.” How can it be “a two-person race” if there’s a “close third”?
            In 2004 the media piñata was another progressive with anti-corporate message, Howard Dean.

Basic pattern recognition indicates the evolution of an increasingly aggressive approach toward erasing political challenges to the corporate establishment. A quarter century or so ago, third-party candidates like Ralph Nader were routinely ignored, starved of press coverage and threatened with arrest when they tried to attend a presidential candidate as an audience member. Candidates Dean, Edwards and Sanders were insulted (angry yeller, lightweight pretty boy, cranky old commie) and subjected to DNC skullduggery intended to marginalize them.

The unpersonings of Williamson and RFK Jr. elevate old-school shading to the level of Orwell: No one has ever opposed Joe Biden. No one will oppose Joe Biden. Joe Biden will run unopposed—especially when he is opposed.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #97: New Presidential Candidates for 2024, Electric Cars, the Terrifying Rise of Digi-Dog

Political analysts and cartoonists Ted Rall (from the Left, Wall Street Journal) and Scott Stantis (from the Right, Chicago Tribune) dive into the latest developments in politics and culture.

The 2024 presidential campaign has some new candidates. On the Democratic side, Marianne Williamson returns for another attempt to challenge presumed reelection campaigner Joe Biden and Robert F Kennedy, Jr. throws his hat into the ring as well. On the Republican side, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is set to join declared candidates Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. Trump’s indictment has Republicans rallying around him, vastly increasing his lead over Florida governor Ron DeSantis. On the GOP side, it looks like Donald Trump may have this sewn up.

The Biden Administration has announced that it wants to have as many as two out of three automobiles sold in the United States to be fully electric by the year 2032. How will Americans be able to afford these more expensive vehicles? Will there be enough charging infrastructure? How will our lives change as a result? Geopolitical relations will change as well; electric vehicle batteries require lithium, which is mined in places like Afghanistan and central Africa, where China has an outsized advantage on mining rights.

The NYPD rolls out three high-tech devices designed to take beat cops off the street and replace them with autonomous gadgets out of a dystopian movie. The K5 “SnitchBot” is a 400 pound, 6 foot tall, automated spy. Then there’s “Digi-Dog,” a $375,000 robotic dog supposedly designed to handle hostage situations. Will these devices be powered by artificial intelligence? Will they select their own targets? Will the public put up with them? Unsurprisingly, flamethrower drones may be the answer.

Watch the Video Versions of the DMZ America Podcast:

DMZ America Podcast Ep 96 Sec 1: A New Crop of 2024 Presidential Candidates

DMZ America Podcast Ep 96 Sec 2: Biden’s Big Push for Electric Cars

DMZ America Podcast Ep 96 Sec 3: Scary “Black Mirror” Dog Now Working for NYPD

DMZ America Podcast #96: Trump Indictment, Progressives on the March, Is France Moving Right?

Two of America’s best Editorial Cartoonists dissect the issues of the day. First up: the Trump Indictment. Is it folly? Or good justice? Scott and Ted take a deep dive into the recent, historically unprecedented arraignment of former President Donald Trump on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records. What are the repercussions and what can and should come next? Following that, Ted and Scott look at not one but two high-profile progressive victories: one for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, assuring abortion rights in the state for the foreseeable future, and the other for Mayor of Chicago. Is this a sign of a leftward movement by the country, or a pair of anomalies? Lastly Scott and Ted (both of French descent, Ted even holding dual French-U.S. citizenship), discuss a recent poll showing current French President Emmanuel Macron trailing far-right politician leader Marine Le Pen. Does this poll reflect a shift in French attitudes, or is it more of a reaction to Macron’s unilateral decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64? This DMZ America Podcast spans the globe!


Watch the Video Versions of the DMZ America Podcast:
DMZ America Podcast Ep 95 Sec 1: The Indictment of President Trump
DMZ America Podcast Ep95 Sec 2: Progressives Win Elections in the Midwest
DMZ America Podcast Ep 96 Sec 3: Is France Moving Right?

No Donald Trump Is Above the Law

            In the United States, no man is above the law, not even the President—if his name is Donald J. Trump.

