A More Perfect Union

Of late I’ve had occasion to dig into several interpretations of democracy. Books, articles, arguments, that sort of thing. How democracies were formed, how they die, and what it takes to promote the furtherance of democracy in our time. Moreover, this idea has been on my mind for a while.

I’m not foolish enough to think that democracy is assured, or even literally present, in our world today. I’ve often even heard the argument that the United States is not a true democracy and that it was never intended to be as such. We are a “republic” I hear or, at best, a “representative democracy” because the founding fathers were afraid of the will of the people.

The very first words in the preamble to the Constitution, however, are “We the People,” not “We the Representatives of the People.” The preamble in its entirety is a powerful statement on the desire for democracy in the United States of America. It was always intended to be such and, failing intention, the soul of the first words of the Constitution put forth the notion that it would be, could be, and should be a true democracy in time.

The Constitution itself, it has been said, is brilliant in its presentation. One of the most wondrous documents ever writ. I tend to agree. It is very specific where it thinks it needs to be (“No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years”), vague enough where it thought it ought to be (Amendment I), and entirely up to individual interpretation in others (Amendment II). The wording and style, unfortunately, belie a different, simpler time but that is no fault of the founders.

And it is a breathing document, open to interpretation (as I stated) and change. As we have evolved in our ambitious democracy we have amended the Constitution to better serve the changing world. The Bill of Rights itself was just such an addendum as specifics to the vague wording of the original document were needed. The abolition of slavery was another such evolution in our world and in the document. Suffrage. Presidential tenure. Time and time again new life has been breathed into the founding document, and new interpretations of the old words have come again. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. But that is the definition, blessing, and curse of a living document.

But has it assured our democracy? Has it ensured our domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and blessings of liberty? Has it established justice in the pursuit of a more perfect union? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

As I’ve said, of late, I’ve had occasion to reflect upon the power of the Constitution and the integrity of democracy. The nation has been challenged as it has not been in some time. We elected an autocrat to the office of the President of the United States, an entity self-absorbed and feeling himself the heir to a kingdom and not a democracy. Surprisingly, a large majority of one philosophical body still adheres to this autocrat with tenacious loyalty. This comes at a time of great polarity between the established parties, when the norms of mutual tolerance and institutional forbearance have broken down. This combination of ingredients, history has shown us, is a recipe for unbridled internal strife and the beginning of tyrannical rule. That is something the founders most certainly intended to shed in their original document 232 years ago.

How strong is that document? How powerful its balance and presentation?

We are going to find out. In the year 2016 the United States made perhaps its most egregious misstep when it elected not just a narcissist or autocrat, but a buffoon as well. The circus has been on display ever since. If the founders and writers of the Constitution of the United States truly had the genius we often label upon them, then the pendulum will swing from this absurdity quickly, self-correcting our error and safeguarding our democracy in 2020. Luckily, we have seen in the 2018 midterms some corrected measures already, ensuring that the sovereign power this executive seeks is checked institutionally. There is hope those corrections will continue.

I believe it will come to pass. We have seen the cracks in the structure around this president, cracks that formed almost immediately have turned to gaps and fractures. This is a broken presidency on display for all the world to see. It may take us some time to repair the damage done by our mistake and his presidency, but it is not the first time America has had to heal. It also won’t be the last. But we will learn from our dance along the edge, we will value again the principles of the preamble, of the Constitution, and of its better amendments.

America will rise from this inglorious moment in history.

Democracy, I believe, shall prevail.

23 thoughts on “A More Perfect Union

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I apologize once again for my absence but projects around the house have been eating my time. Know, however, that I am always watching and ever vigilant of the war on democracy perpetrated by this administration. 😉

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  1. Perhaph, if we (learn to) choose wisely.
    You know what Roosevelt said – democracy and education go hand in hand.
    Unfortunately, our ‘destiny’ is more often than not in the hands of ignorant, uneducated voters, intolerant of views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from their own.

    Forget about hope. I suggest sth drastic, such as the Clockwork Orange method to cure disturbed and violent individuals. They need to be pumped with nausea-, paralysis- and fear-inducing drugs so as to feel sick at the very thought of violence.

