Two decades in a powerful appointed position? a sign democracy ain't working

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Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve chairman from 1987 to 2006 (fearless defender of wealth inequality and chief architect of the global finance meltdown of the late 2000s), is a symbol of plutocracy (rule by the rich).

Presidents are limited to serve eight years, and are (theoretically) elected every four. If chief lackey to billionaires, and economic overlord to the rest of us, can serve for nearly twenty, while the presidency shifts three times between the two (allegedly oppositional) parties, there's a problem with our democracy.

An even more frightening example is the top law enforcement officer, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Someone needs to write an essay titled Did Democracy Exist in the United States in the 20th Century? The Case Against: J. Edgar Hoover. This mean-spirited director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972 (yes folks, you're reading that correctly, 48 years) was put in place by the despicable dean of domestic despotism, acclaimed liberal Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson brought us the Espionage and Sedition Acts, Palmer raids, overall criminalization of dissent (journals opposing the war not allowed in the U.S. mail), and imprisonment of dissenters, including socialist and labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who won 6 percent of the vote in the four-way 1912 presidential race. That election is another good example of the kind of democracy we have: Republicans would have won with Theodore Roosevelt, but they preferred to nominate Taft instead and kept him in the race knowing it would give Democratic candidate Wilson the presidency. (Wikipedia reminds that "William Howard Taft remains the only U.S. President to finish third in a bid for reelection to a second consecutive term.")

J. Edgar was A. Mitchell Palmer's protogé while, from mass raids in 1919 and 1920, 16,000 people were imprisoned, most of them without charge and of whom a few hundred eventually deported. Mr. Hoover maintained this damn-the-rights-of-those-who-would-propose-progress throughout the rest of his five decade career, although he clearly put his own political survival over Red Scare level repression all the time. After promotion by Woodrow Wilson, J. Edgar "no organized crime" Hoover stayed as director of the FBI through Republican presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover; Democratic presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman; Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower; Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson; and Republican Richard M. Nixon.

Although certainly all the faces in government can change, and a system can still be fundamentally anti-democratic, forty-eight years for one person in one position of great power – moreover a person and position characterized by suppression of people opposed to the government – counts as a very clear symptom of a diseased democracy.

Acknowledgements: