Democracy is all about using free and fair political competition to motivate a contest of the best ideas for solving problems. Politics played as a contest of ideas requires voters and politicians alike to speak for themselves and to listen to others for their ideas.
If you ever anticipate
you might need some friends in Congress,
Pundits haven’t yet fully connected the dots in front of them. Yes, presidential use of national emergency powers to spend money on things that Congress chose not to authorize is against the Article 1 of Constitution. Here is the other dot: the choice of president became more consequential as the Office of the President became more powerful. This trend explains why election campaigns have been fought ever more viciously – by politicians and citizens alike.
In times that strain our system of checks and balances, trying for more party purity – meaning moving the two major parties even further apart – is the wrong way to go. Instead, it is time to restore big tent politics.
In a democracy, people need to trust...
In any republic, much depends upon the trust of political leaders and the people that election winners will not use their power to entrench themselves at the expense of the losers. In fact, entrenchment has been a feature of many governments around the world. Leaders find an excuse to act outside of normal law – by declaring a state of emergency.
Trust in our system of democracy depends in no small part upon how well it delivers for us. The services we get from the government are part of that. Few of us are happy about shut-downs, inadequate services, waste, and unsustainable debt. That prompts a question: how is the U.S. budget process supposed to work?
Change is easier when our elected representatives are working together to get something done. The good news in this context is that there is far more common ground for them to build on than you will hear from the media. You can remind them of that.
Hillary Clinton said this week “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” A day later, Eric Holder said that when Republicans “go low, we kick...
Much of the press coverage about the Supreme Court confirmation process, mainstream and otherwise, has been about the alleged low quality of tactics undertaken by...
Monday, September 17, is Constitution Day. It’s a good excuse to think about a few things. First of all, what’s the big deal about having a constitution? For the...
With the composition of the Supreme Court being so consequential, the Senate has an eternal obligation to confirm justices who will defend the constitution on a non-partisan basis for all people within our borders. We hope citizens will ask their senators to go beyond that and make support for free, fair, and accountable democracy one of their major confirmation criteria.
The right to free speech is an integral part of modern democracy. Abuse that right and you abuse democracy. Take that abuse too far and you won’t have free speech any more.
Cruelty towards immigrants practice puts our democracy at risk, along with our ability to advocate for persecuted minorities overseas.
Our constitution gives the media a central and protected role in our democracy. Our founding fathers expected the media would help hold leaders accountable and also help educate voters (and legislators) about the pros and cons of various policy options. The media have never been especially polite in doing the job the founder fathers gave them: personal attacks on political leaders started early on. In the last many years, however, many media owners have directed their staff to set fires and then pour gasoline on them.
The first amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right to a free press (TV, radio, newspapers, blogs, social media). This is a right worth fighting for. The press that you don’t like today might be a very important friend at other times in your life.
Policy driven by loyalty, passion, and frustration can lead to unintended consequences.
Democracy is not dying everywhere, or even in most places. Here is an example from Slovakia. The action started just a few months ago and the people are winning!
Another illustration of the definition of insanity: recently the Washington Post published a story on how many voters and party officials in both parties seem to think more...
Things have changed between the time of the founding fathers and now. On the one hand, the USA now has an extremely well-armed military force, while most state and local governments have well-armed police forces, and all of those forces are under the control of elected civilian leaders. On the other hand, the USA has a far higher rate of gun deaths and mass shootings than most citizens are willing to accept. Whether and how things should be re-balanced are open questions suitable for respectful debate.
The US Constitution requires a census every 10 years. The census is mandatory because it affects the numbers of seats each state occupies in the U.S. House of Representatives. It also affects...
We should all understand that very few of us would have a vote or a political voice if we collectively fail to defend constitutional and legal limits on political behavior.
Defending democracy is inherently difficult. Reminding ourselves why the job is so problematic helps point the way towards a more effective defense.
Would you shoot your chief of police because he arrested your best friend? Or would you malign his reputation in a very public way? If you did, could you count on him to help you later? Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.
In a democracy, people need to trust that they will be treated fairly. They need to know they can vote like anyone else, that they will be treated just as well as anyone else, regardless of how they vote, and that elected officials will feel as accountable to them as anyone else.
What if those in power now could be given assurances that they could continue to compete politically all across the nation – if they end their dangerous tactics of retaliation and entrenchment – combined with assurances that today’s opposition will also swear off such tactics? Doing so would allow everyone to return to the business of getting better results for our country, for our children, and for our grandchildren. All that is required is that elected officials look out for the public interest instead of governing in pursuit of their self interest – and for each of us to insist they do so.
The religious tolerance and freedom that our founding fathers gave birth to is something to celebrate – and something each of us can uphold personally.
On Thanksgiving Day, let’s give thanks for all the people who make up our American democracy.
It is possible to achieve good and useful things with people you disagree with. Here is a real world example.
Photo credit: Unknown.
Between 1973 and 1975, in Mendocino County,...
Now that we know Russian leaders have been trying to divide us, let’s fight back. Let’s find ways to unite.