democracy

Death of Democracy II

Part 2

Last week we offered a link to Lee Drutman’s article “We need political parties. But their rabid partisanship could destroy American democracy” on Vox, September 5th, 2017.  This week, in Death of Democracy – Part 2 (an admittedly transitional post for the sake of relative brevity of Part 3) we consider some of the antecedents to the democracy we see melting all around us.

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Considering Parties

We often think of the United States as a bastion of democracy and democratic rule.  It might surprise you to learn that of all the countries in the world that rule (or profess to rule) democratically, the U.S. ranks below average with regard to its citizens’ opinion of their country’s governance.  This is to say that many people in the U.S. (as opposed to many folks from other nations) feel cheated by the government. These people feel as if they are being ignored, cast aside by politicians who are almost exclusively attending to the needs of corporations and the wealthy.  This accusation is lodged against both major political parties.  Both the mainstream Democratic and Republican parties have become, at least in the minds of many, complete failures with regard to their ability to actually represent the will of the People.  The last presidential election most likely, at least in part, represented a desperate plea on the part of some of us to break the pattern of a seemingly tone-deaf Congress.  However, such dissatisfaction does not suggest that the idea of political parties is at fault–or does it?

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Death of Democracy

Part 1

Before the [civil] war, it was said ‘the United States are’, grammatically it was spoken that way and was thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war it was always ‘the United States is’ as we say today without being self-conscious at all.

~ Shelby Foote, historian

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”   So begins the preamble to the Constitution of the United States.   “We the People…” began with the idea of banding together in the spirit of democracy, in order to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  Oh, well! Could this period in which we now live represent the beginning of the death of the democratic experiment that was and is supposed to be the United States?

charlottesville.jpgCharlottesville, 2017  – image by Andalou Agency/Getty Images

As a second follow-up to Tim Snyder’s article On Tyranny, the post this week links to a lengthy article only briefly mentioned in last week’s post.  The article is called “We need political parties. But their rabid partisanship could destroy American democracy” (which appeared in Vox on September 5th, 2017).   The article, by Lee Drutman  is quite long, but well worth working your way through as it presents a series of issues we should all consider, including:

  • Our fundamental disagreement about what it means to be an “American”
  • The value of political parties
  • Reasons for why we maintain relatively intractable political positions and staunchly maintained polarization
  • How and why division in current U.S. politics is preventing democracy from functioning as it should
  • How the current political climate in the U.S. threatens to create a breaking point akin to the Civil War
  • That inequality and polarization have grown in tandem for the last few decades
  • That the intrusion of money into the electoral process is fueling voter discontent and the disjuncture between the public (actual constituents) and campaign donors (paying constituents)’.

As mentioned, the article is lengthy, not very sexy, but well worth the effort to understand what it presents.


Extending the Drutman article’s focus on political division, next week’s post– Death of Democracy – Part 2—frames this problem into a slightly more embedded historical context, reaching toward addressing our need not only for less division but toward more proactive socio-political solidarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coup d’Etat

As the first of potentially multiple follow-ups to a previous post about the book On Tyranny by Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder, here is a link to an excerpted interview with Mr. Snyder you might find illuminating.

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In modern day America, we have largely settled into relative complacency regarding socio-political strife.   We have certainly seen an uptick in street demonstrations since the most recent presidential inaugurant settled into his new White House digs.  However, unless you are of a certain age, you have probably never experienced major violence nor upheaval associated with civil unrest leading to death in the United States.  Many twenty, thirty or even forty somethings are not old enough to know much about and certainly too young to have been present (as were some of us) for events such as the killing of two students at Jackson State in May 1970, the killing of four students at Kent State University (sometimes called the Kent State Massacre which occurred only eleven days prior to the Jackson State killings) or the Watts Riots (also known as the Watts Rebellion) in 1965, when thirty-four people died.  Most people cannot conceive of upheaval of such magnitude.  Perhaps this is partially why Charlottesville was so shocking.

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Consider a Think Tank

The seekingGood.blog has endeavored to provide useful information such that readers might expand their understanding of themselves and their overall knowledge as well as to subsequently act in accordance with the “Good” they individually manage to determine. This blog has offered repeated admonishments to “find out for yourself”, to do your own investigations.  Furthermore, while this is a decidedly left-leaning blog, we have also endeavored to encourage open-mindedness, exploration of competing ideas and transcendence of the comforting limits of habitual ways of thinking.  In this light, consider the following.

Think Tand (borderless) - from ClipartFest.jpg

[IMAGE from ClipartFest]

Introduction

Governments do not think.  People think.  Think tanks represent people thinking collectively.  Governments implement and enforce policies.  Regardless how much thinking individuals do, most will have little direct impact on public policy issues.  Think tanks—collections of thinking people–often help to develop or influence public policies. (more…)

What is helpful?

What socio-political issues are most relevant to you? Jen Hofmann (who’s Action List and blog have been frequently mentioned here at seekingGood) is requesting input regarding your interests.  Essentially, Jen wants to insure the relevance of her Action List relative to our common good.

Jennifer-Hofmann (small)In her own words:

In August, my Action Checklist will have 7 actions per week–one for each day–to lighten the load during the vacation/back-to-school month. Knowing which issues are most important to you helps me plan.

Here is a link to her survey (confidential, of course).

