Bringing Democracy Back

It seems that everyone in the country, from both the right and left, feels that the US is headed in bad directions.  The Supreme Court seems totally committed to States Rights as envisioned in the early 19th century.  Each state can make its own decisions on abortion, the environment, sexual equality and voting rights.  The Supreme Court seems only committed to the 1st and 2nd Amendments.  Beyond that, it is up to each State to decide.

The Court can only be overruled by passing laws in Congress.  This might work in the House, but not the Senate, where filibustering can thwart almost anything.  The only possibility is for Democrats to win strong majorities in both the House and Senate.  However, gerrymandering by states is strongly limiting this possibility.  The only solution is for voters to take over.  Despite gerrymandering, very strong voter engagement can make an enormous difference.

The message should be “Bring Our Democracy Back.”  In contrast to “Make American Great Again,” the goal should be to marginalize white supremacists, conspiracy advocates, uninformed nutcases, and a pervasive sense of hatred.  We need to convene communities of caring, collaboration, and coordination to overcome the dark forces of MAGA.  These forces of destruction need to be countered by the enlightened forces of construction. 

To this end, we need to move beyond the Supreme Court’s decisions to thwart innovation to a national sense of creative change.  It is no longer about right vs. left, or red vs. blue.  It is about freedom, choice, and trust.  We – millions of people – need to assert our beliefs about freedom, choice, and trust, not in terms of owning guns or Supreme Court rulings, but in terms of basic values about being a people committed to a life-affirming future.

How might this happen?  I think that bottom-up engagement will make an enormous difference.  Schools, churches, civic groups, social clubs and, as I posted six weeks ago, community pubs can convene discussions of trust, equity, inclusion and other elements of democracy.  These discussions should involve face-to-face engagement and dialog.  Values, concerns, and perceptions should be on the agenda.  Listening to each other should become an increasing core competency.

I am reminded of the town meetings in the small town in Rhode Island where I grew up. These were lively events.  Some might argue that such is infeasible with large groups.  What if everyone in the meeting hall was on Zoom on their smart phones?  They could post questions on Chat.  If called upon, their face would appear on the large screens where they could elaborate their question or answer somebody else’s question.  In this way, the technology that has tended to distance us could bring us back together.

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