Today’s Pontificate – Just experiencing during the last four years the national political mood impacting cultural norms, the effects of the pandemic, the seeming disarray of once trusted government institutions, the continued fighting for individual equality in government and society, a tumultuous election that strikes at the core of our prime democratic liberty… one could very easily interpret a whole lot of this as some failing of American democracy. To answer the question that is the title of this post… no, American democracy is not failing.
But because I say that does not mean that I don’t think the country needs a bit of “fixing”. Also, that does not mean that I think “fixing” entirely means government or our Constitution requires revisions, new laws, or greater constraints and regulations. It also does not mean that a fix alone, of any kind, would be a panacea for bringing things back to some past “normalcy”. What does it matter what I think? Glad you asked.
I’m as average an American as you. By that I mean, I’ve never held any elected office in government, I’m not a person of celebrity status because of what I say or write; I’ve never written a book; I’ve never spoken into a microphone or stood before a camera in media. I’ve never made a 6-digit income… last time I purchased a brand new vehicle was in the 1990’s. I am sure like most of you reading this, we have likely married, raised kids, evolved in our respective jobs and occupations.. been through the ups and downs of changing past economies, and tried many times to just make ends meet, and maybe had a few successes along the way to make us feel a little better about ourselves. You need my resume then read the “About Me” at the top of this page. It matters what I think as much as it matters what YOU think. But the strength of a democracy is that no one thinks alike all the time. Democracy is the attempt to coalesce the hodge-podge of human diversity so that we can live and prosper together. Now, by defining American democracy I am not including American influence. That is political posturing hopefully for our collective good as a nation.
So… why isn’t American democracy failing… according to me? Let’s be clear here. I am not attempting to sugar-coat anything. The nation… all Americans… are truly in a world of national hurt here, and many of us who have lost loved ones to covid, or lost their family business, or their employment/source of income, are experiencing a personal crisis of survival, mental health, and just simply not knowing from one day to the next what to expect. Politics, Trump, Biden, all that be damned when your personal existence is in question. Yet in the midst of all that chaos there is a common humanity, and in some cases we have to find it again because that is what being American is… the focused strength of what humanity can achieve for the good of all.
What am I seeing that gives me any sort of confidence or hope that American democracy is not failing? Take this in manageable parts. The election itself is a major element of encouragement for me. Well, given the isolation required to meet the pandemic each state did what they could to bring together absentee voting and subsequent counting… under a threat of legal challenges. It’s turning out that thus far there is no evidence of gross election fraud anywhere, confirmed by a report from Homeland Security. Also… this was a record turnout for voters, the largest in American history. In past elections it was always a disappointment looking at the low voter turnout based on total registered voters. Our voting processes across the land not only worked but so far as anyone can tell, legitimacy of voting was maintained. All this smack in the middle of a pandemic, and political turmoil and threats coming from the White House. Political chaos or not… Americans WANTED to vote. Argue, debate, fantasize the results of the election all you want. The fact remains… we, Americans, pulled it off without many hitches.
Think for a moment how other nations might be viewing this. It’s easy to perceive America as in major political chaos, even to the point where election results are being questioned. But Americans.. in each state… kept the voting process working. The essential and most important element of a successful democracy is the individual right to vote. We preserved that right if for nothing else but sheer will, determination, and let’s not leave out some level of patriotic pride. I dare any other democracy to beat that. The best part… no gunfire, no organized intimidation. One person, one vote was guaranteed… in the middle of a run-amok pandemic. Yes.. as a nation we can be proud of that.
The other element that feeds my optimism in American democracy is the Constitution itself. It’s not in any danger of failing.. and that single document are the rules that make our American democracy possible. Yes.. we have a President that always pushes the boundaries of tradition, civility, and precedent to feed his own mental aberrations that serve to inflate his narcissism. But even him, with his violations of common morality behavioral extremes, has not actually violated the Constitution. Certainly the Constitution has and is being used to challenge his decisions, motivations, and methods in his overall performance, he has not, that I can see, violated the Constitution directly. Now.. this is not to say the current outside investigations in progress in his business affairs and overlapping conflicts of interest won’t reveal Constitutional violations in some future. But thus far he has made no attempt to go beyond the powers set forth in the Constitution. The document works. Even if he choses to get more “independent” in his actions to deny the election results going into January 20th… others have faith and follow the Constitution and will intervene.
The third and final element that convinces me that our American democracy is not failing is what I perceive as a lessening of the threat of civil unrest over all this directly. Yes.. there are the peaceful demonstrations… and “peaceful” demonstrations. But I indeed anticipated more voting incidents and the “losers” in this election taking their anger into the streets. That still could happen, but thus far, nothing with any national effect. Given the rage of Trump supporters online and in the media to Trump’s loss there’s been calls to violence in some corners.. and talk of a civil war. Conspiracies abound as to voting legitimacy… fed by the current President himself. Tensions are very high everywhere. It’s possible that there’s some conscious thought regarding the keeping of the status quo…. not to affect the economy and turn the nation into an apocalypse zone. People, as of now, seem to be accepting some context to the degree of any desire for violence. No civil war, of course, but so far there is a measured and seemingly responsible “having second thoughts” in the desire for causing violence, murder, and general mayhem that would only end up with curfews and more reasons for businesses to close and people get unemployed. Although it would be very possible that a lone wolf or a small militia-type loosely organized group might act on their own in some criminal manner.
To sum all this up… the American democracy I see is alive and well. Yes… there’s room for some improvements.. but I don’t see it as a fragile entity. I am sure you, the reader, might be able to think of some more elements beyond just my three. But any change is all going to take time, and the passage of time, for the political and social mood of the nation to relax. I see the path being one of far better national leadership, and the setting of national priorities, with the pandemic needing to be addressed first. Others might pinpoint other avenues for corrective action. Let’s not lose faith in what we have, Too many people have died and sacrificed to get us to this point.