2017: A Year of Warning for Democracy in The USA

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As 2017 morphs into 2018, most editorials like to take a look back on what has transpired during the past year. Needless to say, the Presidential Election was a real spectacle that keeps on giving. However, the political outcome has become a real shot across the bow of the American system of Democracy. Evolution is a continuous flow of events, and some are significant and can change the outcomes of the process. It appears that 2017 could be one of those events.


2017 A Year of Warning for Democracy in The USA

To most, the word “democracy” is an abstract concept but it some very concrete components. Too often, the word seems to be confused with the idea of freedom. Democracy does not mean freedom. It means responsibility. Also, democracy does not mean Capitalism. So, what does democracy really mean?

The following definition of Democracy was taken from an inspiring lecture in Humanities course given at Stanford University in 2004.

Simply Stated, we can think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  1. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  1. Enforcement of Human rights.
  1. The rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

The last few years have provided some important breaches of the defined elements. Here are some observations about each key element as they stand currently in the U.S. society,

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.

The electoral college allowed the minority of voters to capture the presidency. Do we really need the Electoral College? Indeed, it the Electoral college seems to allow for opportunities to manipulate the electoral outcome.

  1. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.

Most working citizens have very little free time to devote to anything but work, tending to family needs and what is left over goes to the passive viewing of TV. Moreover, the overload of various forms of the “truth” on various selected channels and 143 character tweets appears to be the popular form of political information and “debate.” I think it’s pretty safe to say that the public has become cynical and distrusting of what unknown TV producers decide is important for the public to know. Indeed, as issues have become more complex, there equally confusing information. In addition, there are cleverly cloaked sources of disinformation to cloud the issues. When we need more citizen participation, there seems to be a tendency to develop political and social opinions based on an emotional basis rather wading through the tedium of researching issues and making “informed” decisions. 

Democracy is not about electing people to make decisions for the citizens, rather propose and seek consensus; to act as a conduit for the people to make collective interests known and implemented. Indeed, when people prefer to let others decide for them, there is a tendency to look for a decisive decision maker aka a top-down dictatorship that relieves citizens of their duty to be engaged and knowledgeable. Pile on complexity to the point where citizens won’t even attempt to understand the issues. Plain talk and concise analysis can be done without dumbing down the conversation.

  1. Protection of the Human rights of all citizens.

The 1960s civil rights movement and success was an inspiring time in the history of the U.S. While we are not all equal in abilities, we should all be equal when it comes to civil rights and the laws. That simple-minded thinking that comes with closed minds and narrowed exposure leads to the “us against them” polarization and have been the traditional tool for dictators to divide and conquer. Not many people know that Hitler had his own private army of 400,000 followers who created the fear that allowed the Nazis to flourish and oppress opposition. How many armed survivalist and paramilitary groups are out there in the U.S. right now? Could the Trump base be turned into the shock troops similar to Hitler’s in the 1930s? Likewise, could that threat create an over-reaction  and by authorities? 

While the discussion of human rights is a familiar concern, there is little mention of what human responsibilities are part of a democratic society. Democracy requires participation and belief in the process and its institutions. Since the end of World War two, there has been a steady decline in the public confidence in the governmental institutions. Time after time, our government has to outright lied in matters that involved the ultimate deaths  of our thousands of our citizens. From the Pueblo affair in the Gulf of Tonkin to the Weapons of Mass Destruction events in the Middle East, a post-mortem has shown culpability at the highest levels of government without any accountability. And the beat goes on.

  1. Supporting the rule of law, where the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

This is a big one given the Supreme Court Decision to allow corporations to provide unlimited funding to the political process (2010 Supreme Court v Federal Election Committee). Few would argue that Corporate America and “big money” have replaced “we the people” by default. Indeed, changing that Supreme Court decision is a good place to start taking back our diminishing democracy. However, with all the political activists and attornies out there in the system, as far as I know, there is not an ongoing legal challenge to the “United We Stand” Supreme Court Decision. Very disappointing and sends a serious signal to other nations that American Democracy may be heading down the same road as the Soviet Union Socialist Federation and the once wealthy Venezuela. 

With all that said, a little voice in my head keeps whispering “we might be Klingons and unworthy of a democratic paradigm of self-government.”

In summary, at the end of 2017, we find our nation at some sort of crossroads where actions or lack thereof may push us to reconsider the direction we seem to be heading and realize the default future may become a mixture of H.G. Well’s 1984 and a banana republic. As with global warming, the warning signs are out there, and only the unwise or those in deep denial would not take some sort of action. Yet, here we are.

If that is to become a sad reality, business leaders should probably move quickly to become global. As for individuals, if we care and understand the spiritual benefits  of democracy, we need to take action NOW. A good place to start is to learn more about how the Supreme Court v FEC decision and how that can be overturned. If you wish to dip your toe into taking some political  action regarding the Supreme Court v FEC, go to ENDCITIZENSUNITED.ORG. There are no costs or funding support request. Just your interest and time to make an online vote for an amendment to repeal of the decision.

Please note that Metops does not endorse or support any political party.


Additional Reading

Democracy at the Crossroads

Rolling the Dice…the Trump Presidency

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