In a recent piece in Commonwealth, Adam Hinds argues that “Strengthening democracy takes compromise…”
Well, of course it does. Citing “hyper-partisan invective,” Hinds points to a lack of compromise for the rapid decline of democracy we are now witnessing.
Marriage, too, requires compromise. But when even one partner in a marriage betrays or abuses and then lies about it, compromise is the least of that couple’s worries.
It is sentimental and even delusional for the Kennedy Institute and the Orrin Hatch Institute, symbols of a fabled golden age of “bipartisanship,” to suggest we can reset the playing field for respectful dialog and thus save America. Isn’t Hinds alarmed, as most of us are, by the many structural problems with our democracy — including a Constitution that needs to be updated?
American democracy is unraveling — not because people are not using their indoor voices — but because the Constitution, once a blueprint and always a vague document subject to reversals of interpretation, has now become a terrorist’s manual for the destruction of the very institution it defines.
American democracy is unraveling because voting rights are constantly being abused. American democracy is a cruel joke when any state, regardless of population, gets two senators. American democracy was almost derailed by trying to game the arcane electoral college system. American democracy is spit on every day lobbyists roam the halls, every year that gerrymandered districts further disenfranchise voters who have already been cut out of the “democratic process” by disqualification for a criminal offense, or whose nearest voting booth is 45 minutes away, or whose ballots are contested by conspiracy wingnuts.
American democracy is undermined when Americans discover that what democracy really means is saving banks with crypto investments, not helping taxpayers struggling under crushing student debt. American democracy is undermined when both parties defend and occupy much of the same ideological space. Instead of confidence in political discourse, the very lack of genuine political choice keeps voters at home on election day.
Hinds thinks the solution is to “inspire and harness the power of the next generation to reestablish the citizenship, participation, and knowledge that strengthens a democracy.” But kicking the can down the road is no solution.
The next generation will not be fooled by empty verbiage. It knows, and so do those of us in other generations, that we are doomed unless more meaningful structural changes finally address the rot at the root of our so-called “democracy.”
David Ehrens is a resident of Dartmouth.