Jefferson, Dickens, Tolstoy, and the USA

Yesterday I saw “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord” at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

Playwright Scott Carter, a veteran of over twenty years of working with Bill Maher, has a lot to say about ideas and religion, and he ingeniously brings together, in a sort of Sartrean afterlife, three characters who wrote their own versions of the gospels.

Of course the three literary greats feel impelled to try create a common version of the gospels among the three of them. Needless to say, they fail. They stir up a lot of discord about everything from social analysis to spiritual life.

At times they seem to be moving toward agreement on some higher values, like self-abnegation or love of humanity, but ultimately all they have in common is that they all write… and write….

They don’t spare each other and all take their licks for not living up to their own principles, especially about family life. Despite his many real qualities and vital role in political history, Jefferson comes off the worst, perhaps because the others know a lot about him and he never heard of them, given the discrepancy in dates.

It struck me that the Jefferson portrayed here embodies the contradictions in the United States, both as he helped the country to come into existence and as it continues today.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,” he wrote—but of course he didn’t mean people of African descent, or women, or a lot of others.

As all three at last confess some of their misdeeds, Jefferson explains that he took his young slave Sally Hemings as his mistress because he had promised his late wife never to marry again. And besides, he adds, Sally was Martha’s half-sister.

For a man who believed in liberty, he owned a lot of slaves, as Dickens and Tolstoy don’t fail to point out. And he refused to free them even in his will because, he says in the play, he didn’t want to financially disadvantage his heirs. (During his lifetime he did, formally or informally, free Sally Hemings and their children.)

Jefferson can also be cited at the origin of many of the contradictions that still affect us today. Do “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” include the right to health and medical care? What protections do citizens have against financial institutions, which Jefferson heartily feared? Is there an optimal balance between the powerful and the dispossessed? Is it proper (as the 1787 Constitution did) to limit citizens’ right to vote? Would the Founders, and do we, support FDR’s famed Four Freedoms of 1941 (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear)?

Hypocrisy was the founding vice of this country, whose principal apostles of Freedom all were served by slaves except John Adams (who as a lawyer did, however, serve slaveholders in cases against slaves).

If only we could overcome our country’s innate self-contradictions today, we might progress once again as a nation. But when truth has sunk to such a low ebb in our national capital, it’s hard to be optimistic. For states that in 1776 declared themselves “united,” our history continues to generate a lot of discord.

Although Jefferson, Dickens and Tolstoy do a lot of shouting at each other on the stage, at least they openly discuss some important underlying human values. That might be a good place for us to start, or start over, in 2017.


Jefferson, from Lantern Theater

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It’s not just about the pesticides

Since 2015, with many others, I have been part of the West Chester PA activist group Don’t Spray Me, whose immediate purpose is to cut down on both mosquitoes and the pesticides sprayed to kill them.

The Don’t Spray Me effort is not “just” about mosquitoes and even not “just” about pesticides.

The short version is that if we, as individuals, organizations, and municipalities, can prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, then we won’t be threatened with toxic air-borne spraying that has less lasting negative impact on mosquito populations than on many other vulnerable species, including but not limited to hypersensitive humans, beneficial insects like bees, and some other species.

Many things we believe in are under assault today. Americans have become very skeptical of trusting the status quo, and we rightly worry what could happen next if we aren’t vigilant.

When I have the mosquito conversation with anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, they usually recall being exposed to DDT in their neighborhoods, when that chemical was being sprayed liberally in a futile attempt to save elm trees from Dutch Elm Disease. Many of us recall basking in the cooling DDT mist as it drifted down from the treetops.

What the long-term health effects have been, no one can pin down; but our history is full of horrendous examples like the damage done in the same years by the defoliant Agent Orange not only on its Vietnamese targets but on our own armed forces and their subsequent children.

Like much of what Americans instinctively support, the Don’t Spray Me effort, when we reflect about it, is grounded in some very basic principles of our society:

1) Citizens have the right and the duty to stand up against unwarranted outside intervention in their lives, including threats against their health and environment;

2) Science speaks truth about the environment and a lot more; people need to listen to science and be educated to trust it.