            A decade before 1884, when he was elected to his first term, Grover Cleveland fathered a child with Maria Halpin, a widow. Thing is, she testified under oath that Cleveland had raped her. Ambitious and wealthy, Cleveland did what any rich mean 19th century dude would do: he arranged to have the baby sent off to an orphanage and the mother committed to an insane asylum. (It didn’t take. They let her go.) For good measure, he had her smeared in the press as an alcoholic slut. As it happened, Halpin turned out to be an upstanding churchgoer with a good reputation.

            No charges were ever filed against Cleveland.

            Ronald Reagan’s best-known scandal was Iran-Contra, in which his Administration violated its own sanctions and sold weapons to Iran and broke federal law by spending the proceeds on right-wing death squads in Central America. He wasn’t new to this sort of thing.

            Worried that the American embassy personnel who were seized as hostages by Iran might get released before the 1980 election, thus allowing Jimmy Carter to win reelection, three top Reagan officials—campaign manager and future CIA director James Casey, former Texas governor John Connally and Connally’s protégé Ben Barnes—promised the Iranians to sell them arms in exchange for their promise not to release the hostages until after the election. True to their side of the deal, Iran sent them home a few hours after Reagan took the inaugural oath. Reagan reneged on the weapons.

            Reagan was never charged.

            The Gipper may have been inspired by the Chennault Affair, then-GOP candidate Richard Nixon’s scheme to undermine incumbent Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to achieve peace in Vietnam and thus deny the White House to Hubert Humphrey.

            Two weeks before the 1968 election, things were looking up for the Democrats. Worried about a Nixon victory because we was rabidly anti-communist, the USSR ordered North Vietnam, its client state, to agree to a peace deal. LBJ agreed to stop bombing the North. All that remained was getting South Vietnam—America’s client—on board.

            So Nixon used back channels (Mrs. Chennault) to ask South Vietnam’s president to boycott the peace talks, promising continued military and economic support after he won. The South Vietnamese leader scuttled the deal, Nixon won and the war ground on seven more years, killing hundreds of thousands more people. “This is treason,” LBJ said when FBI wiretaps revealed the plot.

            Nixon wasn’t charged.

            Executive Order 12333, signed by Reagan, states: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” It’s still the law of the land.

            Reagan didn’t follow his own rule. He ordered a hit on Lebanese cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in 1984; Fadlallah escaped unscathed but 80 innocent bystanders were killed. In 1986 he bombed Moammar Gaddafi’s home, killing the Libyan ruler’s infant daughter.

            No charges there.

            George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden murdered thousands of people in drone strikes—each and every one of them by definition a political assassination (a person killed “for what he represents politically”). Obama ordered the murder of Osama bin Laden and Trump murdered Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general.

            No charges.

            Actress Heather Lind accused George H.W. Bush of groping her at a 2014 photo-op. Juanita Broaddrick says Bill Clinton raped her in 1978, when he was Arkansas attorney general. Tara Reade claims Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

            No charges have been filed in any of these cases.

            Richard Nixon received a presidential pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, whom he had appointed. So he was immune from prosecution for Watergate.

            Bill Clinton paid $25,000 in order to avoid being prosecuted for perjury in the Paula Jones case.

            From Andrew Jackson, who killed a guy in a duel in 1806—dueling was already illegal at the time—to Bush, Obama and Trump, who all presided over Guantánamo torture camp—the U.S. is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture, which makes it a treaty obligation and thus carries the full weight of federal law—no president or former president has ever faced criminal charges.

            Until now.

            Merciful and easygoing by nature, the American people can easily turn a blind eye to a run-of-the-mill political assassination—or a thousand of them. Who of us can say we haven’t killed a man in a duel? Rape is unpleasant for the victim, but think how much worse it would be for the rapist if that rapist were a president or former president—better to move on.

            Conspiring with a foreign country to manipulate a presidential election strikes one as gauche, even tacky—especially when they mean extra-long wars or extra time spent for a hostage. But going after a president or former president over such things seems excessive. Best not to think about such matters, much less act upon them.

