Democracy in Crisis?

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Did you hear the news?

Hillary Clinton announced that American Democracy is in crisis. She lays the crisis at the feet of President Trump – an easy target who, it must be said, didn’t start the fire; he’s just made things worse.

But this news is old news.

It is awfully rich of Ms. Clinton to say it given her own contribution to democracy slipping into crisis for quite some time while she and her illiberal alliance with the regressive left have hastened it on every bit as much as the alt right and an oligarch-like president such as Trump.

She writes an article in The Atlantic titled: “American Democracy is in Crisis: Our democratic institutions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back.

I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.

As I see it, there are five main fronts of this assault on our democracy.

First, there is Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law.

Second, the legitimacy of our elections is in doubt.

Third, the president is waging war on truth and reason.

Fourth, there’s Trump’s breathtaking corruption.

Fifth, Trump undermines the national unity that makes democracy possible.

She’s right on every count as it relates to the current president… and she’s guilty on every count as well.

It would be naive to not recognize the ways she would have simply contributed to the ongoing decay of democracy in her own way. The polarized American electorate took a gamble on which wrecking ball they wanted.

The Source of Her Discontent?

Is she upset that Trump is doing this?

Or

Is she upset that he is doing decay “better” (or worse, as the case may be) than any other president before him?

Or

Is she upset that she didn’t get a chance from the American people to contribute in her own way to the crisis of democracy?

How did we get here?

Clinton’s answer is her first harmless admission that the “assault on democracy” has had time in the making:

“Trump may be uniquely hostile to the rule of law, ethics in public service, and a free press. But the assault on our democracy didn’t start with his election. He is as much a symptom as a cause of what ails us.”

While she uses words like “hyper-polarization”, and increased “animosity” among the electorate, she does not admit that this is a problem of degree, not status. In other words, it must be admitted: she was a polarizing figure who contributed to animosity as well.

Political but Not Partisan

Trump is an easy target, but Clinton cannot legitimately claim some higher moral ground. She can only confess to being a lesser actor on the world stage of democratic decay. As I said, this is old news:

Nearly two decades ago, the political commentator Fareed Zakaria wrote a prophetic article called “The Rise of the Illiberal Democracy,” in which he worried about the rise of popular autocrats with little regard for the rule of law and civil liberties. Governments may be elected in free and fair elections, he wrote, and yet routinely violate their citizens’ basic rights.

Since Zakaria’s piece, illiberal democracies have become more the norm than the exception.

The Draining Off of the Democracy Quotient

The health of democracy in general should concern us all; the health of American democracy should concern us greatly due to the power of such an economy and military.  However we should be under no illusion that America’s president is “the leader of the free world” – because it hasn’t been free for a long time. That is to say, as democracies continue to be disproportionately influenced by lobbyists from big business or special interest groups, the democracy quotient has been steadily reduced. You and I don’t have the influence with our elected officials the electorate once had.

It will take more than cynicism, criticism, or politically partisan platitudes to improve the quotient.

Half True Solution?

Clinton’s solution is only half true – like so many things politicians say:

Now we must do all we can to save our democracy and heal our body politic.

First, we’ve got to mobilize massive turnout in the 2018 midterms…

When the dust settles, we have to do some serious housecleaning.

When the dust settles, she may be surprised to find herself swept out into the dustbin of erstwhile politicians. What she ignores speaks to what she has done to hyper-poloraize and increase animosity of a portion of the electorate whom she margenalized; she underestimates the redemptive role of faith in the public square.

Currently the religious right is just plain wrong, not necessarily for the positions they take (though that can be debated too), but for the un-Christ-like means they take to “win” the temporary political battles of the day. Do these politicalized Christians have no shame for besmirching the name of the Lord in the name of a soft win of a temporary political maneuver?

Oh for Christians in the public square to be more Christian than they are political!

In addition to taking wise action – Christians are called to seek God in prayer with humility and confession for how they (we) too have contributed to the decay of good governance, and of the common good. And then, to repent.

Lord have mercy.