Today is America’s Presidents’ Day Holiday. It celebrates the office as much as the individuals who held it. It celebrates the closest thing a democracy can be to remaining a monarchy.
America was one of the very first democracies but its problem is that it hasn’t shed or sufficiently amended its original constitution so it’s not as democratic as most other modern democracies. It concentrates enormous power in the president. Antiquated institutions like a non-democratic Senate and electoral college perpetuate this power.
So while it was a revolutionary idea in the late 1700s and together with the French revolutions upended a world political system built on monarchies, today the enormous power of the U.S. president is wrong and dangerous, and very, very anti-democratic.
There are nuanced supporting institutions that grow well in this alleged but today unreal abrogated ideology.
The media. The media can’t shake democracy because that’s what ratings are. So it plays to the largest demographic. For most of America’s life this was porn, but it was kept in the back closet. Today that closet door has flung wide open.
What’s left the media hones in like a rabid wolf, further dividing society and crafting those divisions further and further from one another, none ever truly democratic. This guarantees the increasingly unassailable power of the most pluralistic.
Education. Especially the property tax movement corralled fiscal power with those who already had it. This further bifurcated education between the halves and the have-nots. Ironically, the charters given to new States under the American constitution were all prefaced on the mission of providing universal education.
Decentralization. This sounds good and in fact there are aspects to it that guard minorities. But in a world so connected like today it does little more than ensures no mixing. Without mixing there’s no compromise. Without compromise there’s no democracy.
Most European countries’ democracies came after America’s. Few still have a powerful chief executive like America; most are parliamentary systems which are far more democratic.
Loyalty. And more correctly put: loyalty before scrutiny. This is relatively new, likely promulgated during the last centuries “world wars.” But among many American democratic attributes this reflects the greater society at large. It should not be mistaken for trust and it is the most dangerous component of America’s flawed democracy.
Democracy is messy, often ineffective in troubling times. We’re in troubling times. I believe that’s a natural cycle just like good health and bad health. Many diseases – like our current social ills – could have been avoided with proper prevention.
We didn’t afford equal education. We lacked the courage to ignore the dissidence of angry minorities. We gave up science for abject fealty to bosses, leaders and dying ideas. And now we won’t refine the first amendment, despite today’s “speech” is more often from bots than humans.
Democracy addled by ideals that at every moment crash against guaranteed freedoms for everybody everywhere is an inevitable train wreck.
That’s what’s happening in America, today, if not the whole world. As I think through our list of 44 presidents, many are easily identified as louses, inept and corrupt. But once as President Americans gave all of them wide latitude to do whatever they wanted, just as our Constitution prescribes.
Better to fantasize there is no climate change than suffer what must be done to address it.
Better to impede Latinos from voting than risk higher taxes, or black strain on our lily white private secondary schools.
We knew this was coming. We knew the world’s population would increase exponentially, that resources would be strained, that the environment was being destroyed … all while we also knew that technology and education would ensure that more and more people knew all this and would be upset.
But “we” haven’t yet accepted “we”. Instead, we celebrate a maniac oaf as an ultimate decider for all of us. No matter what.
Happy President’s Day.