The big issues of our time are there: education, science, environment, individual and community rights, human health, and ultimately democracy.

In West Chester we are fortunate to be able to rely on our Community’ Environmental Bill of Rights, which in 2015 added environmental protections to our Home Rule Charter, but other communities can push ahead too in drawing the clear conclusions of the above principles.

See, for example, the local resistance movement against the proposed gas pipeline to run just north and east of West Chester.

In the past few months, it has become clearer than ever that if citizens acting together don’t stand up for their rights, no one else will.

How do we know that we have environmental rights? It’s not just West Chester that says so, it’s also the Pennsylvania state constitution:

Natural Resources and the Public Estate
Section 27

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

It’s pretty clear that if someone is spraying pesticides into our neighborhoods, and if chemicals from any source are washing into our watersheds, we (and all the other species) aren’t enjoying clean air and pure water.

And does government really need to listen to the people in our state? Again, the Pennsylvania constitution decrees so:

Political Powers
Section 2

All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”

Mosquito larvae, like mosquito eggs and pupae, are unaffected by airborne pesticides, which kill only something like 80% of all adult mosquitoes within range (along with a lot of beneficial insects).

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Presidential angst is not a good basis for national policy

The May 11 Daily Local News provides some strong commentary about the firing of FBI director James Comey.

The headline of the AP article “Before the ax, Comey was pushing Trump-Russia probe harder” says a lot. It’s pretty obvious that Comey was not fired for his 2016 comments about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Someone is lying again in the White House. What a surprise!

As the editorial “Comey firing seen as sabotage of Russia probe” from the Denver Post brings out, it is surely not a coincidence that Comey was hot on the Moscow Connection trail. The Denver Post’s own headline “The Comey firing stinks; a special prosecutor is a must” draws the necessary conclusion supported by both PA Senator Bob Casey and PA-06 congressman Ryan Costello.

That editorial refers to “the president’s angst with Comey.” The German word” angst,” defined as “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish,” describes well the national political mood in the potentially brief era of Trump.

Another Denver Post article (from the Washington Post) says a lot in its headline “How Trump’s anger, impatience prompted him to fire the FBI director” and goes on to give a lot of significant background.

Angst, anger, impatience… that’s Trump all over. We knew last year that a lot of voters liked candidate Trump’s volatile behavior, unguarded language, and middle-of-the-night tweets. Such traits may be less attractive in a president. Obama’s cool and no-drama exterior may be looking a lot better now.

The columnist Ruth Marcus, in “Right or wrong, why did president fire Comey now?” (Washington Post title: “Comey’s firing should make all of us ‘mildly nauseous’”) has a nice touch in “the sitting president of the United States announcing that he is not a crook,” invoking one of the most famous lines in US political history: Richard Nixon’s declaration “I am not a crook” (he was). But here’s what surprised me, at the end of Marcus’s column:

“Trump’s priority is, first and always, Trump. Which raises the question: Knowing, as he must have, that firing Comey would set off a firestorm, why did he calculate that this move was in his self-interest?”

Normal politicians calculate, evaluate varied advice, look at scenarios, project consequences into the future. But all that is much too logical for Trump: since as Marcus says, it’s all about him, he works from emotion. Angst, anger, impatience in the White House—not a good deal for rational decision-making.

But who ever expected rational decision-making from a developer, show personality, and candidate whose trademarks were intimidation, insults, and invented news?

Sorry to quote myself, but I fear my little satire from ten years ago “Age of Reason over, President proclaims” was all too true.

As alluded to there, former Vice President Al Gore did his best in his book The Assault on Reason; and from 2009-17 we had a president who strove to follow the lead of reason in determining national priorities. Today, with whole disciplines like history, sociology, oceanography, geology, and journalism under assault, it’s sad that Americans need once again to fight for carefully reasoned, fact-based policies.

As the slogan says, “Respect science”: that would be a very good place to start.

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Private Schools and Public Funding

(This is the text of my letter of this title in the Daily Local News, 4/1/17; I would link there except that letters no longer appear at DLN online, but only in the print paper and at epaper.)