            Even in America, this most permissive of countries if you’re rich and white and powerful, there are limits. And that limit is: falsifying business records in order to violate federal campaign finance laws in the course of paying a former mistress to shut up. Donald J. Trump has crossed that hard line.

            And he must pay.

            If Trump, the worst president America has ever had and ever could have, and the worst person the human race has ever produced, doesn’t go to prison for the maximum five years over paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, it will send an awful message:

            Anything goes.

            Can’t have that!

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


DMZ America Podcast #95: Senate Votes to Deauthorize Iraq War, DeSantis the Gitmo Torturer, Reparations to Black Americans

 Two of America’s top political analysts, left-wing cartoonist Ted Rall and right-wing cartoonist Scott Stantis, discuss the week’s events and cultural happenings on the DMZ America podcast.

In a surprising move, the United States Senate has voted to revoke the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force legislation that presidents beginning with George W. Bush relied upon in order to invade and occupy Iraq, as well as a number of other military conflicts. Will the House of Representatives follow suit? The answer is more complex than you might expect. Will Congress reassert its Constitutional exclusive right to wage war?

The Washington Post revealed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a possible top contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, enthusiastically participated in torture as a JAG at Guantánamo Bay concentration camp in 2006, where he suggested that hunger-striking inmates be force-fed and personally supervised and smiled while observing what international human rights organizations universally describe as torture. DeSantis hasn’t denied the shocking charges. Will Trump make it an issue? Would a Democratic challenger? What does it say about the United States that the story doesn’t seem to be catching on?

San Francisco and the State of California are contemplating the issue of reparations to Black American descendants of slaves in order to compensate them for being the victims of systemic racism. Setting aside the issue of the vast amount of money involved, who would qualify? What would be the practical considerations of such a program? Is it even possible to compensate for such enormous injustice that is baked into the American economic and political system?

Watch the Video Versions of DMZ America Podcast #95:

DMZ America Podcast Ep 95 Sec 1: Senate Votes to Deauthorize Iraq War

DMZ America Podcast Ep 95 Sec 2: DeSantis the Gitmo Torturer

DMZ America Podcast Ep 95 Sec 3: Reparations to Black Americans


The U.S. Is Not a Democracy

            Is a system working as well as possible? Inertia lulls people into believing that legacy products are great—even that they’re perfect—without objectively considering whether it’s really true. The QWERTY computer keyboard works but the 1936 Dvorak version is superior. Skim milk makes you fatter. The U.S. may still be a shining city on a hill but our Constitution has become so out-of-date that new nations no longer refer to it as a template for their own legal charters.

Ask yourself: if our political system were created today, by a group of intelligent people, what would it look like? If the real-world system we see now falls short of that ideal, there’s room for improvement.

            What if we were to scrap our centuries-old Constitution? What if we built a shiny new government from the ground up, without considering legacy or precedent?

This is a complicated question. Only one of out of four Americans would vote to repeal the Second Amendment, so the right to bear arms might make it into a new charter. Much of that support, however, derives from voters who own the hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation. An America without a legacy of individual firearms ownership would be much less likely to codify it as a fundamental right.

            So what would an ideal representative democracy look like for the United States, 2023 edition?

Nothing like what we have now.

            Every citizen of sufficient age to exercise sound judgement should be allowed to vote. Our society currently says 18. But there are strong arguments in favor of allowing children to vote as well as for raising the age of enfranchisement to 25. If mental acuity matters, what about the one out of ten Americans over age 65 who suffers from dementia, or those with very low IQ?

Among those permitted to cast ballots, each vote ought to count equally. The principle of one person, one vote is almost universally accepted.

Yet the current system falls dismally short of our professed ideal. Due to the electoral college, the vote of a resident of Wyoming in a presidential election counts 3.6 times more than that of someone who lives in California. People in the District of Columbia enjoy no vote at all; nor do the 4 million Americans who reside in overseas territories. Gerrymandering through redistricting has radically reduced the weight of a vote cast by a Black citizen compared to a white one. Forty-eight out of 50 states either ban convicted felons, people in prison and/or on parole from voting; the U.S. has some of the most vicious disenfranchisement laws in the world.

