Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth

Happy Independence Day!

With this hot mess of an election, it's important to reflect on America.

Those who know me know I'm a pretty big defender of "the system." And I think that's an important point, especially this year. It all may seem a bit esoteric, but the abstract concepts of democracy can be deceptively maddening, but I think those are all (thankfully) by design.

Our Founding Fathers weren't perfect, but they also knew exactly what they were doing.

Our political system frustrates a lot of people, but it's important to remember that it was designed to be frustrating. Democracy isn't (and shouldn't be) built to react quickly to problems; they're supposed to be deliberative. And our system not only has checks and balances (which slow things down) but also a written Constitution that explicitly sets limits (which can slow things down even more).

Remember, regardless of whether your issue is gay marriage or gun control or free trade or immigration, if you give, say, the President the power to flip a switch to make something legal, you also give the President the power to flip it off, too. By having a slow, frustrating process, we protect these issues just as much as we slow them from progressing. Doing it any other way risks giving way too much power to those who oppose it. Building up court cases, passing state-level laws, and allowing time for society to adapt is as much a part of the process as simply having the President say X and having X happen.

And as we've recently seen with referendums like Brexit in the UK, direct democracy isn't always the best policy. (Think about your own personal pet high-emotion social issue, and ask yourself if you're willing to risk putting that up to a popular vote. I didn't think so.)

In fact, I think that's the cornerstone for navigating through the political process--try very hard not to be a hypocrite. Think about your own side, and think about how you would want things to be if things were reversed. If your answer changes, you need to think about things a little more. This isn't unconditional--a lot of people's opinions are based on absolutes, and a little bit of that is perfectly fine. But if your entire worldview is nothing but absolutes, it's possible that democracy is not for you.

Our nation was built to reflect all of these dangers. Our federalist government, our separate but equal branches, our weird electoral college and bicameral legislature--these are all deliberate. Yes, it's frustrating. But it exists for a reason.

Democracies are also designed to handle opposition. There's no such think as a salient political issue that everyone agrees on--if there was an issue everyone agreed on, it would be passed and resolved and would no longer be an issue. If an issue has made it to the government, that means there is at least some valid claim by both sides that makes it worth debating over. And because of that, there's always going to be a set percentage of people who are mad at the government. And that's good. That means the system is working. Democracy means having the freedom to hate your politicians, and since every issue is going to anger about half the population no matter what, it's inherent in the system. 

This isn't an apologia for bad governance. The American system isn't perfect. We should look to reform and revise those things that need it, and we should hold people accountable. But the gut reaction of people is that the rich and powerful are keeping this slow, unresponsive government from addressing the needs of the people, but that's deliberately designed to protect those same people.

Remember, a government with 100% approval rating is called a dictatorship. And we took care of that centuries ago.

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