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Crisis In American Democracy

Crisis In American Democracy

From T.S. Khanna, Alamo, CA

Like most others, American political system was formed in a period of crisis.  It was the offspring of a revolution against the then British Monarch.  Normally, political revolutions are not noted for their originality but mostly for their vigor to enforce their doctrine in the newly developed revolution-friendly zeitgeist.

The USA, however, was an exception; here the Founders gave a detailed thought in developing the ideology of democracy as opposed to the prevailing unlimited power of the King.  At the time, compared to the King, every citizen looked like a powerless saint to the revolutionary Founders.

In their newly developed ideology of democracy, they distributed power to the common man.  They emphasized their new-found truths like “All men are created equal” resulting in the Supreme Court’s corollary “One–man–one–vote”, the “Bill of Rights”, “Representative Democracy” and “Checks and balance” as a part of the Constitution.  The newfound truths acquired the status of non-challengeable axiomatic truths in American society.

The Founders’ conviction of these truths was so strong that they did not feel the need to periodically test their effect on governmental operations and on the decision-making process.  The powers got so divided that no public official feels the national responsibility over the partisan loyalty.  There is no provision in the Constitution to establish national goals and evaluate the positive and negative effects of the various aspects of the adopted democratic ideology, nor there is a provision to establish a centripetal force to overpower the centrifugal forces generated in the polity by the Constitution.

The practice of American democracy has enriched our knowledge of human nature, which was not known at the time of adoption of the Constitution.

The negative effects have been simmering for quite some time; now they have ripened into a crisis. It does not take Cassandra to see that the present form of democracy is not sustainable.  Democracy generates problems that cannot be resolved by democracy.  In the times of crisis, it becomes an open season for stronger groups to place blame on weaker groups.  Now the focus should be on critically examining the Constitution and improving the system, instead of blaming one another.  The greatest danger to democracy is usually from within.

I am not young enough to offer any quick fixed ready-made solutions to resolve the crisis, but I do see the urgency for the well-wishers of this great nation to start thinking in non-partisan, national, and rational terms to seek lasting solutions.  Abraham Lincoln once remarked when it comes to the hard choice of saving the Constitution or saving the country, the country must be saved first. The current crisis is rooted in the American Constitution.

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