If a representative democracy is healthy and vibrant, voters ought to be able to choose from a broad selection of candidates who represent a wide range of ideological viewpoints that reflect the broad diversity of opinions in our vast country.

In this respect, the U.S. is not a democracy.

We only have two major parties. But not by choice. 62% of Americans say they want the option of a third party; dissatisfaction with the Democrats and the Republicans helps explain why the U.S. has one of the lowest voter-turnout numbers in the world. Smaller parties are barred from presidential debates, don’t receive coverage in the press, are stymied by draconian ballot-access laws drafted by Democrats and Republicans, and bludgeoned by nuisance lawsuits filed by the big two in order to drain their resources and block them the ballot.

In many elections, there aren’t even two parties. In 2016, 42% of races for seats in state legislatures were uncontested, meaning there was only one candidate on the ballot. There’s no word whether any of them was named “Saddam.” In 2022, a whopping 57% of state elections for judges were unopposed. I live in New York, where the Working Families Party provides an illusion of choice by appearing on the ballot next to the Democrats. But the WFP’s candidates are the same as the corporate Democrats.

Ranked-choice voting, promoted by progressives, sometimes leads to anti-democratic results. California’s small state Republican Party rarely has one of its candidates among the top two vote-getters who move past the first round to the general election.

Party primaries can be coronations, as when Barack Obama and Donald Trump essentially ran unopposed in 2012 and 2020, respectively.

            Candidates are not legally bound to carry out their election promises if they win. Evolving circumstances or further reflection—or dishonesty—may prompt a politician to change course after victory. But there is accountability for perfidy, whether real or imagined, in a vibrant representative democracy. Rather than outsource politics to a political class every two or four years or whatever, citizens in a high-functioning representative democracy keep informed beyond the carnival of election season, express their opinions and hold their representatives’ feet to the fire with public protests and demonstrations, as we’re currently seeing in France after their imperious president ignored popular will by increasing the national retirement age without holding a parliamentary vote.

            The U.S. does not have a high-functioning representative democracy. Voters are uninformed, don’t trust the media and can’t agree on the facts at the heart of stories and issues like whether climate change is real or Biden won the election.

            Worst of all, we fail to hold our representatives accountable when they ignore us. Abortion is no longer legal in most states, 85% of American adults favor abortion rights, yet the streets remain calm and protester-free. Two out of three Democrats want big immediate action against climate change, yet they don’t have anything to say to President Biden—who probably blew up a major gas pipeline and created an ecological disaster, and authorized oil drilling in the ecologically fragile Alaskan wilderness.

            If we were to create a new political system out of whole cloth, it wouldn’t look anything like this.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #94 (Audio or Video): Is TikTok a Threat? France is Burning! The Non-Arrest of Donald J. Trump

Editorial cartoonists Ted Rall (Left) and Scott Stantis (Right) debate breaking news across the nation on a busy week.

Congress grilled the CEO of the Chinese-owned social-media app TikTok, reminding Ted of the PMRC hearings of the 1980s, another moment when Congress worked hard to appear anti-fun and out of touch. Scott calls China a “threat”; Ted prefers to see them as a “challenge.” What do we have to fear from TikTok, other than becoming even stupider?

France is burning in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s sop to the neo-liberal class: raising the national retirement age from 62 to 64. Scott asks Ted, a French citizen, why younger Frenchmen are demonstrating in solidarity with older people they have to support in old age? Ted addresses the fact that pension reform might have been greeted differently from a different, more populist president.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg didn’t file charges against Donald Trump last week, but next week might be different. Scott and Ted agree that an arrest will empower the former president. Ted takes a victory lap on calling for Trump wanting a perp walk last week. Scott deplores liberal gloating because it feeds into Trump’s narrative.


Watch the Video Version of the DMZ America Podcast:

DMZ America Podcast Ep 94 Sec 1: Is TikTok a Threat?

DMZ America Podcast Ep 94 Sec 2: France is Burning!

DMZ America Podcast Ep 94 Sec 3: The Non-Arrest of Donald J. Trump