While he was the 156th district’s representative in Harrisburg, I don’t recall writing to contradict Dan Truitt. I found his explanations of issues clear and I appreciated his respectful demeanor toward voters, including those who may not often have agreed with him.

But his letter “Legislator should explain vote” (Daily Local, March 21) is a different matter. He really has no call to accuse his successor in office, Carolyn Comitta, of “caving in” to teacher unions or dissing “the poorest children.” Representative Comitta will have plenty of time to, as Mr. Truitt requests, explain her vote on education vouchers. As a former public school teacher and the holder of a Masters in Education from West Chester University, she does know something about education; and as a former Borough Council member and until last week Mayor, she also knows something also about government.

Education vouchers, in their current PA incarnation as EITC and OSTC, are already siphoning off funds from the state budget. The current bill, HB 250, would raise the annual maximum from $175,000,000 to $250,000,000. This is not peanuts.

I do give Mr. Truitt credit for being so forthright as to give as his example religious schools, which are in fact the chief recipients of funds from the programs in question. EITC and OSTC conduct an end run around our state constitution, which states:

1) “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

and

2) “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

and

3) “No appropriation shall be made to any charitable or educational institution not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth, other than normal schools established by law for the professional training of teachers for the public schools of the State, except by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each House.”

To me, that is pretty clear: the state is responsible for educating the state’s children; and state money should not go to religious institutions, or to any institution at all without a 2/3 vote of both chambers.

But here is the end run-or actually, 3 of them:

1) One can continually chip away at the state’s educational
obligation while still claiming that as long as there are some functional public schools in the state, the state is doing its duty.

2) The EITC and OSTC funds aren’t technically raised to support public schools, because the money doesn’t reach the state budget, but is taken out as tax credits to the participating businesses; so, they cut into educational money before being designated for education.

3) The EITC and OSTC aren’t technically appropriations but the rerouting of tax money before the appropriations phase.

Whatever the lawyers and judges may say, I think those are pretty feeble excuses to spend public money in constitutionally dubious ways. And so is the excuse that the public funds go to parents, who then turn them over to the schools.

“Choice” is the justification for taxpayers financing charter schools alongside public schools. Charter schools, although they are not governed by elected school boards and can be profit-making enterprises, at least are subject to some public oversight such as requirements to report test scores and to have a certain level of teacher training; and charters are not allowed to represent any religion’s point of view.

Meanwhile, a US bill, HR 610, would allow taxpayer funds to go not only to private schools but also for home-schooling.

How much choice with public money is too much? I think we are already over the line. As should be perfectly clear, private schools are not public, so why should they receive public financing?

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PA Senate Bill 3 vs. women’s rights

Can people of all views agree on some facts? No one looks forward to having an abortion; anyone who has had one doesn’t want to have another; and the national abortion rate declined by half between 1981 and 2014 (the last year with data) and is at its lowest since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (NPR).

In our own state, “there was a 12% decline in the abortion rate in Pennsylvania between 2011 and 2014, from 15.1 to 13.3 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age” (Guttmacher Institute). But the proponents of setting rules for women never rest.

Since federal policies on matters of civil rights are being incrementally neutralized, the states are having to advance on their own in areas like education, policing, gun violence prevention, redrawing electoral districts, environment, energy, health care, and abortion.

Pennsylvania has been engaged in a long struggle to find out whether, with regard to social issues, it belongs in the Northeast or Southeast of the US. This is why it remains a real swing state, because it is vast and varied and very capable of contradicting itself not only from one year to the next but also from one county to the next. That’s not a bad thing; it means that all Pennsylvanians need to pay attention and every election counts. The 2016 presidential campaigns certainly paid attention to us.

Just for background: states were free to forbid contraception until the US Supreme Court ruled otherwise for married people in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, and for non-married people until Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972. Some state laws against non-married sex remained on the books (though little enforced) until after the Virginia case Martin v. Ziherl (2005).

Right now, contraception is protected by PA law: “The Commonwealth shall not interfere with the use of medically appropriate methods of contraception or the manner in which medically appropriate methods of contraception are provided” (title 18, sect. 3208.1.1). But laws can change far more easily than constitutions.

