Monday, June 26, 2017

What Is Wrong With US Democracy?

Donald Trump's rise to the presidency has led many people to examine their views about how democracy really works and what can be done to move closer to the ideal that our founders had in mind.  This interview with two political scientists suggests that Donald Trump was not an anomaly.  Democratic elections are essentially battles between constituencies and identities formed within those constituencies. It is shaped by political elites who provide the issues to which voters respond. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton played the same game and Trump eked out a razor thin majority in swing states that produced the unexpected result.  Donald Trump won the election but his lack of government experience, among other things, has produced unusual consequences.  It should not make us cynical about democracy; instead, it should encourage us to better understand how it really works and to create more balance between constituencies, and political elites, than presently exists in our system.  Winston Churchill defended democracy by claiming that it was the least bad system of governance.  Our founders also understood the many problems that any form of democracy would have to overcome.  They attempted to create institutions that protect the system from an egregious failure.  The move from monarchy to democracy has been difficult but it is not the kind of democracy that is presented in Fourth of July speeches.  The better we understand the problems that were well understood by out founders, and how it is working today, the more able we will be to bring it closer to our ideals.  The political scientists interviewed in this article helped me to better understand what needs to be done to make the real system work better.

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