    (Fingers crossed)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with Mr Roosevelt on this matter, and further believe that the answer lies not in draconian silencing but in, as you and he say, education. Once over this bump and into the next era of American life (what the fourth turning guys would call a return to the “high” after the “crisis”) we will be able to ensure that education for all willing Americans, who will at that time also be enjoying universal access to health care and a great reduction in gun violence among other many promising things.

      However, barring that, the draconian stuff. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The current round of authoritarianism will, like always, come to end, having inflicted needless suffering on countless people for the benefit of the fragile egos of a few amoral monsters. Then, some time will pass, and it will rise again, because the percentage of humanity composed of sniveling cowards in need of some form of official acceptance and edification (which authoritarians always lavish upon these useful idiots) will always be too large to educate, inspire or even ignore. Humanity is a zero sum game and we are not headed towards “great things” but rather, imminent extinction. Yet somehow, after having said all of that, I still love reading your very contrary thoughts on the matter because if a greater percentage of humanity saw things the way you do, everything I just wrote would just be the ravings of a bitter curmudgeon. Here’s hoping they are just that.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, I doubt those are the ravings of a bitter curmudgeon; your grasp on the reality of things is closer to truth than mine. Even Harari knows that everything that humanity touches it destroys, including itself. Our most likely end is bitter. Most likely.

      However, there is a part of me (a large one, it turns out) that sees the cycle of tyranny, of suffering, of cowardice, and of ignorance you see and – though I see its inevitability – I also see its diminishing negative returns. 250 years ago the bulk of humanity was tyrannical, women were unequal servants, and slavery abound. 150 years ago the idea of democracy was spreading worldwide, the idea of suffrage and equality was rising, and slavery was all but abolished. 50 years ago women and black people started to see true equality in American society and today roughly half the nations on Earth are “democratic.” That’s a lot of progress in just a couple of centuries (considering the 6000 years of civilization’s progress before). Is it a blip? A trend? A renaissance? Time will tell.

      Of course, the trick will be to survive long enough to continue this evolution towards progress and enlightenment. And that’s a tall order all things considered.

      Do I believe we will “make it”? Yeah, I do. Maybe I’m naive to believe but what the hell. To the naivete of hope, my friend. 🙂 🍻

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Your optimism is infectious, and your thoughtfulness instructive. Your humor is also appreciated (“sometimes for the bad”–I see what you did there.)
    You’ve reminded me of Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939”, which I should reread more often–and in what both Bojana and desertcurmudgeon said above there are echoes of the third stanza, the one that begins:
    “Exiled Thucydides knew
    All that a speech can say
    About Democracy…”
    Among other things this is what Thucydides, or rather Pericles, if Mr. T. was as accurate as he hoped to be, said:
    “Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.”
    Emphasis mine there. Thucydides also believed history repeated itself, and it’s an unfortunately repeated party of history that dictatorships only tend to be undone when they injure so many, and so egregiously, that the majority finally decides it’s had enough.
    The sooner we stop the injuries the better, and I hope you and I are both right that the end is coming soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christopher, your depth of knowledge and wisdom consistently astounds me! You’re right, of course. Once tyranny takes root it lasts until such a time as the injury to society is so profound that all rise up. Instead, in most cases, it lingers incessantly while most find comfort in their little corner of it. All a tyrant need do to ensure continued tyranny is spread fear and throw out crumbs. It is only when the crumbs are not enough does the citizenry rise to overthrow the despot.

      Better that we stop tyrannical advance before it takes root. Better we stop it now.

      Thank you for another thought-filled response, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a beautiful read Tom! Your kind spirit breathes life into this “breathing document” which the power-wielding would have us forget can and should always be open to correction. I have experienced many dark parts of human nature and have fought it also within myself; I have enough experience to know the struggle to be our better selves is the most difficult, painful one we have, yet I too, like you, am hopeful. I recently listened to YouTube Lindsay Ellis who mentioned the work of Robert A. Caro, a foremost researcher on power. He wrote:
    “We’re taught Lord Acton’s axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don’t believe it’s always true any more. Power doesn’t always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals.”
    We’ve seen again and again the outcomes when the worst in human nature is given power, if we are fated to repeat these mistakes into oblivion, then why or why Tom does being our better selves feel so much more satisfying? Why is achieving higher awareness worth all our pain and struggle for it? You know it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Power can cleanse.”

