Is Partisanship Destroying Our Democratic Republic?

I am not a subscriber to the opinion that the United States is “the best there is.” In fact, I am of the opinion that it is indeed not the best. Rather, our nation, like many others, is in an ongoing evolutionary process — a collection of efforts by many before us attempting to become the best, and one in which we’ll very likely be a reference for future efforts.

With this perspective, curiosity as to how the world views the U.S. is a vanguard concern for me and the most effective means with which to fulfill this curiosity is perusing alternative media outlets.

In a recent article by Rachel Shabi of Al Jazeera English (that’s Al Jazeera English, not Al Jazeera America), Shabi attacked Western governments, and rightfully so, for creating the disaster at hand in Iraq. This honest look at our involvement in Iraq, however, is not something we would see published on mainstream media sites.

Cahir O’Doherty of Irish Central also take a closer look at an oddity that is pure Americana: firearms and violence.

What fascinates me is how meekly the American people accept these eye-popping facts. Like the Irish, they are no petty people, but unlike the Irish they do not protest when their Congressional leaders repeatedly ignore their outraged calls for stronger gun laws (90 percent of voters favor stronger laws) or background checks.

Many in the U.S. will read this statement and instantaneously choose a side — right or left; guns or not.

However, I see it as a deeper, far more sinister issue. From the perspective of others, our elected officials appear to be ignoring the voice of the electorate. But are they?

What many in countries such as Ireland don’t realize is that the voice of the electorate in the U.S. has become so diminutive it can barely be heard — a direct result of extreme partisanship.

“The voice of the people” they relate to is that of their own, wherein voter participation is consistently around or above 70 percent. Compare that to the 7.6 percent voter participation in the district which saw Eric Cantor unseated, and we can see why other democratic nations don’t fully understand the entire issue facing Americans.

If they think giving Americans guns is a bad idea, I can only imagine what they think about our voting record.

Reading alternative media is not without side effects. I’m deeply troubled by what I read. It seems the world is inundated with violence, failed governments, and human beings in abject misery across the globe.

As I read, I’m often filled with frustration. In many instances, our government has played a crucial role creating a strong sense of apprehension over how the U.S. sees itself in relation to the rest of the world and our growing exceptionalism.

Even as we interact with one another here at home, we fail miserably to maintain so much as a modicum of civility. We draw battle lines between the right and left as if this is what a republic is meant to be.

Speaking often of our nation’s Founding Fathers, we frequently misquote and misrepresent their intentions as we battle amongst ourselves for ideological superiority. And in doing so, we polarize our culture and our elected officials alike.

A republic is not a “top-down” form of governance; the very governing officials we like to point our fingers at are not wholly to blame for the conundrum in which we find ourselves.

Perhaps the only direction in which we can truly point the fickle finger of fate is squarely at us: “We the People.”

It is here that I see the most dangerous detractor of this experiment in self-governance and the deeper we entrench ourselves in partisanship, the more precarious our lives become.

As Bruce Bueno de Mesquita points out in the video, “a leader can’t wander very far from what a significant portion of the voters want.”

There’s a message beyond the obvious in the video and that message is clearly telling us that the power of the coalition, as Mesquita calls it, is rapidly shrinking to a powerful few in a downward spiral brought about by partisan politics — the same partisanship which brought Eric Cantor’s world crashing down around him.

More and more elections are being determined by rapidly decreasing numbers of voters and the only linchpin holding our republic together is the sheer tenacity of the form of government which was forged with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States in 1789.

But, that linchpin is showing wear and certainly we will have none but ourselves to blame when it fails. After all, a government of the people, by the people, for the people is a concept easily destroyed by subscribing to partisanship as a means of determining our votes rather than voting with the independent minds we were all born with.

Photo Source: Christian Science Monitor