For the Love of Democracy

Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

Here is a simple but oft forgotten truth. Democracy is a cause, not a result. Democracy is a way of being and relating, not a mere political system. Democracy is a moral vision, not ideological rhetoric.

So don’t vote for the lesser evil. That has been proven a failure, again and again. How many times do we need to repeat a mistake before we learn? The political elite in both of the main parties will use that kind of rhetoric. And guess what? When voters listen to them, the same political elite keep being elected and the status quo continues.

Imagine, instead, if all Americans voted for the greater good. Not just their own personal good or the good of their party or of their group. Your vote and all your activism should first and foremost go to the defense of democracy. Politics isn’t team sports. Anyone worthy of being president needs to represent all Americans.

We should envision the country we want to live in. Not be ruled by our fears. If our imagination is darkened by nightmares, we will create that self-fulfilling prophecy. To merely fight against something is to give it power. If anyone threatens you for not voting for them or their candidate, treat them with compassion. They are a lost soul who needs help. But don’t listen to them. Don’t let their dark thoughts darken your own mind.

Remember this. Democracy isn’t about votes and elections. We the People are democracy. If we want democracy, we have to act in a democratic fashion. Either we all win or we all lose. That is the reality of democracy. You might point out that isn’t how our society operates. And that is the problem.

No politician is going to give us democracy. We have to build democracy from the ground up. At best, voting merely can be an expression of this. But an election isn’t the heart of democracy nor even its ultimate result. If a campaign season like this is to have any meaning, the only thing that needs to be debated is democracy itself. When we figure out what democracy is or could be, then and only then can we work toward solving our shared problems.

Hold the vision of democracy close. Be sure it’s a vision worthy of fighting for. And then have the moral conviction to fight for it.

3 thoughts on “For the Love of Democracy

  1. There is one thing that amuses me. I’m an admitted liberal. And the above is an inherently liberal attitude.

    According to Pew’s 2014 Beyond Red vs. Blue, the most liberal demographic is that of the Solid Liberals. And the most traditionally conservative demographic are the Steadfast Conservatives.

    Unsurprisingly, Solid Liberals have the strongest support (84%) of any demographic for compromise and Steadfast Conservatives have the weakest support (33%) of any demographic. Even the second strongest support is from the political left, the Next Generation Left (71%). The rest of the demographics are about evenly divided.

    Here is the report, if you’re curious:

    This isn’t anything new either. Decades of data show that liberals and Democrats tend to be less divisive. Democrats, for example, have been more likely than Republicans to support the president, even if of the other party’s candidate gets elected.

    This is both the weakness and strength of the political left. Yet it is also a prerequisite for functioning democracy. This is the problem with the political right, at least in the US. They simply aren’t sure they want democracy. It’s hard enough getting people on the political left to understand what democracy is, even when they otherwise seem to be inclined toward it.

    We will never have a functioning democracy until most Americans understand what is democracy, want it, and are willing to put the effort into creating it and then defending it. Apparently, that is too much to ask of Americans at present.

    • There are two ways around this stalemate.

      First, democracy can be reframed as to be more appealing to conservatives. This wouldn’t be hard to do, in theory. Democracy does embody many favorite values of self-identified conservatives: liberty, freedom, self-rule, community-orientation, local politics, etc. This is where the rhetoric of liberarianism and conservatism has become mixed up, but this could be used to the advantage of promoting democracy.

      Second, the American public could be made more liberal-minded. This isn’t an unreasonable expectation. It appears this is already happening. I suspect that a democracy could only operate in a libertarian socialist society, and both libertarianism and socialism have majority support among Millennials. Libertarianism and socialism represent two extremes of ideology, but maybe they are only valid to the degree they balance one another and are melded into a single vision, which brings it back to the need for reframing.

      We need a new way of thinking and discussing these issues. Like the confusion of individualism and collectivism, we end up talking around the problems without understanding anything at a fundamental level.

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