      Yes, it can! Although I’ve never thought directly along those lines I have oft wondered why so much of what we read and see is presented in absolutes. Power can be good and power can be bad. Yes, concentrated power in the hands of an individual will most likely corrupt, which is why (again) this document was created to ensure against such a concentration of power. The power instead belongs to us, the people, and in that dilution we resist corruption. We cleanse, we heal, and we reveal both the better angels of our nature and the true face of evil.

      The current occupant of the White House is an abomination, and an aberration. His time will be decidedly short and to his successor must come the daunting task of beginning the heal. But it is not up to just him alone, but all of us who believe in a better tomorrow for America and all the world.

      Thank you, MP, for your contribution and kind words! 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  5. For their time, the Founders did a bang up job, I agree. And the holes—now gaping—that they knew little of, can be excused. But said holes now threaten the whole of the body. And from these holes, monsters have arisen and may. nay, probably will, overwhelm.

    • The first hole which needs immediate repair is the Founders mis-read of “career Representatives.” It was always their assumption that Senators and Representatives would bow out and return to the populace, from time-to-time, to touch base and connect. Ha! The naivety.
    • Second hole: campaign finance and the birth/growth of media’s influence. The Founders just couldn’t see a future where money became the dominant factor in elections.
    • Thirdly and most egregiously: the rise of the corporation and its hegemony over everyone and everything.

    These three omissions have essentially created a corp-aristocracy which serves the few at the expense of the many — with no way to amend the problem. Sure the concept of amendment is there, but in practice? The state of the Union is such that the capitalistic stranglehold cannot be loosened; its fingers are superglued to the throat of the country.

    I’ve proposed Amendments to repair these Founder’s failures. But there’s no way in hell any of them, or their likes will ever get attached to the Constitution. In necessary order:

    #28: Corporations are not people.
    #29: Non-sequential terms for Congress.
    #30: Campaign contributions limited to the average citizen’s daily gross wage, per candidate, per year.
    (As documented on my site.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those sound like some great fixes to an admittedly broken doctrine, Anony. We are facing the Constitution’s worst crisis today, and all because we let the nation’s biggest cad slip through the ranks and unto the top. But this isn’t his fault. He is ultimately a product of the failed system, and your amendments would go a long way towards fixing that system. You may be right that there is no chance, but don’t give up hope. Abolition came despite obstacles (and one, big terrible war). Suffrage came despite years of disappointment and failure. We can emerge stronger than ever, but that will take all of us keeping faith and fighting hard. Don’t stop believing. 👍

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is one trend that may, in a few decades, allow foundational changes to the Constitution: The failure of Capitalism. How will Capitalism fail? Dropping fertility rates.
        There are four ways to increase revenue and shareholder equity (dividends):
        1) Reduce costs (materials, labor, operation)
        2) Increase efficiency (automation)
        3) Innovate (new, better products & services)
        4) Grow
        In general, growth through capital usage has been the theme. Of course all companies apply the first three axioms. But the fourth is the one which produces the most return. But what does one need to grow a company? More customers. Up until today, that’s been true. For the majority of 1st world nations, this is no longer the case. If a country does not have a fertility rate of at least 2, that country’s population will shrink in the coming generations. When that happens, like what’s been happening in Japan, S.Korea, Germany, and many others, there is no in-country sustainable growth.
        Exports to countries with fertility rates > 2 is how those countries’ companies are surviving.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. 25 for 45 would be a good first step. I need a bumper sticker like that, though it would probably get my car keyed in this town. The problems obviously run deeper than this one scoundrel, but having him sitting up there is an embarrassment and an obstacle to progress. Once we get him out we can actually start to fix the things that are broken. Maybe some day we’ll look back and be thankful to the buffoon for showing us how terribly broken it all is…

      Liked by 1 person

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