Those who think “it can’t happen here” just need to revisit American history and also check out futuristic visions like Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985).

Senate Bill 3, which would move state abortion policy from restrictive to oppressive, has already (with no public hearing) passed the PA Senate 32-18. Chesco’s senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) voted against the bill; senators Tom Killion (R-19) and John Rafferty (R-44, a co-sponsor of the bill) voted for it.

Either those 32 legislators and their allies in the PA House are comfortable with taking more and more control of women’s private lives or they are posturing to their most motivated constituents and donors, or both. Those supporting SB 3 doubtless will keep on their current path until all abortion is banned; and if they succeed in that, the most zealous of them will continue right on to cut down on or eliminate contraception use—all ultimately depending on the PA and US Supreme Courts.

 

 

 

 

In recent rallies in West Chester (3/11/17 photo above), women have described their need to have an abortion after discovering a fetus was deformed and even unviable. Often such conditions are diagnosed after 20 weeks; a woman in that regrettable situation would not be able to terminate her pregnancy if SB3 becomes law.

SB3 would make abortions illegal at “20 or more weeks gestational age” (currently 24 weeks) — not a lot of time to discover and confirm pregnancy, get medical tests and advice, consult others, and make a difficult decision.

Also, SB3 would make D&E (dilation and evacuation), the safest and most common abortion method in the 2nd-trimester (which begins at 13 weeks) illegal at any time unless a physician certifies it is necessary for a patient to survive or not lose important organ function. (Loss of minor organ functions, whichever they may be, is apparently not taken into account.)

According to the Guttmacher Institute: “Eleven percent of abortions in the United States take place after the first trimester, and national estimates suggest that D&E accounts for roughly 95% of these procedures” and the proposed D&E ban “would force providers to substitute the ideology of lawmakers for their own professional medical judgment and the preferences of their patients.”

The same site shows that restrictions on first-semester abortions are pushing some to the second trimester—exactly what one would expect anti-abortion proponents to avoid if they were really interested in “fetal pain.” No surprise here: placing first-trimester obstacles in the way of abortions both delays them and causes women to seek out other, often less safe than in a recognized clinic or hospital (Slate).

Also no surprise: “as abortion becomes more difficult, the birth rate increases: Study finds increase in birth rates after Texas’ Planned Parenthood funding cuts” (Women’s Health Policy Report, 2/4/16). And that in turn increases the financial burden on both women, state agencies, and Medicaid. The new CBO contraception control would result in several thousand more births at a cost of $21,000,000 this year to the Medicaid budget.

Banning D&E would mean abortion providers would need to use other methods and would place more women at risk. In fact, D&E became the prevalent second-trimester method only after the US Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on the preferred D&X method ten years ago. SB3 is part of a long process to chip away at all abortion rights.

The vote in the Republican-dominated PA House will be a close call—not whether there is a majority, but whether there are enough votes there and in the Senate to override Governor Wolf’s expected veto. All supporters of women’s rights should resolve right now to contact their PA representatives in Harrisburg and to vote in the 2018 election, which could reshape the political scene in Pennsylvania.

Don’t women vote? Don’t a majority of Americans believe in abortion rights? Yes: as of 2016, public support for legal abortion as been on the rise since 2009 and 59% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases compared to 39% who believe it should be illegal in all or most cases (Pew Research Center, 11/3/16, source of the chart below).

But anti-abortion voters are more likely to be single-issue voters, and Pennsylvania electoral districts have been effectively gerrymandered to promote conservative positions. The PA Senate and House are not representative and do not reflect citizens’ opinions.

 

PS Note on current PA law

I wondered whether everything we read in the media about current PA law on abortion is true, so I studied the relevant sections of PA Statutes Title 18 at findlaw.com. Title 18, significantly, treats abortion not as “Women’s rights” but under “Crimes and Offenses.”

Before 24 weeks gestation (out of about 38 weeks average to delivery), abortion is permitted if the referring or operating physician deems it necessary “in the light of all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age) relevant to the well-being of the woman” (sect. 3204). Presumably, those factors would include rape, incest, incapacity to care for a child, and the like.

