The state of American democracy
Andrew Sullivan mulls over the collapse of American democracy:
EJ Dionne takes the Weiner “scandal” as the moment he realized we were late imperial Rome. PM Carpenter takes the Bush vs Gore Supreme Court ruling. Personally, I think it was some moment between the Congress’s assent to torture in 2006 and when Sarah Palin was selected as a serious vice-presidential nominee in 2008.
I know this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it still strikes me as misplaced. There is an understandable tendency to overestimate the importance of modern day events, and while I don’t disagree that these are important, I think we need to look at the big picture. One theme I plan on addressing more in this blog is looking at American history, not as a country that was born as an shining city on a hill, but as a flawed, somewhat autocratic country that underwent a remarkable democratic transition. I personally think a time to really worry about the state of our democracy would have been when the country split in two and fought a bloody civil war. Maybe the armed insurgency that existed in the South for decades after would also be a cause for concern. The successful coup d’etat, certainly didn’t bold well for our democracy, yet we are still here, a stronger democracy than ever before.
The bottom line is this is the first period in American history where the entire population is enfranchised and where political parties aren’t merely patronage machines that avoid adopting ideological policy positions. Congress authorizing torture and a flawed presidential election may seem like the beginning of the end, until you stop to think about what the beginning was actually like.