Every four years the United States experiences the epitome of democratic ideals through the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next. While recent polls show the current transition of Presidential administrations is not one a majority Americans are thrilled with, it gives us an opportunity to be grateful for what our democracy provides for us each day. Gratitude for what our Founders created and generations of leaders sustained amid many stiff challenges is an important ingredient that has been missing in our public dialogue. It is the first step on the path out of the political cesspool.
Americans have fallen out of love with democracy. Yes, before our beloved sporting events we patriotically stand for the National Anthem and millions of dutiful students say the Pledge of Allegiance each school day, yet what does this mean in lives of Americans? Numerous polls suggest basic civic concepts such as the branches of government, how laws are made and what the government provides are dismally low. After all, who can forget the outrage during the Affordable Care Act debate, when many voters exhorted elected officials to “get government’s hands off my Medicare?”
During the past two decades the tone of our political discussion has shifted from appreciation of what our democracy provides and how to do it better, to a vitriolic argument about government’s evils, why it costs too much and how to get rid of it. The tone has shifted because citizens have lost sight of what government provides and why our democracy ensures it supports us. One can’t get out of the house in the morning without having benefited from numerous government services. Do you have affordable, consistent and safe electricity? Is your home well built? Do you use safe appliances? Do you send your children to school? Do you drive on roads? And, if you needed help, would police, fire and an ambulance arrive at your door within minutes? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then your government is working in your life. It is doing its job for its citizens because we live in a democracy that places the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for each of us at the center of its mission.
The first step in reclaiming our power to create our future is to acknowledge and appreciate all the good that comes from our democracy and government. No one suggests that our government is perfect or that democracy always produces optimal results, but self-government comes closer to the ideal than other forms of rule. Ultimately democracy is rooted in the sovereignty of each person to control our destiny, which has been drowned out in the noise about how bad government is. The fact that millions of people throughout the world want to be US citizens is a testament to the power of this idea.
I invite every person reading this article to comment with three things you appreciate about our government and then ask at least one other person to do the same. As we create awareness and gratitude around the good in government, we will be taking the first step in reclaiming it for ourselves.
For too long professional politicians have lorded their experience over us and slowly eroded our sense that our system truly values the ideal of democracy as a vehicle that empowers the people. The predictable backlash transpired when the country elected a non-professional who seeks to dismantle what he and his most loyal followers believe is a dysfunctional system that has forgotten average Americans.
If we love this country and the democratic ideals upon which it was founded upon, then it is up to each person to take back their power to be productive citizens. Democracy can be the most powerful force for good in the world – for peace, prosperity and equality, and it works best when citizens take responsibility for it, and speak up for it when its reputation needs a boost. Let us begin by taking a step today to acknowledge the good work that is being done and to focus on how it can—and will, become even better, because of America’s citizen leaders, not just its elected ones.