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 previous issue                         issue #62,  posted 12 /19 / 2019                      archive of all  issues

The Sad State of American Democracy 

in the news:  After a lengthy investigation and inquiry process, the USA House of Representatives has passed two articles of impeachment—for "Abuse of Power" and "Obstruction of Congress"—against President Donald Trump.  

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org)

If the functioning of the world's oldest democracy is healthy, you might reasonably expect the inquiry and trial by jury at the heart of a key process—namely the potential removal of its elected leader—would be characterized as follows.  It is an honest pursuit of facts that is free to go wherever the evidence demands. The jurors would decide whether to remove the leader based on their own independent analysis in light of the relevant law. They would value both law and order— upon which the functioning of their democracy is based—and on the principle that no one—not even a president—is above the law.

The gathering of the facts as related to potential "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors" should be seen as an educational effort. In this regard it fits with what I consider to the most important thing about democracy: citizens give their elected leaders feedback that steers the "ship of state." If its citizens are wise, ideally this feedback prevents the ship of state's veering seriously off course. 

Education is critical to this process as it is in—to change to using a computer modeling based metaphor—"trash in = trash out". If voters are ill informed and poorly educated—or if one's computer model is not based on a good representation of Reality—the democracy will flounder. (Just as a highly flawed computer model's predictions will be worthless.)  If its citizens make choices based on wishful thinking or group thinking—without doing their own honest, analysis—their democracy may not have long to live.

What would a once thriving American democracy in the process of dying look like?  First,  it would be highly polarized with members of opposing tribes (political parties) facing off against each other. Sadly those who thought of themselves as primarily American citizens first—not as members of their tribe—would be in the minority.   It would be run by the leader of one of the tribes in authoritarian fashion and increasingly involve instilling fear. Suppose that leader—in pursuit of consolidation of his or her power—ignored idealistic things like treating people right, fair play and ethics. Suppose he or she ignored an oath of office that essentially required that he or she serve others.  That is, operate in the public / American national interest—not his or her own self interest.   Suppose this tribal leader—aided by his or her cronies who control key media outlets—so thoroughly dominates many of those he or she leads, that these folks don't see Reality for what it is. 

Rather they increasingly see Reality through a filter that is sympathetic to this leader. Seeing it, not as it actually is, but as they wished it were. Sadly, they see a world that is not the real one. They see a fantasy world where their leader, though a flawed human being like all of us, places their interests first. Unable to see clearly—to see this corrupt, self-centered, money and power-driven individual for what he or she really is— its citizens fail to remove him or her from office. This emboldens the American leader, who cynically and increasingly feels he or she can do anything and get away with it. Recognizing that his or her continued reign depends on widespread ignorance and lack of critical thinking skills, he or she hardly cares about the deteriorating state of American education...

Those he or she  has thoroughly fooled hardly notice. But others— not in the thrall of this corrupt leader—can only conclude that their leader is now above the law, and that they're living in a semi-authoritarian state. Foreign authoritarian leaders who are not fans of American democracy—like Russia's Vladimir Putin—are smiling! 

Does this picture I've painted resemble a world Americans are living in today?  "The Sad State of American Democracy" title I've employed above suggests that it may—but we need to give the procedure time to run its full course before we can come to a firm conclusion. 

Note: the description above is based on idealized and formalized choices identified below. Those who disdain the ability of us imperfect human creatures to see clearly and provide a service in the form of creating a choices structure—there are 52 choices altogether based on 104 themes—will disparage it as naively flawed. Seeped in cynicism (choice #32) they fail to provide constructive feedback that could help improve the structure. If you've read this far, look at the list of choices below—important to my analysis above— and consider which of the themes in each pair best characterizes your worldview...

choice #1  Evidence Based vs. Faith Based 

choice #5  Honestly Grounded vs. Wishful Thinking

choice #12 Intellectual Freedom vs. The Group Think Imperative

choice #18  Golden Rule  vs. Culture of Fear

choice #29  Education for Democracy  vs. Authoritarianism

choice #32  Service to Others  vs. Cynicism

choice #33  Ethical Orientation vs. Seeking Wealth and Power

choice #36  Global Citizen  vs. Proud Identification & Tribalism  (This can be reworked to fit this situation to read  "American Citizen" vs. "Proud Identification with my political party affiliation") 

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