Monday, June 4, 2018

Is America's democracy really in decline?

If we want to stop being a failed state and become a democratic society,
things are going to have to happen inbetween the four years."

~ Noam Chomsky

Democracy and Informed Voters

I know we are not a straight up Democracy, rather a Democratic Republic, but the Demos (Greek - common people), just can't vote once every 4 years and leave it at that. We need more of the public/people engaged, even running for office, not for political careers, but for public advocacy. This also involves informed/educated voters; voting midterms; public participation and public comments on local government, state and national legislation; etc.
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” While this is a wee bit simplistic (taking into consideration the complexities of gerrymandering, voter roll purges, disproportionate minority felony convictions, voter suppression- such as moving polling places off of Native American reservations and not allowing tribal ID as a valid form of voting identification, etc.), voting should be viewed as essential, fundamental to our worldview – participation in your community.

No president or public figure is perfect, nor is it representative of all peoples. I get that. Hell, Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson, who owned black slaves who could not vote at that time, prognosticated, "Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights." Yes, Jefferson's “the people” were only white landowning males; women receiving the right to vote in 1920, black Americans in 1965, and some members of Indigenous communities not until 1957. Democracy is not stagnant, fixed in stone, but evolves, with a healthy democracy becoming more INCLUSIVE.

I was listening to an Ezra Klein podcast the other night - Is American democracy really in decline? A debate. - with Yasha Mounk. Mounk was talking about the decline of democracies, not just the fledgling ones, but established ones, being replaced by totalitarians. The current Trump administration was heavily discussed.

Mounk indicated, "If we have a political system that allows someone, political entrepreneur, to split us into these deeply tribal groups, and then to exploit that split into an attack on the rules we need to live with each other, that's really dangerous." 

Here is an example:

An article came on my public trust news feed, “As nation focuses on 'me,' not 'we,' our levees suffer”. The author was addressing our failing infrastructure (specifically levees), as a result of an Army Corp of Engineers report. The article wasn't just about infrastructure, but the public's view of public projects. 

"Until a few years ago Americans took pride in large public projects. We would brag about our ability to put our economic and political power to work building infrastructure like bridges and highways, as well as creating education systems and environmental and safety regulations that led to the highest standard of living anywhere in the world.

That was a time when we were encouraged to understand that while we might be 50 separate states, we still pulled together for the greater good. But that idea of nationhood has not only fallen out of favor in many places, it has become a pejorative for much of the body politic.

Many conservatives now oppose almost anything with the word's 'national' or 'public' attached -- from public lands and public education to public safety and public health."

This “pejorative” perspective didn't just happen by itself. If you news aggregate, as I do, you see a definitive pattern to articles/opinion pieces and where they originate. This is a privatization agenda. Public schools are not getting it done, let's privatize. Public prison doesn't work, privatize. Public infrastructure is broken, privatize. Public lands management is failing, definitely privatize. There is a pattern and it is not in the public's best interest.

If we, as the demos in democracy, abandon or forfeit our kratia (Greek – rule or power by), we will end up being slaves, serfs, chattel to the robber barons, the modern corporate feudal lords.

Recently, Rep. Tom Woods from Bozeman, who was running as MT 's US Representative candidate against Gianforte, wrote an oped. Woods had to drop out of the running because of money. Woods is endorsing John Heenan, echoing the same reasons I had earlier posted on my EMWH twitter feed (@Heenan4Montana background as consumer protection lawyer, his understanding of Dark Money issues & fighting against it already, is exactly what #Montana needs in #Congress. Not a career politician, but a public advocate!). Woods advocated, “With that said, I am endorsing the candidate who has taken action on what I believe to be the central political problem we face as a nation: the influence of corporate money on government. That candidate is John Heenan. Not only has he refused to accept corporate PAC money, in the recent past he volunteered to prosecute those people who were using “dark money” to influence state races for Legislature. Those actions speak loudly to me... In short, we need to have a government that is run by people and working for the people.” 

From one of my favorite colonial rabble rousers (can you imagine this man today, with a blog and twitter feed?), Thomas Paine, Dissertation on the First Principles of Government:

“The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of rights. Every man has a right to one vote, and no more in the choice of representative. Personal rights, of which the right of voting for representatives is one, are a species of property of the most sacred kind…Inequality of rights is created by a combination in one part of the community to exclude another part from its rights. Whenever it be made an article of a constitution, or a law, that the right of voting, or of electing and being elected, shall appertain exclusively to persons possessing a certain quantity of property, be it little or much, it is a combination of the persons possessing that quantity to exclude those who do not possess the same quantity. It is investing themselves with powers as a self-created part of society, to the exclusion of the rest.

The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.

To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.

In a political view of the case, the strength and permanent security of government is in proportion to the number of people interested in supporting it. The true policy therefore is to interest the whole by an equality of rights, for the danger arises from exclusions.”

Yascha Mounk recently wrote The People VS. Democracy: Why our freedom is in danger & how to save it. Thankfully his section on remedies is about half the book, not just a chapter or a few closing paragraphs. Mounk declares, "Even when the reasons for protest proliferate, and acts of opposition come to feel dishearteningly ineffective, it's very important for the defenders of liberal democracy to resist authoritarian strongmen with courage and determination. But since anyone who seeks to constrain the populists faces a decidedly uphill struggle once the strongmen have taken office, it is even more important to beat them at the polls."

If you haven't voted absentee in the primaries yet, please, exercise your citizenship muscle and be an informed Public Trust voter tomorrow.

 Voting in person at a polling place on Tuesday, June 5? Verify your location at the .

Click to be a Contributor or Subscriber to
Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

No comments:

Post a Comment