Rancorous partisan politics have crippled the nation’s ability to effectively solve its critical problems. The entrenched duopoly — Democrats and Republicans — behave like rival gangs of selfish, spiteful children fighting over control of the playground.
Those few who are not are like ballerinas in mosh pit.
Some say that it has always been thus in American politics. Yes, well, there was the Civil War. But, should we simply accept such destructive discord as an inevitable concomitant of the American political system? Nothing to do but endure it and hope for bold, wise leadership to emerge from somewhere, somehow — you know, like a Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill or Donald Trump?
OK, OK, so that last historical example is a dubious one, but Trump was elected because enough voters — aided by the effete anachronism that is the Electoral College — wanted to believe that he was the unpolitician, the enfant terrible, who would push and shove federal government out of the morass of duopoly divisiveness and corruptive special interest influence, and make everything better — if not great — again.
That such a person — a petulant bully, unethical sleaze and narcissistic nincompoop — can be elected president of the United States is unsettling evidence of the potential downside of universal suffrage. Voters can make terribly unwise choices.
They do so when fear and ignorance allow them to be easily misled.
A predilection for pre-packaged political philosophies accommodates and fosters the intellectual sloth that makes for misled voters.
The intellectually indolent are convinced that their particular belief system has all the answers and the ultimate, unassailable truths. So, they have no need to pursue further investigation, consider alternate arguments, or evaluate new information.
It’s so easy. Just believe. It’s like taking a smart pill.
Still, I suspect that the vast majority of Americans are rational, independent thinkers who have not succumbed to brain-petrifying partisanship. If these folks will engage enough in the political process, they can quietly overwhelm the noisy minority of ideological idiots who are sowing bitter discord and wreaking havoc on the American political system.
Regardless of who voted for Trump or why, his election was a bad blunder for this country.
Trump has a proclivity for autocracy. He works to subvert vital fundamentals of American democracy, particularly those that check the power of the president. To the extent that unprincipled Republicans in Congress and misguided voters actively or passively allow it, Trump’s strident efforts to discredit the news media, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the judiciary and the electoral process, whenever it yields results unfavorable to him, undermine our democracy.
Resisting Trump is not a partisan thing. It’s a patriotic thing. And, patriotism is far more than symbolic demonstrations of flag waving, standing for the national anthem or holding military parades. It is commitment in mind and deed to the principles of American democracy and the civil liberties embodied in and deriving from our Constitution.
It is encouraging that the majority of American voters did not vote for Trump, and polls continue to reveal that most Americans do not hold him in high regard.
The Trump presidency can be significantly neutralized by electing a majority of Democrats to at least one house of Congress in this November’s general election. It’s not that Democrats are the answer, it’s that electing them is the most expedient work-around to return a balance of power to national government and rein in a dangerously demagogic president. Democrats will be allied by those few honorable, rational, Republicans left in Congress who are not Trump toadies.
Sadly, the Republican Party is proving to be the worst side of the dreadful duopoly coin. Desperate to overcome their numerical disadvantage, Republicans actively undermine the political process with blatant gerrymandering; voting restrictions targeting classes of people likely not to support them; and appointing egregiously unqualified people to the federal judiciary.
Most shameful is that to ensure passage of their mostly unpopular, fiscally irresponsible and selfish legislative agenda, they support Trump regardless of his assaults on democratic principles, his indecency in office and his ever more suspicious Russian entanglements.
What the nation really needs is a new political party that is not beholden to the forces of greed or devoted to some fixed ideology, theology or economic theory. A party dedicated to the nation’s general welfare, while honoring the Constitution and protecting civil liberties. A party that seeks practical solutions through objective analysis, science and, when necessary, sensible compromise.
A party of reason.
Maybe the millennial generation will rise to the occasion and make that happen. The Baby Boomers, the greediest generation, certainly hasn’t.
The most important quality of responsible citizenship in a democracy is not being stupid. Most people aren’t born stupid. They let themselves get that way.
To avoid being stupid, get a rounded education with information from multiple sources. Practice critical thinking. Question belief systems and maintain vigilant skepticism. Demand valid evidence to support claims. Don’t ignore or accept hypocrisies, inconsistent logic and mendacity in politicians. Vote them out of office.
Get smart, and keep America safe for democracy.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.