Except in a medical emergency, the physician must conduct a personal consultation to inform the women of various factors, including risks and alternatives, at least 24 hours in advance (sect. 3204; SB 3 would add an “in-person” requirement).

Except in a medical emergency, an unemancipated woman under age 18 must receive a parent’s permission or ask a judge to determine that she “is mature and capable of giving informed consent to the proposed abortion, and has, in fact, given such consent” or that abortion is “in her best interests” (sect. 3206).

A married woman must provide a statement (sect. 3209) to the state that she has notified her spouse, except if the pregnancy is not by the spouse, the spouse cannot be found, the pregnancy results from spousal sexual assault, or such notice could result in “the infliction of bodily injury” upon her. (This must be a difficult determination for a physician who is not trained in non-obstetric fields.)

After 24 weeks (sect. 3211), abortion is illegal except “to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.” The law gives no consideration to any other factors such as the condition and viability of the fetus. Abortion after 24 weeks must occur in a hospital; Planned Parenthood is not even in this discussion. This is not really abortion but induced labor in a health emergency; a second physician must be present “taking all reasonable steps necessary to preserve the child’s life and health.”

The physician must fill out a complex report to the state in many parts, including items such as how gestational age was determined, whether the spouse was notified and if not, why not. (So much for “small government”!)

Public funding of abortions in PA is allowed only to avert the woman’s death or when pregnancy results from rape or incest (sect 3215). (Federal funds do not pay for abortion.)

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The HR 610 discussion and my own notes on education

With 45 readers’ comments to date from readers on “H.R. 610 Choices in Education Act: a disaster if it passes in Congress,” I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to post their views. You have contributed a lot of good information to a critical debate. The lines of discussion are pretty clear: what are the merits of public schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling? And what should our federal and state governments do as a consequence?

I think all those forms of education have their place. But I like to start thinking from the legal underpinning: the PA state constitution says under the header “Public School System” that “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

So whatever other options exist, the state must “maintain and support” public education. A recent report said the loss to public schools is about $5,000 for each student that enrolls in a charter school. That is a problem, when the public is financing two competing school systems and one takes away from the other.

Charter schools were set up in PA to innovate. Schools specializing in, say, arts and performance fill an innovative niche, but charter schools that just compete for public school business do not.

The state constitution talks about public schools, not a free market supported by taxpayers. Just as a curiosity: that free market includes the charter chain run by the Islamist scholar Fethullah Gülen, whom the president of Turkey accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt there from his home here in Pennsylvania.

Public schools are under the control of democratically elected school boards. Charter and private schools are not, and some are profit-making institutions, which on the backs of taxpayers seems to me unsavory.

Private schools definitely fill a need; but so-called vouchers (which in fact we already have in PA, through an end run around the constitution) siphon off money from public schools to private ones.  I think those PA vouchers, which intercept tax payments before they reach the state treasury, are improper.

I agree that some students do gain from being home-schooled. But I’d like to see a demonstrated need based on each student’s own learning program, not a preference based on parents’ beliefs. Some homeschooling involves charter school support; fine, as long as it works for a student that genuinely needs both.

Some teachers should not be teaching; some charter school operators should not have anything to do with education; and some parents are not qualified to instruct their young. This is why we have public school systems with professional standards and leadership ultimately depending on an elected school board.

And what’s the role of government? I didn’t care for No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top, because I thought they were too centralizing and that imposing multiple choice tests from Washington was a serious error.

I am more comfortable with states setting an educational path and I’d  like to see Pennsylvania working toward paying about half of  the costs of  K-12 public education, which was Governor Rendell’s goal. The PA state contribution is now foundering around one-third. But just beware; whenever you talk about whether the state contribution is going up or down,  you have to specify if  you are including pensions or only actual educational expenses.

One reason charter schools can afford so many ads is that they get contributions from private donors. I wouldn’t want public school systems to become dependent on charity, but given the current challenges, I wonder if they could raise more of their own funding, at lest for some beneficial extras, from donations. The problem then becomes, of course, that richer school districts can raise more donations as well as more tax revenue.

