In this collection of 28 speeches given at conferences, award dinners, anniversaries of various organizations or events, eulogies, etc, Moyers comments on the state of American democracy, or the ability of ordinary citizens to participate, to be empowered. His standard for comparison is largely the concept of democracy formalized in the Constitution and his take on the broad equality of colonial times, ignoring of course that political participation was confined to propertied white men - a distinct minority. He does note that some of us were regarded as 3/5 of a person for apportioning representation.
In these series of lectures, Moyers repeats such themes as growing income and wealth disparities and the subsequent disproportionate influence in government, lack of health care for millions, lack of access to education and the consequent ignorance of our past, the unwillingness of the mass media to report forthrightly and fully on current realities, and more broadly the lack of community interaction and the idea of a shared destiny. He is most assuredly correct to note that shopping has replaced democracy in America.
The problem with these types of anthologies is the repetition and the lack of elaboration and development of a broader critique and understanding. For example, the very idea of democracy is highly nebulous. Does the colonial society of rural, subsistence farmers have a lot of relevance to an integrated, industrial urban society? The labor movement, Populists, and the socialists starting fighting big-money interests at least 125 years ago with only marginal successes along the way. The lack of democracy, whatever that may be, seems to be inherent in the American system.
Beyond a lament for a vague notion of democracy that has probably never existed, there are no real proposals for defining and/or establishing a democracy in our world. The biggest concern seems to be getting private money out of the political process, but that leaves so many questions and problems. Are mega-corporations compatible with democracy? What happens to empowerment when a person steps through a corporate door in the morning? Does he propose works councils in businesses? Or employee ownership? Does he propose a wholesale revamping of election processes - perhaps even random selection, like juries? Moyer is completely disingenuous when it comes to a free press. He acknowledges that profits trump reporting, but conveniently ignores the major function of corporate-run media to continually defend the economic and social status quo, which of course requires the suppression of radical employees and their work. It goes without saying that media companies won't fully and truthfully report on any social or economic issue that may infringe on the prerogatives of the rich.
Moyers is a good guy. His is a welcome voice in the midst of corporate and right-wing ideologues. He is best when commenting on excesses and shortcomings of those in power - of which there are many examples. But his ideas are not really transforming. He is not an advocate of radicalism, which the implementation of democracy most definitely would be.