A constitutional, representative republic is undoubtedly the best vehicle to deliver, protect, and defend individual liberties of a citizenry. It can produce the best of a nation and its people because it is (at least allegedly) as Lincoln said, “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
But what happens when a majority of “the people” don’t care, don’t participate, stop paying attention, or simply lose faith?
The thing about America’s representative republican system of government is that it requires the participation of its citizens, and representative governments are wonderful engines of individual freedom and liberty – but representative republics are also a two-headed coin, one that can lead to a bifurcated nation with the worst on top.
Rather than “haves” and “have nots”, bifurcated nations are at risk of becoming become fractured into those who do (the “dos”) and those who do not (the “do nots”).
Following the logic of Karl Poppers Paradox of Tolerance, when the “dos” are allowed to do everything for the “do nots”, it doesn’t take long for the former to erase the needs, wants and desires of the “do nots” and only serve only the interests of the dos.
This two-headed coin has another aspect – it serves as a sieve to sift out people according to their motives.
An engaged, vigilant populace will seek and sort out the most principled, honorable, and competent – the best – to represent them, a disengaged populace will allow the most banal, risible, and incompetent – the worst – to get on top.
And once the worst attain power, they burrow in like a Texas tick. The are damned hard to remove.
They also tend to attract other ticks.
If you think we are the best country in the world to be governed by the worst, you aren’t wrong.
When people don’t speak up, and do so soon enough, silence is acquiescence. Most of the worst follow the Obama Dictum – “I’m going to do this thing because I want to do it, it’s up to you to stop me”. Biden did the same thing when he mandated Covid vaccines through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he and his team knew such a directive was blatantly unconstitutional, but they also knew that by the time it wound its way through the courts, the damage would be done. Ron Klain, Biden’s White House Chief of Staff thought it was a great “workaround of the Constitution”.
The worst do things because they know there is nobody there to stop them – or to stop them in time.
From Bush II through Biden, presidents have enjoyed orgies of executive actions, essentially creating a unitary executive that relegates Congress to the end of the bench on the sideline. Congress eagerly went along because to them, getting reelected to their sinecures has become their primary objective, not legislating to defend individual liberty, and protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States. SCOTUS is not immune, punting critical case after critical case on grounds of “standing” because the results, if according to the constitution, would be politically difficult and the New York Times would say mean things about the court and idiots like Dick “Turban” Durban, Lieawatha Warren and Sheldon “Yearbook” Whitehouse would call for packing the Court.
So, there are “dos” and “do nots” in all three branches of the US government.
After all, a representative republic is not only designed to represent the people it allegedly serves, but it also becomes a representation of those people.
Look, I think Nancy Pelosi is an awful person, one who manipulates everything to her own benefit, a smarmy politician nonpareil – but Nancy Pelosi is also a creation of her district. They sent her, and they sustain her. It is reasonable to assume the people who vote for her every two years are just like her.
Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics is downstream from culture, and I absolutely agree, but I would also remark that “culture” encompasses those who care enough to act as well as those who care little enough not to act.
In any case, the simple explanation is this: better government demands better people.
It doesn’t mean Americans are not good, it just means we must perform better, we must pay attention, we must care – especially when it comes to our own government.
In yet another example of the Observer or Hawthorne effect, a thing changes its nature simply by being observed. People tend to behave differently when they know they are being watched and they tend to give the observer the reaction the observer wants.
We need to shed the sloth and casual acceptance of the “do nots” and become “dos”, even if that just means calling your representatives, writing letters to the editor, posting on social media, or standing up at public meetings to give comments.
I say this because I know from personal experience the Observer/Hawthorne Effect is real.
Elected officials will perform better when they know they are being watched – and watched not only by their supporters, but also by their opponents. We all need to assume roles of manning the lookout towers, watching for rising smoke.
That part is up to each of us.