(The Vault, 9/18/2012) A Reason for Democracy

I’d like to start my first substantial post with a disclosure about my feelings regarding trust in the democratic process. Now, when I say trust in the process, I’m not referring to congressional approval ratings or the idea that individual votes don’t matter (both issues which need deep discussions which I will get to at another time). I’m talking about the notion that political discourse in this nation seems to have no respect for not only the opinions of the majority, but even the idea that majority rule has a place in society.

There is in our, as well as many other representative democracies, an idea that there is a bright line between where majority opinions hold sway over the rule of law and where fundamental rights take over despite the views of the majority. This, of course, is truly necessary. However, when I look at current agendas on both political sides, there seems to be this overwhelming sense that nearly all social issues can be solved by clearly defined rights and rules. When we look at issues ranging from immigration to legalizing marijuana in various stages, the debate always focuses on the rights of the individuals. We’ve become a nation of absolutes, and these absolutes rule the political discussion. It is no longer a question of American citizens choosing based on personal impact how the nation they live in is run; it’s become an argument about which absolutist dogma meets the fundamentalist criteria of whichever idea set is pulling the strings, and I think that’s a shame.

More than just a shame, I think it is incredibly dangerous to the political process. Not only does it limit individuals from believing they live in a society they truly have no control over, it is one of the most factional elements in modern political discourse. The two (primary) party systems already seem to limit the choices of average voters to an extreme extent, but an even deeper seeded idea that the opinions of individuals MUST be right or wrong destroys the concept that one really has the ability to make a choice. Being part of the complex, wonderful political process which governs your society is an incredible thing. It allows for the evolution of culture and the feeling of responsibility and connection to the society we live in.

So my point is this: not every issue HAS a fundamental right or wrong, and even the process of deciding which issues do fall in that category requires a society engaged in the political process. The alternative is a series of dogmatic rules and laws which govern not because we as a people chose to live in that society, but because we are bound to it. In a nutshell, it eliminates the purpose and reason for a democracy, and there could be few greater shames for us as a collective people than that.

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