There are times in each our lives when we must step back and honestly reassess who and what we truly are. Often, the impetus for such assessments are involuntary. It may be an unexpected life event like a job layoff, a near-death experience, or the death of a friend or loved one. Something that jolts us out of our complacency and compels us to rethink every aspect of our lives. Such events are unavoidable and at least, in some circumstances, a positive development. What truly matters, and is critical to the potential benefit from the event, is the 100% honest and factual based effort to make that assessment. Why did this happen? What are the real reasons behind it and how should I proceed going forward?
I think that the United States of America, its’ government and citizens, are experiencing just such a life-changing jolt now! This has not been caused by the election or defeat of any particular person in a specific way or level. The Presidential election in 2016 was going to happen regardless of who was actually competing for it. The outcome of that election however, was a result of a major, nationwide reassessment of who and what we truly are, and perhaps more accurately, of who and what we hope to be. I’d like to examine that a bit further.
In the New York Times print newspaper from 01/04/17, there was an opinion piece written by Eduardo Porter under his Economic Scene segment that examines whether or not the American democracy is broken. You can read this article for yourself via the link, however my interpretation of the essay is that Mr. Porter seems to feel that the winning candidate in the 2016 Presidential election is basically an authoritarian strongman with the intention of serving the elite versus the ordinary working class Americans. He seems to believe that the millions of people who voted for him chose to ignore his resemblance to dictatorial strongmen, current and past, who started out as populist but ended up keeping their citizens down and made to buckle under their rule. Admittedly, there are millions who may agree with that, or at least be concerned that the door to that path has become slightly ajar. The article further defines and details the perceived reasons behind the dysfunction of our democracy in the United States. It’s that reassessment idea I spoke of earlier.
My main reason for citing this article is that, although Mr. Porter references many of the symptoms of democratic dysfunction in the US, he attributes the single greatest source of that dysfunction to the actual design and structure of our political institutions! The fundamental pillars of our republic! These institutions are described and established in the Constitution of the United States. They cannot be ignored, nor can they simply be overhauled or swept away because of the existence of inequality, a declining social safety net, stagnant incomes or any other difficult problem facing the United States in 2017. The Constitution of the United States has been in force since 1789, after a huge and difficult national debate, an effort on a scale not seen since that era. I urge you to undertake the reading of the Federalist Papers which will astound you and amaze you as you learn about the persistence and determination of three of the Founding Fathers to explain and masterfully defend the principles and justification for our incredible nation contained in the new Constitution. The clear and convincing ideas contained in those Papers served to convince a very skeptical and wary populace to ratify and accept the simplified and codified tenets of government contained in the extraordinary document called the Constitution of the United States. It should also be read and re-read by all Americans, particularly those who blame the political institutions conceived in the late 18th century that gave us our precious nation and continue to secure its’ existence, for our current ‘dysfunction’. In fact, it is those exact institutions that will PROTECT us from the authoritarian strongman who would subvert our citizens and undermine our nation.
2 thoughts on “Is Our Democracy Really Dysfunctional?”
You hit the proverbial nail on the head with this post. America was founded upon certain principles outlined in the Constitution and has not only survived a variety of widely different presidential characters, but a host of other challenging circumstances that tested the resolve of the American people and its institutions, and it will endure in spite of these developments.
As a cautionary tale, the recent election serves to point out how the mood of the American people can sway the pendulum in a backward direction or move us forward, depending on your viewpoint, and that same impetus can quickly reverse if circumstances warrant it.
I think it’s reasonable to expect turmoil in the coming years, but the founding fathers knew such times would eventually come and designed the constitution to be resilient and to adjust to future unplanned or unexpected circumstances. It may not be a perfect document and American government is not an infallible institution, but the system of checks and balances has a way of self-correcting in the long run.
Enjoying your ruminations so far and expect great things to come here….John H.
John! Thanks so much for your astute comment on this recent post! 🙂 I also obviously feel that we must rely on the incredibly strong foundation the Founding Fathers built to guide us through the inevitable storms of controversy that we would face via the establishment of our nation. They were wise beyond measure and so must we be now! I will continue to encourage this sentiment and hopefully persuade others to trust in what we have accomplished and vigorously defend the freedom we have been so blessed to enjoy. Thank you!