The recent midterm elections are not over – Florida’s ‘traditional’ recounts are still underway – but the results at large are clear. Confirming what polls predicted, Democrats retook the House and Republicans kept the Senate. Two years from now, somebody will probably be quoting President Truman’s ‘Do Nothing Congress.’
For most of American history, senators, representatives and presidents from different parties have had to collaborate with the other side to get anything done. That was the way it was intended by the Founding Fathers.
The current reluctance, or incapacity, for such collaboration is a worrisome sign. The partisan entrenchment produces the paralysis of the Do Nothing Congresses. And that is one of the main reasons many people end up not trusting our form of government.
During the last two decades, two forms of distrust have remerged in our political world. On the left side of the spectrum, many people think the dice are loaded in favor of the powerful. For them, democracy is just a ritual devoid of real meaning, a performance to make the unwashed masses trust a government that is there to serve just the powerful. This idea has been a feature of all the antidemocratic movements of the 20th century.
But on the other side, there is also a distrust of democracy in its present form. According to some commentators of the right, our democracy doesn’t work as it used to. The cause – according to them – is that too many people have become dependent on the government. Once people are incapable of making a living without the government’s help, they ceased to be responsible citizens. They will vote to office – so the theory goes – whomever promises more handouts from the federal treasury.
Of course, you could find plenty of examples to support both theses. When democracy is in crisis – or when enough people are convinced that it is – they begin to look for alternatives to democracy. Or they become more complacent with the progressive destruction of a system they don’t believe in anymore.
But things get murkier when you consider the alternatives.
“Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” Winston Churchill once said, quoting an unknown author. Having lived under one of those ‘other forms of government’ almost half of my life, I can attest to the veracity of Churchill’s assertion.
We read from time to time that half of Millennials don’t believe in democracy, or that more than half of U.S. college students would prefer to live in a ‘socialist society.’
“Many members of Generation Y could be ready to back a despot,” a recent article in a major newspaper said.
The record participation in the recent midterm elections, nevertheless, could give us a new hope. Voters – particularly young people – massively came out to vote. They thought that the ballots were a proper way to express their hopes – or frustrations – for the country.
We should not put the younger generations in a position that will push them to opt for those other forms of government that ‘have been tried from time to time,’ as Churchill said. The whole bloody history of the 20th century is the horrific result of two systems of government that pretended to replace democracy.
The next two years will be a good time for the politicos in Washington to behave like adult citizens of the world’s preeminent democracy.