Not signed up for Jen’s weekly action list?  You can do so here.

 

Three for the Left

Given the 2018 midterm elections and the desire of many to move the U.S. Congress back towards balance by electing more Democrats and progressives, here are three sites that might aid that effort.


swingleft.PNG  Swingleft.org – if you are interested in moving the current US congress back towards a more Democratic (that is, non-Republican) direction, you might find the swinglife.org useful.  This site lists swing districts which could be massaged (worked by you and others) to help sway voters in a more progressive (or at least Democratic) direction. Find a district near you.  If this is the way you might want to change things, get to work!


sisterdistrict.PNG  Sisterdistrict.org – similar to swingleft.org, sisterdistrict.org seeks to help organize folks in order to swing the voting outcome of specific districts in a blue (Democratic or progressive) direction.  “When you join the Sister District Project, you will be connected with your local home district team…. Anyone can join. When you sign up to volunteer, we will (1) connect you with your local Sister District team, (2) assign your team to a race that is both winnable and strategic to support, and (3) give you specific action items to carry out that have been vetted with the campaign.”  Just go to this link and type in your zipcode to find the SisterDistrict nearest to you.


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Runforsomething.net – As reported by Mother Jones, one of the problems of establishing a more progressive government is to promote progressive candidates.  The goal of this organization is to promote and support would-be candidates for political office. Specifically, Runforsomething, composed of various people active within the political area, is specific about who they want to recruit. The target candidate is under 35 years old.  The ultimate goal is to “…recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench…. We’ll take a chance on people the usual “institutions” might never encounter. We’ll help people run for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, city council seats, and more. We’ll do whatever it takes to get more under-35 year-olds on the ballot.”

Perhaps you want to run for office.  Perhaps you know someone who should. Perhaps you merely want to stay informed about how this initiative is building a new generation of progressives.  Perhaps you want to volunteer to aid the effort.  Take a chance. Make a stand.

 

July 12, 2017

This date – Wednesday, July 12, 2017 – has been designated by several organizations as aNational Day of Action” regarding the future of the Internet.  A large number of websites and companies have planned a protest against the attempts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to undercut the current Internet freedom we enjoy.   The issue is what most of us know as “net neutrality”.

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In a previous post on the seekingGood.blog (May 11th, 2017), we described a proposal engineered by current FCC chair Ajit Pai in which he is seeking to reclassify telecommunication companies. Of course, such changes do nothing in themselves. However, Pai’s proposal, once implemented, releases telecom companies from their obligation to refrain from restricting access to any Internet site–either through denial of service, slowing down that service, or by instituting pay walls to access content.

Whose Freedom?

Remember when many of us went through a “cable cutting” phase?  The proposed rule changes will essentially give telecommunications companies the ability to turn the Internet into a collection of Internet companies–structured like cable companies–leaving us with no escape.  Even with regulations, several of these companies have unlawfully attempted content manipulation.  With no restrictions, telecoms can essentiallynet neutrality outquote.png own the Internet, behaving as they choose, forcing us to pay for what we now access freely.  Additionally, consider the manner in which we have come to voice our opinions.  We do not post notes on a message board in the public square.  We seldom write letters to elected officials to be delivered days later through snail mail.  And most of us do not take to the streets in protest of current governmental decisions.  For most of us, speaking against what we do not like or do not accept has become a matter of expressing ourselves electronically.  The demise of net neutrality also means the death of free electronic speech.

Thankfully, there is already bipartisan support for preserving net neutrality.  Still, nothing is guaranteed.  The more We, the People express our ideas to the government, the more that government is likely to ponder its actions as our representatives.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if our silence tacitly validated some last minute, backdoor deal to allow telecom companies to steal the Internet?

Think this will all just go away? Or do you need more convincing?   Take a look at this video for a general idea of what could happen to your Internet access.
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… or how about this one.

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Finally, look at this one (perhaps the simplest and the best).

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Defend net neutrality!


On July 12th, companies and organizations like Reddit, Netflix, Kickstarter, Vimeo, Amazon, The Nation and the ACLU among many others will participate in an online protest.  To find out more details, sign up here.

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Speak Out!

To let the FCC know your thoughts about potentially losing Internet freedom, follow the specific instructions, (originally posted by the Popular Resistance website) listed below:

Here are step-by-step instructions to help you submit a comment to the FCC.

  1. Click here to go to the page for Express Filings of comments. This is the simplest format to use.
  2. Type 17-108 into the top box called “Proceeding(s)”. Yes, in this Orweillian world Pai did title the proposal to end Internet freedom “Restoring Internet Freedom”. It should be called “Promoting Telecom Thievery”.
  3. Fill out the rest of the form. Yes, you do have to provide your address in order to be counted.
  4. Type your comment into the box at the bottom. See the advice [below] from Tech Crunch (midway down the page at this link).
  5. Review your submission and once you are satisfied, click on the ”submit” button at the bottom of the screen.

The window for your comments closes on July 17th – just a few weeks from now.  Voice your ideas!


Amy Kroin, Editor, edits all Free Press and Free Press Action Fund communications. She also edits and monitors the Free Press website and creates campaign, educational and outreach materials. Before joining Free Press, Amy served as a writer and editor for a division of Pearson, the media and education company, and earlier served as the arts editor of the Valley Advocate.