Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Is This Really the Way Democracy Is Supposed to Work?

“Hey, Ace, what’s up?  I notice you don’t have a sign on your lawn for the governor’s race.  That’s a first.”

“Yeah, well, I hate to say it, Ralph, but I think I’m gonna sit that race out.  I notice you don’t have a sign in your yard either.”

He looked a little down.  “To tell the truth, Ace,” he said, “I’ve been the dutiful citizen and held my nose while I pulled the lever one too many times.  I’ve finally had enough.  I just can’t find it in me to vote for either one of these guys.”  

“Huh.  That’s funny, that’s about where I am too.  When it came right down to it, I couldn’t see putting a sign up for somebody I don’t respect, let alone have any reason to vote for.”

“That’s happening more and more.  When you find yourself  choosing the lesser of two evils time after time, you’re degrading the body politic almost every election cycle.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I’m not sure I want to.  It’s the reverse of the old ‘every-day-in-every-way-I’m-getting-better-and-better’ attitude.”

“Just answer me this, Ace,” he said.  “Do you find yourself wondering, ‘Is this really the way democracy is supposed to work?’  Seems to me that election after election, neither candidate will talk about the real issues.  It’s as if they drew up an agreement to stick major issues in the back of a giant ‘Ignore’ drawer.   And what do they campaign on?  Sex!”


“Sex.  It’s all sex-related,” he said.  “Divorce.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  I’m sure not saying those aren’t important in people’s lives. But the planet is heading toward a meltdown, the middle class is a threatened species, Wall Street owns Washington, and we go from one trillion dollar war to another like the national equivalent of a serial killer who just can’t stop.  The only arm of government listening to what the people say is the NSA.  Our schools are turning kids into right-answer machines, and those who graduate are getting priced out of college or saddled with lifelong debt.  And what actions do these candidates propose in response to such colossal problems?  Not a damned thing!  They spend 95% of their campaign tearing into the other guy’s views on hot-button sex topics.”

“Wow, you’re pretty worked up, Ralph.  But I have to agree on the negative campaigning.  I’ll bet I’ve received fifteen or twenty mailings from my party’s candidate, and all but one consisted of  nothing but an attack on your man.  I wasn’t supposed to vote for anybody; I was supposed to be scared into voting against someone.”

“I know what you mean, Ace, and I apologize for the rant.  Like I said, I don’t have a man in this race.  But I just don’t know what to do with politics anymore.  It feels as if our democracy has been driven to the end of a dead end street.  Some of the candidates for other state and local offices are people I can support.  But more and more the big races remind me of high school, where we only got to vote on things like class colors and the kids ‘most likely to succeed.’  It was a charade, you know, but we were supposed to be grateful for the chance to go through the motions of democracy in action.”

“I guess I understand where you’re coming from.  If the system is rigged so that lobbyists and corporate donations call the shots, the two major parties freeze others out of the process, only the rich or those who’ve sold their souls can afford to run for a major office, and voting districts are gerrymandered to give incumbents a 95% chance of success, it seems pointless to spend  much energy ‘working within the system.’  But what’s the alternative?”

“Well, I can tell you what the historical alternative has been.”

“What’s that?”

[Ralph pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolds it, and begins to read]  
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator  with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Live, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

“Hold on there!  Don’t you think you’re overreacting, Ralph?  What about some intervening steps?  You aren’t really suggesting what it sounds like you’re suggesting--are you?  That’s un-American!”

© Tony Russell, 2013

1 comment:

Sandy O said...

It has been said many ways, but "When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".