That is why the state needs what is known as a “fair funding formula,” which would take into account districts’ demographics, resources, number of special needs and gifted students, special missions, and the like.

But good luck right now in getting the General Assembly to work out fair funding for anything!

PS Back to HR 610: you might be interested in this download from Parents Across America: voucherstudies3-17

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Representative government and revolution

Through history, governments mainly promoted the power of a ruling family and aristocracy. The theory on which our country was founded, that government should represent the people and their interests, really was pretty radical, although derived from prior English thinking.

Actually the theory was too radical for the 18th century: our Founders set up a system in which basically only white men who owned property could vote and govern. Our national history since then has been a long effort to bring others to full participation.

Historians point out that when economic and political power are misaligned, unrest and even revolution can follow. Thus, the rising influence of the commercial class in 17th-century England and 18th-century France caused conflicts that brought about the unthinkable: the deposition and execution of two reigning monarchs. And exactly 100 years ago Russia, unable to realign power to write the end to the legacy of serfdom and appease its own rising classes, likewise overthrew a long-ruling dynasty.

The current decade shows the opposite pattern: not a rising middle class but a declining middle class. Those Americans and Europeans who felt left behind by change, the scantily employed, those marginalized by inadequate education and global trade lashed out against social change, immigrants, the financial industry, declining standards of living, and the political in-group they held responsible for unwelcome changes. Angry voters have been looking back to the good old days, however they may imagine those to be.

Democrats often lament: why do people vote against their own interests? Why would voters threatened by change cast their lot in with an unscrupulous New York billionaire?

Insecure people confused by events choose desperate solutions. When they feel government caters to others than themselves, they revolt, as in the states, including Pennsylvania, that made the difference in the 2016 electoral college.

Americans expect to be taken seriously. When we have an issue on the municipal level, we complain to our friends, we write a letter or go to a meeting, we try to sort it out with people pretty much like ourselves, basically our own neighbors who have stepped forward to help our town run its services, and we usually feel that democracy is working, locally at least.

But our political life has widening circles of distance from ourselves: municipality, county, state House and Senate, US House and Senate, state and national court systems, the presidency. The bigger the district, the more remote the office-holder seems, the less like ourselves and people we know. The most successful politicians have the ability to narrow that perception of distance.

A lot of Americans felt George Bush would be a good person to walk their dog or share a beer. Obama made many Americans feel their turn had come. And in 2016, desperate people preferred the disruptive candidate who seemed to “feel their pain” and, ironically, not the spouse of the president who practically trademarked that expression. Many Trump voters thought of themselves as revolutionaries trying to take down a hostile regime; and it is no coincidence that Steve Bannon, the man often termed Trump’s Rasputin, has described himself as a disrupter and a Leninist.

Those voters betting all on change will be disappointed once again, of course, but they don’t know it yet. Our system has managed to align economic and political power pretty well, because increasingly, the wealthy who control economic life control political life as well. The final test will be whether the current rules will be able to align perception and reality, not of course by changing reality but by altering people’s feelings about it. through marketing, propagandizing, and tweeting.

The exceptionalism of our democracy lies in inducing people to vote against their own interests and even their own beliefs. Who would have thought the party of “family values” would support Trump?

Today’s “resistance” movement reflects a truly radical idea: that government should represent the actual people who live in our country, in all our diversity of race, religion, socio-economic level, or any other trait. The Resisters believe that our representatives should meet with us in our own communities and listen to us, or else that people more attuned to ourselves, all across the country, should take their places. Thus, everyone should participate, vote, organize, let their views be known, promote candidates, and run for office.

Our country could do a lot worse than trying out that concept, which broadens the Founders’ concept of citizen-farmers doubling as part-time legislators to represent real, un-gerrymandered human communities. If democracy is to carry on, it needs faith that a majority of people can lead the way, making good decisions for the whole social organism.

When Americans feel that people like ourselves are representing us at all levels of government, our system will reach the balance that it has long sought between the individual and the communal, the local and the national.

E pluribus unum, as it were.


 

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