I’ve lived long enough to recall when public service was an honorable occupation. Over the years, that view among many has changed. Today, when politicians make headlines, they are being unmasked as liars, cheats and hypocrites. Seldom do we see them praised for the good they do. That makes me sad. Our nation is blessed with a history of patriots and heroes. Their idealism shines in our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and in the rows of military crosses we see in graveyards here and abroad.
If some journalists are to be believed, Russia wants us to lose faith in our government. Of course, we mustn’t fall prey to these disrupters. But I suspect we have more to fear from those within our borders than from those outside it. As Alan Wolfe writes, there are citizens who oppose democracy because it “places restraints on the activities of the rich and powerful” (Rules for Radicals,” by Alan Wolfe, New Republic October 2017 pg. 40.) Conservative economist and Nobel Laureate, James McGill Buchanan (Click) held a related view of democracy’s flaw: “the rights of the individual are subject to the whims of politicians.” (Ibid pg. 49.)
I dare to challenge the thinking of a Nobel Laureate and his like. In a working democracy, our politicians struggle to create a balance between individual freedoms and government. One has no primacy over the other. The relationship between the two is always a work in progress and best improved when all members of our society participate freely.
Equality and inclusion shape our notion of democracy. If we are an open, free society, then Russian hackers can do us no harm. As I’ve suggested, the danger lies from within, from those so fearful of democracy they would weaken our faith in our institutions. They demand less government when what they mean is democracy belongs to some but to not all. These are the true disrupters. These are the “patriots” we see engaged in voter suppression.
We-the-people should turn a deaf ear to these voices. There is safety in numbers. Oregon has a policy of automatic voter registration. (Click) It’s a good policy. Perhaps one day, every state in the union will adopt it.