First, as one who is willing to speculate (even provocate) for the sake of generating discussion, I find things often turn out in such ways that I’ve been incorrect—at least in many initial claims/speculations/provocations. No problem. However, I can’t remember a time when I’ve hoped I was incorrect more than I do now about the way I’m seeing the 2020 election dynamics. Spoiler Alert: I’ll be taking up my early reflections on the 2020 election in the next few (3-5 minute) posts.
Second, deep respect for the person who, wanting to avoid the censure of his conscience, expressed this very courageous act:
Now that was a sacrifice-self-for-the-greater-good move by Senator Mitt Romney, and also very good news for the nation. The much-needed turn to a (tenuous) grasp on one set of facts happened incrementally last week. First, Senator Lemar Alexander’s small step to publicly reject the POTUS’s “perfect call” assertion. Then, Romney, arguably, by his speech and voting to convict and remove, made it very difficult for his Republican colleagues to cling to any notion or claim of President Donald J. Trump’s exoneration. Even though Trump was indeed ultimately acquitted, Romney made things very awkward for those still endeavoring to engage any sort of gaslighting, e.g., perfect call narrative.
Bi-partisan consensus on the facts
It’s not policy differences that are dangerously threatening social/political stability. We can survive any policy differences. Rather, it’s the relentless gaslighting and assault on truth by this administration and many Republican leaders—simply in order to cover Trump’s endless transgressions, and to hold on to power—that is doing the greatest damage. Romney stepped squarely into that breach and meaningfully joined a bi-partisan consensus on the facts. This is crucially important in helping turn off the gaslighting, thank you, Senator!
So, “Democracy is broken?”
The title/question is, of course, meant as a provocation. Because nowadays we do often hear that U.S. democracy has now run it’s course. That while the form of governance we have received in our beloved U.S. Constitution was profoundly wise for its time, we have at last outgrown our proud beginnings. We need, some suggest, to evolve a new form of governance for managing our national political life. Our problems can be solved, on this thinking, by redesigning (or abandoning?) democracy.
I respectfully suggest while that may be true in part, actually, our chief problem has at least three key aspects. Along, with needed structural updates to our democratic form, corresponding difficulties in the U.S. are also found in a broken apathetic electorate, and, as alluded to above, our broken political leaders. In a moment we’ll see how this is largely a product of trickle-down cynicism.
Certainly, this post is mostly opinion. Truth be told, I can’t think of anything I’d like more than to be completely incorrect about what I’m writing these next few weeks. To me, the hardest part of all this apparent broken democracy speculation, it isn’t even really about Trump. This president is merely a symptom. In my humble view, while the Constitution does need updates, and cynical leaders have lead voters off a cliff, our national/societal brokenness must first be healed in us, the peoples, the voters (see here).
It’s largely about (or ‘up to’) us
Of course there are many moving parts when it comes to thinking about a nation, a society, and the ways people find to live together. Politics is but one piece of the picture and it, too, has many moving parts. All this is to say that any simple take on such matters is, by definition, most likely lacking much nuance. That said, to generate discussion we still need to try and get some kind of a handle on what’s happening.
So, do (many?/most?/all?) professional politicians (through the political system) cynically exploit the brokenness? In a word, I’d say: ‘Yes.’ Congressional job approval loiters at around 25% as a result. This is a key factor in a resulting voter cynicism—reflected in the statistical appeal of the ‘outsider’ to those who still care.
Trickle down cynicism
We reap what we sow. Our captivity to modernist thinking regarding the primacy of the individual (Orange [ER] modernist values) has helped conspire to produce a consumer society in the U.S.A.. Our economy—and in most ways, our very lives—turns on the sacrosanct choice of the individual (read consumer). Taken to it’s logical conclusion, that simply indicates that life is fully about satisfying my will/desires, or, cynicism incarnate.
One significant problem, our legacy democratic form was not designed to accommodate a purely consumer-driven mentality guiding the discernment mechanism for governance. To the extent that we have thought of our political discourse and elections as politics/politicians being engaged in the “marketplace of ideas,” our present dysfunctional state emerged organically.
However, have we become so accustomed as consumers to being able to get just what we want the way we want it, that if we don’t find exactly what we want among the choices offered in an election we simply check out and stay home? When we are short of being swept up in some tribal emotion, my serious concern is that we have been spoiled for democracy by hyper-individuality and consumerism.
Next week we’ll look at one example of how the Bernie dynamic significantly effects the 2020 election.
Next week (part 2): why “Bernie is a HUGE problem” for Democrats.
Two (or three) weeks: “Potus Trump wins reelect.” Why it may be baked in, already a lock.
[this post, approx. 980 words]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
5 thoughts on “Democracy is broken?”
Good article, thanks for writing it. I especially liked how you proposed that the ORANGE individual/consumer defined and oriented society was at the root of the trickle-down political cynicism that has infected our political system. You presented the idea very succinctly and articulately. That idea is one of those core senses about the current system that I have had for a few years, but have, myself, needed to use too many words to articulate. Thank you for so eloquently sharing that insight.
I think and feel that we are indeed in one of those paradigm shift change phases, particularly in terms of the political and economic systems of the United States. I don’t personally view that as good or bad; it just is…shit happens you know. However the certain fact of those paradigm shift phases is that they are saturated with broad, un-nerving uncertainty.
Put into Spiral Dynamics lingo, we have an ORANGE centered constitution and political system (paradigm) that has reached the end stage of the paradigm when it can no longer solve the problems that it created itself. So we are stuck in a paradigm that doesn’t really work anymore (lots of uncertainty here), so we can’t really stay in place. But where do we go? (More uncertainty). Do we go forward? To what? Maybe something more GREEN? But that is scary, because things that at least appeared to be GREEN in nature are being depicted as having been already tried and failed. Or do we shift back to more RED-BLUE places. That is also scary because while it is a tried and true place, and thus benefits from being familiar and somewhat comfortable, history tells us a lot of really, really bad stuff happened in that place.
So we (as voting citizens) find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Add to that the evidence that our political leaders don’t show signs of even articulating a path to a good place. They are mostly re-hashing, and re-branding old ideas.
I personally believe that the change will have to come from and by the electorate. At the same time I am not very optimistic about that happening without a lot of pain and suffering taking place while it does. As to where we are in that process; we are just starting to build up the courage and will to ask basic questions of where we are, and where we might possibly go there. We are even farther away from figuring out how to get there.
Again, thanks for the good article.
Paul, thanks for reading, and writing!
We can hope that our writing and offering of ideas somehow helps others to generate discussion. If not, well, at least we’ve shared. Thanks, again! Peace.
You’re very welcome. Keep up the good work!