Four out of every five Americans hate their government.
The Democratic Party is the party of government.
This cannot be made to work.
“Hate” may be a little strong, but at best, by current surveys, slightly fewer than one out of five Americans trust their government to do the right thing at any time for any reason. Slightly more than four out of five distrust their government and believe it to be hopelessly oppressive, corrupt, and incompetent.
It has not always been this way but it is now.
This was the case even before the hopelessly corrupt and incompetent Trump regime and complicit Congress were elected. This is not a survey regarding “This specific government,” this is “The United States Government.”
80 percent of Americans are largely unaware that their government consists of the people they elect, and the people their elected officials appoint and confirm. 80 percent of Americans seem to view their government as some permanently existing, permanently corrupt, permanently incompetent entity, and appear, in turn, to view elections as choosing a sort of police agency to ride herd on said government. And this is how Republicans campaign: The Government is your enemy; elect us and we will constrain its power to hurt you.
It is not possible to operate a healthy republic under these circumstances. It is even less possible for a party (presumably the Democratic Party) to campaign on providing government services to the public without acknowledging and addressing this widespread belief. Every time some Democrat says, “The Government can…,” four out of five Americans hear, “The Very Bad Evil Thing will…”
And we lose another election.
I frequently return to Lincoln’s immortal phrase from his Gettysburg Address, his fervent wish that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I would say that it has, in fact, vanished, at least from the once-United states of America.
Allow me, if you will, to unpack that now-hackneyed phrase, that string of words of long-forgotten meaning. President Lincoln said them for the first time amid the stench of rotting dead soldiers at the Gettysburg battlefield, and his words had meaning. They were not yet a cliche.
That entity which establishes and enforces the rules under which society lives
“Of the people,”
Everyone is subject to the rules government establishes
“By the people,”
The people themselves will form the government, the people will decide on the rules they live under
“For the people,”
The rules will be established to provide the most benefit for the most people possible, with the least resultant harm or discomfort
“Shall not perish from the earth.”
We fought the bloodiest war in our history to date to preserve that specific form of government over all the states which had originally agreed to participate.
Every people in world history has lived under some rules and some ruler. Chimpanzee tribes have a ruler. When proto-humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers traveling the savannas of Africa in extended family groups, some one individual decided when they would move and in what direction. Some set of rules kept them from freely killing, raping, and stealing from one another. Government of the people.
Throughout most of written history people have been governed by kings. Whoever could command the most men to kill others at his say-so was the boss, and that was government. Government of the people.
As long ago as we can find records or evidence kings had underlings who passed their rules and commands on to the separate households, neighborhoods, and groups of society. Between the king and the people were layers of government officials. Government of the people, by the few.
In most of those societies, the kings and their courts were more concerned for their own well-being than they were for the well-being of anyone else. Government of the people, by the few, for the few.
We are getting back to there today. Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump, or Charles and David Koch, or Vladimir Putin, or Robert and Rebecca Mercer, ever disregard their own benefit out of concern for the benefit of anyone else, isn’t paying attention.
In order to establish a route back to monarchy, a necessary first step was to convince a majority of Americans that the republic which had governed them for over two hundred years was their enemy. Their government was irretrievably, permanently, hopelessly flawed and corrupt. The government that Lincoln praised and wished might never perish from the earth was worthless and had to be discarded.
I address in other essays the means by which they did this. I am not going to go into detail again here, but I am going to acknowledge one simple fact that they used as their foundation: That government was flawed. The American republic was, and is, flawed. The Constitution is flawed. Every single thing that humans have ever created has been flawed; the larger and more complex the thing, the more and worse the flaws. Faced with that unpleasant fact there are two things one can do. One can accept it, commit one’s life to correcting such flaws as are correctable, and attempt to ameliorate the resultant damage. Or, one can deny the inevitability of flaws and throw away the flawed thing in pursuit of some elusive perfection.
Perfection is not possible for humans. Perfection is not possible even for one individual human, and humans do not exist in a vacuum. There is no society of one human. Humans are herd creatures. The more humans, the less perfection. We do not agree on what is good; we do not agree on who should be best served. We do not agree on religion, on food, on a comfortable temperature for a room. How could millions of us possibly agree on what a government should be and do? It is not possible.
So we face a quandary. We will be governed; we will be ruled. Every human society, and most primate societies, throughout all of time has been governed. We can’t agree on the details of how that governing should best be done. Now what?
I propose that, however flawed it is, the Constitution for the United States could be a workable framework for governing the people who live here. I further propose that any political party who advocates that we preserve government of the people, by the people, for the people, should continually explain to the people why that is best. Explain it clearly. Explain how government works. Explain why we want it. Explain that, no, it is never going to be perfect, but it’s the best we can do as humans.
Because as long as four out of every five Americans disagree with that proposition there is very little chance said government will survive.