The recent shaking of the earth, thundering of the wind – could it be our Founding Fathers whirling in their graves as the country careens from representative democracy toward oligarchy and, daresay, authoritarianism?
When did the elected representatives of this nation stop being servants and become our overseers?
When did public service morph into personal aggrandizement and an outsized sense of power?
When did the thrust toward consensus building end and continuous confrontation become the obligatory norm in our local and national politics – as well as our public discourse?
Lest you think that I am railing, here, about the House Freedom Caucus or, for example, the Ohio Republican dominated legislature – nope:
EXTREMISM DOMINATES ON BOTH THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT
Whether it is Modern Monetary Theory on the left or a right wing threat to default on the USA National Debt for the first time since 1796 —
- 59% of Americans surveyed want members of Congress to work together, thoughtfully, to address the size of the USA Budget and slow the growth of debt and deficits. But there is no evidence that members of Congress have any interest in solving our growing debt problem rather than using it to demagogue the other party.
Doesn’t matter if it is pundits applauding parents taking their child to Drag Queen Story Hour at the local library or governors and state legislators banning books from classroom and school library shelves a parent (or two) find controversial —
- According to a Fox News Poll taken only two months ago, 77% of parents are concerned about book banning, they’d rather the choice of reading materials be left to teachers with parental guidance.
- The same survey found 73% of parents were concerned about what is taught in school.
When only 26 percent of 8th graders in USA test “proficient in math, 100% of parents should be hugely concerned.
Shouldn’t our elected representatives at all levels of government be urgently investigating the root cause of such an epic educational failure and addressing needed reforms, instead of worrying about student pronoun preferences?
After more than 200 mass shootings in the first four and half months of 2023, Americans – of all political persuasions support stricter gun registration, licensing, and security legislation but the Republican controlled legislatures have recently voted to do just the opposite. More states are enacting “open carry” laws resulting in more people to possess more guns with little or no scrutiny.
- This is not a new disconnect between our representatives and we, the people. Even the majority of Texans polled have consistently supported stronger gun legislation over the past decade – yet their state legislature and their governor have moved in the opposite direction with horrific consequences.
THE POLITICAL CENTER IS IGNORED
All of this is happening because the “80 percent of Americans who live in the middle” have allowed themselves to be ignored by those who – every two or four or six years – promise to “represent them”.
An American Psychological Association survey commissioned in 2022 found Americans were “disheartened” – I’d say exhausted by a “barrage of external stressors that are mostly out of personal control. The survey found a majority of adults are disheartened by government and political divisiveness, daunted by historic inflation levels, and dismayed by widespread violence.”
As a result, for too many the responsibility of voting seen as futile – “doesn’t matter what I think”, my representative doesn’t listen to me”.
Those who crave power rather than seek to serve the public are more than happy to assure constituents that, indeed, they don’t listen and, more importantly, don’t care.
Laws making voter registration more difficult and voting, itself, less convenient have been introduced in almost every state capitol since the 2020 election cycle.
Shouldn’t all of us be outrage by the brazenness of Trump lawyer, Cleta Mitchell? Addressing a Republican donor retreat a few weeks ago, she responded to the 2022 general election results by asserting new laws were needed to make it more difficult for college students to vote. Her argument, and I paraphrase, is that if college (younger) voters vote, Republicans can’t win!
Ms. Mitchell could get her way even without new legislation.
The youth vote is one of historic “underrepresentation” accelerated in the 21st century by a lack of public school civics education and a related growing disbelief in the power of representative democracy among Gen Z and beyond.
Too many have turned their time and attention to other pursuits because they don’t feel they can have an impact on how the nation is governed – an impact on their own future.
But they are wrong.
Their vote does matter. Where and when they use that vote is what makes it matter.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PRIMARIES, STUPID
It is in the primaries that voters from both the left and the right select the final two candidates for the November general election.
Appearing on ABC”s “THIS WEEK, former Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas) – incidentally a former CIA operative — pointed to an alarming statistic.
Only twenty three (23) percent of registered voters voted in 2022 primary elections across the country.
That is down from 2016 when 26 percent of registered voters, combined, voted in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.
Stands to reason the small number of voters are voting in primaries are the most motivated and ideological of voters. They represent the extremes of their parties.
These low primary participation numbers go a long way toward explaining the extreme views candidates espouse. Candidates are catering to the voters who matter.
As a consequence, when the November General Election comes around, the forty to fifty percent of registered voters who come out to vote for president or governor, or both, already bad/worse choices from top to bottom of the ballot.
The degree to which Congress and the various state legislatures represent the political extremes of their populations, is determined the smaller number of voters who continue to vote down their ballot after choosing one or the other candidate on the top of the ticket.
Sadly, the further down the ballot, the fewer voters will cast a vote. That means winning a primary in a gerrymandered district, is tantamount to election – or re-election — in the general election.
SAVING THE REPUBLIC IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY
If the too silent majority of America wants it’s children to inherit a free, independent and self-governing nation: a representative democracy – in fact – as well as theory it is time to set your disillusionment aside.
If enough of us join the battle for the future of our children—and the nation they inherit, we can still make the 21st the second great American century.
But to make it happen, the so-called 80 percent majority must get off the couch.
Democracy is a participation not a spectator sport.
Encourage reasonable, younger, consensus-driven candidates to “get in the race”. They are out there but they need popular encouragement to run.
Donate to their campaigns.
Demonstrate support by volunteering for campaigns.
Be willing to engage friends and co-workers in intelligent discussion of the issues and where the candidates stand.
KICKING POLITICAL EXTREMISM TO THE CURVE IS EVERYONE’S JOB
It happens when every eligible voter vote in every eligible 2023 and 2024 primary election even if it means standing in long lines or parking and walking into a building to drop off your ballot.
It is our individual and collective responsibility to use our franchise wisely, and at every opportunity, to ensure our 240 year old experiment with representative democracy continues.
The world is watching. The world depends on us to do our duty.
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