Democracy at (the) Stake

The foreperson on the grand jury for Georgia’s State prosecution of election interference by Donald Trump and others is recently in the news, giving interviews to whomever will listen (and it seems everyone is) over her excitement for having the privilege to serve in that capacity. When asked, she confessed that she did not vote in the 2020 Presidential election.

Wait, what?

Obviously, interfering with elections is on a whole different scale than not supporting elections by choosing not to vote. But in both actions it is clear that democracy is at stake – we can even say that democracy is at “the” stake, against the wall, on the gallows (choose your metaphor). Democracy is government by participation, under the leadership of representatives we pick to be there.

That’s how it’s designed to work.

Whether the ballots we cast are illegally stolen or not counted; whether we are prevented from casting our legal vote or make the choice ourselves not to participate, democracy is on its way out.

People with good sense and who care about equality, freedom, equity and inclusion need to understand that ideals and values such as these must be worked for, defended, and consistently promoted in their actions and choices.

A frightening number of current representatives, however, are showing by their rhetoric that these ideals and values are not in their picture of a future America. In fact, if they have their way, America will be a nation under autocratic control, of racial and gender inequality, of codified inequities permanently locking out the lower classes from access to a better life, and with high walls of exclusion against every person, thing, and idea that doesn’t fit obediently inside their box.

The walls of their box are forged of fear, not faith; of anger, not hope; of self-interest and not “a more perfect union.”

By regularly stirring the pot or throwing more logs on the fire (choose your metaphor), these anti-American politicians, along with their handlers and supporters, are continuing to cast doubt on the integrity of elections, thus undermining the trust of Americans in the entire process.

Must-winners are inevitably sore losers, and sore losers tend not to be fair players.

If they can discourage or otherwise convince voters who don’t support them or believe in what they stand for to stay home on election day, then their comparatively small base of devotees will prevail over the general will of the people.

And that is how democracy dies.

Interfere with elections, overthrow election results, or persuade opposition voters that their votes won’t matter and not to bother showing up: choose your adventure, but the result will be the same. There is no effective will of the people if that will is not registered, recorded, counted, and protected.

For a while, there will still be opportunities to participate in democracy – by serving on a jury, for instance.

But eventually these won’t really matter, either, since by then something other than a constitutional justice system will be deciding who’s in, who’s out, and who deserves what.

As a young person, the Georgia State grand jury foreperson might hold the belief that democracy “just is,” like a backdrop to daily life and its more immediate concerns. As long as the economy is working and the lights stay on, the political side of things can be left for others to run and worry about.

As we enjoy our freedoms, we don’t often consciously appreciate all that goes on and all that had to happen – the collective work and sacrifice of thousands – for us to be free. It’s easy to believe that the environment, atmosphere, and “spirit” of freedom is and will always be around us, as we chase our economic dreams.

It was partly this preferential interest in the values of capitalism over the values of democracy that got Donald Trump as close he came to winning the popular vote in the 2016 election. Trump was a celebrity icon of how to bend, and if necessary to break, democratic principles (along with ethical standards) in pursuit of economic gain.

Even before Trump, fewer Americans were showing up to the polls to cast their vote. He just found a way to exploit that political indifference – or maybe it’s ignórance: willful ignorance – to his advantage.

The “American Dream” is really a hybrid of economic and political aspirations, for the freedom to make a better life for ourselves and to turn our diversity into genuine community. Individual prosperity and communal wellbeing shouldn’t have to compete for our attention and loyalty. They both require commitment and sacrifice in order to be realized, and it could even be argued that one cannot be fully realized without steady devotion to the other.

From the very beginning of this Experiment, Americans have wanted only enough politics and law to keep the playing field safe and fair. An outstanding characteristic of American ideology is in how we tend to view community and communal values through the lens of individualism and our own pursuit of happiness.

Even in our typical use of the term, community amounts to little more than an aggregate of individuals, rather than, as the word literally denotes, to a qualitative shift toward communion as individuals are able to transcend their personal interests for the sake of unity and a greater good. If we take any steps in the direction of community, we do it according to a calculus of “what’s in it for me” versus what’s best for us all.

I’ve made a case elsewhere for regarding democracy – not just the will of the people, but a vision for how individual wills can work together and create genuine community – as perpetually endangered in a nation where personal ambition is valued above communal (or transpersonal) wisdom.

Maybe Trump and “Trumplicanism” is just a temporary slip on the slope of democratic progress. But hopefully it has taught us that taking responsibility for democracy and doing our part makes a difference. We may not get our 15 minutes of fame for doing it, but it really does matter.

In every election, democracy is at (the) stake. By choosing not to participate, we are also hastening its demise.

Published by tractsofrevolution

Thanks for stopping by! My formal training and experience are in the fields of philosophy (B.A.), spirituality (M.Div.), and counseling (M.Ed.), but my passionate interest is in what Abraham Maslow called "the farther reaches of our human nature." Tracts of Revolution is an ongoing conversation about this adventure we are all on -- together: becoming more fully human, more fully alive. I'd love for you to join in!

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