Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Democracy had proved to be a disappointment to "nearly everyone in Greek intellectual circles in the mid-4th century BC." (63) Has democracy in our time disappointed you? Can you give a rousing defense of democratic practice, not just democratic theory? Are we living through another time of epochal democratic decline, or are you hopeful that our politics will rally?
What has disappointed me the most is a lack of individuals making the effort as citizens to be informed, and then registering and voting in elections that impact their lives? Twenty years ago, Tennessee had an extremely well-qualified Supreme Court Justice, Penny White. I knew her. A small group of individuals in a well-coordinated campaign focused on removing her from the Supreme Court. They accused her of being evil. They said that she was soft on crime and anti-death penalty because she along with the other four justices returned a murder case to the lower court for resentencing. A family accused her of murdering their daughter by her decision.
Unbelievably, on election night approximately nineteen percent of the registered voters cast a ballot on whether to retain her or not. Ten percent of all registered voters voted her out. Ten percent!! This is what I find most troubling about our democracy. Paul Weyrich was the founder of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has crafted the model legislation behind closed doors, not open to the public, which affects many aspects of our lives. One example is the Voter Photo Id laws being introduced around the country by state legislators who are members of ALEC. Weyrich stated that he didn’t want everyone to vote, that their leverage goes up as the voting populace goes down. Sadly, the press has taken an indifferent attitude to ALEC’s secret meetings by saying as Herman quotes, “that’s the way things are,” (75) and instead of informing the public of these organizations and their efforts to thwart democracy, they focus more on trying to entertain the public with inane, long-winded, and hackneyed conversations and meaningless “so-called expert” discussions.
But I am an eternal optimist and regardless of one’s political affiliation, this year’s election appears to be one that will engage more citizens in the process and hopefully that will translate into a few better informed citizens who will turn out to cast a ballot. If you are a Trump or Sanders supporter, then your focus may be on change from the current system and if you’re a Clinton supporter you may be focused on continuing to make improvements in jobs, healthcare, education, and the economy from the Great Recession. Regardless of whom wins, it would be nice to see Civics required as part of our elementary public education curriculum. For me that is our best hope, especially if it is taught by teachers who are grounded in philosophy, enthusiastic about teaching it, and relate it to historical and current events.
Because we have three branches of government, it is doubtful that anyone of these three candidates when one of them is elected will be able to significantly alter our government based on what they say on the campaign trail. The greater concern is what happens on the local level by small groups of individuals who are working to further a particular agenda that is not open to public scrutiny.