Right now democracy is dying. This should be a galvanizing time for people everywhere in the U.S. who believe in a democracy that works for everyone. The two major parties of the land offer little hope for saving democracy. One is so extremist that it is dismantling democratic processes without a care for its people. The other offers no clear path to a better future. Meanwhile, the most us are left wondering how to get out of this mess and make democracy work for everyone. What can we do?
Books have been written about the many reasons we are where we are today. Many more books will be written about it in the future. Little attention, however, will be paid to our absence as active members of democracy.
The constitutionally promised democracy that champions the common good for all while also protecting individual rights is rotting, turning to rust in a dusty grave. Yet, the majority of elected officials don’t seem to care. The way people vote, putting uncaring people in power, would seem to show the same for the everyday person. I don’t believe this is true.
I think that most people, regardless of their partisan political beliefs, actually want similar things. Unfortunately, when we lack the cultural environment to stop it, elected officials with no scruples manipulate us on the basis of our fears. The result? Extreme partisan politicians who forget they were elected to represent all people, not just the few who paid for their campaigns.
We can change this. We can change this by becoming intentional in our public lives and championing the democratic values of the common good. Doing this can create the type of democratic culture that would not allow fear mongering and manipulation by the few in power. How can we do this?
As a people we have to understand and accept the fundamental idea that democracy is truly for everyone, not just for some of us, or just me, but for all of us. Our conversations, our decisions about politicians, our activities in civic spaces, our interactions with government, and so on, should be colored by this key democratic principle.
We can’t hide in the best neighborhoods and pretend that the poor side of town in our community isn’t related to us. We can’t move to some-of-us only communities and pretend that other communities aren’t part of what makes us unique. We can’t continue to pretend that what you do has no bearing whatsoever on your neighbor.
We have to move forward intentionally by teaching ourselves, our children, our neighbors, and our families that we truly do depend on each other. You depend on a team of experts you may never meet who make sure that your tap water is clean for cooking, bathing, and even drinking. You depend on a team of experts who make sure that street lights stay on in your community, that the ambulance shows up in an emergency, or that the pothole eventually gets filled. And this is just the beginning of all that we depend on that has everything to do with a democracy that works for all.
If we don’t accept this key fundamental principle, we will continue to put people in office who just don’t care for the majority of us. We deserve better. We do have the power to change the culture that has brought us to this point by turning it on its head. We can do this by demanding from the media, our elected officials, corporations, our neighbors, and ourselves that we recognize that for democracy to survive it needs to work well for all of us, not just some of us.
This is a true battlefront, and it has nothing to do with gender, racialized groups, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, immigration, or partisan issues. Don’t believe that lie. That’s not the real battle affecting democracy. The real battle has everything to do with democracy working for a few of us vs. working for all of us. That’s the only real question at stake here. If you believe, as I do, that the ideal democracy to strive for is one that is inclusive, benefitting and protecting all, then isn’t it time we do our part to create it intentionally?