Let’s get this out first…there is never going to be a perfect political system for anyone or any nation. The nature of human beings is such that someone will find something to dislike about something, no matter what that something is. OK…now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s tackle a bigger issue: Democracy. The United States has the longest surviving democracy in the world to this point, and while the government of the United States really isn’t a true democracy (more like a Republic), most of the pieces are still in place. Community involvement via elected local officials, national involvement via national elections, local school board elections, even in some small towns across the United States direct democracy wherein the town comes out to vote on a matter. We have referendum votes, non-binding referendum votes as well as other ways to make our opinion known to those that are elected to office. The Constitution of the United States guarantees the populace the right to petition as well (First Amendment), meaning that we also have right to let the national government know if we like what they are doing, or to let them know that we would like a change put in place. All of these things, and more, are part an parcel of the democracy of the United States. Give the United States Constitution a quick read. Not the read that you allegedly gave it in high school, a real read. There are versions out there that make it more readable. I am willing to bet that most of the members of Congress have yet to read it in it’s entirety. The pont is that the United States Constitution lays out in rather significant detail how the nation is supposed to work. The Constitution describes the powers of Congress, the President (The Executive Branch) as well as the Supreme Court. The Constitution also lays out specifically, the powers of the Federal government versus the state government, with the tenth amendment being one of the most overlooked and most important items contained therein. The tenth amendment provides that powers not specifically given to the federal government are to be powers for the states individually. Thinking on this for just a bit provides that the states have a ton of power at their beck and call.
     The problem is that if one were to ask anyone on the street, the average citizen about the tenth amendment, or even the five parts of the first amendment, most would not be able to answer the question properly. In fact, here is a challenge…go up to anyone you know…anyone…and ask them the date that the United States declared their independence. The result will be shocking to say the least. The point here is that it’s not the trivia of history that is important but rather what that lack of trivia knowledge demonstrates. People in our nation have so little knowledge and are so disengaged in the political process that it is a detriment to the nation as a whole. The founding principal of any democracy is this…involvement and participation of the nation’s populace. Without that participation, government representatives can do as they wish without the repercussion of losing their position. Worse yet, if the number of people that particiapte in a democracy is few, the nation runs the risk of being dictated to by a small number of active voters with their own agenda, essentially creating a tyranny of the minority, in this case, the few numbers of voters that drive an election. This is seen in numerous cases in local elections, school board elections and the like. Democracy does not work if those affected to not get involved.
     Winston Churchill once said that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”. A scathing indictment, but one that does ring true in many instances. For a democracy, or a republic that likes to refer to itself as a democracy, there has to be partipation by the voter. This participation cannot be of the cursory kind in which the voter simply votes for the Republican or Democrat each and ever time. This is what I will refer to as “rote vote”, and the party that is the beneficiary of such a “rote vote” does not have to work hard to keep that voter and therefore can do pretty much what it wishes to do as that party will always get the support of the rote voter. The fact is that it is incumbant upon the voter to make sure that the decision that they make as they participate with their vote is a sound one, based on thought, not fleeting promises by the candidate courting the vote. This requires a bit of work on the part of the voter, but can be easily done via the internet or simply talking with those people that are trusted. One should never waste a vote, but to mum mind, a vote cast in the rote manner is a wasted one as there is no thought put into it, no forcing of the party to be accountable for its actions or inaction.
     When Congress has a 17% or less approval rating (meaning that only 17/100 people think they are doing a good job), but members of Congress are returned (re-elected) to Congress at a rate of over 90%…there is a major problem. The voter MUST hold their elective officials accountable and currently in the United States, we are not doing that. Any democracy that shirks its responsibility via an inactive populace invites disaster, mismanagement, and eventually failure. Conversely, a vibrant, active democracy that is willing to hold its leader accountable will thrive as it moves forward. The moral of the story here is to be involved, be active, do not be a “rote vote”, and challenge not only the candidates on issues, but challenge yourself. There is nothing that says the democrate is always right or the republican is always right…neither are. Be open mineded, don’t buy the hype of the various political machines that will say and do anything to misguide the voter and steer them toward their party. Michael Dougless once said in his movie The American President that “democracy is advanced citizenship”. There is no question that statement is true, but as currently constructed, the American populace is failing the class.