Democracy is dialogue with purpose
Democratic apathy, a disregard for veracity, weak societal dialog, and intensively reduced systems of symbols like money and race leading to collective myths and misunderstandings are among the challenging elements in the United States as a complex society. In order to counter these obstacles in our contemporary circumstances, substantial to fundamental structural political reform is necessary. The paths forward might be framed as threefold: First, to choose to accept the political impasse between the Democratic and Republican super parties resulting in very limited democracy, sharp racial and urban-non-urban divides, and an essential outsourcing of policymaking and societal problem-solving to the private sector and other non-elected entities through government as a total or near total proxy.
Second, a radical metamorphosis of Washington into a Brussels-like function designed to manage political and economic continuity, broadly devolving democratic processes to the fifty states as individual entities and changing the foundation of our political system as we understand it—an American Union of States.
Thirdly, as perhaps the most measured of options, the introduction of a league of pro-state independents to national politics as a meaningful third political entity leading to more state-based flexibility and less need to compromise on a national level other than pronounced nation-related issues such as trade, immigration, and security—for which there would likely be more compromise.
The latter two options are in favor of more democracy—one being more radical and one more moderate—whereas the former, accept-and-do-nothing route is the surrender of democracy in that it does nothing to stabilize participation and connect the people to the structures that govern them. Democracy is dialogue with purpose. Without dialogue with purpose, there is no need to protect truth; there is no need to attain critical and comparative intelligence to reach understandings, and there is no need for follow-through with such acquired knowledge because—with no bottom-up process—there is only a chess match between competing power structures from the top down.
Without dialogue, there is no need for one to form a political philosophy because one’s “votes” becomes merely strategical in selecting the super party perceived to be in one’s own interest. Such a nation-wide setting creates a smokescreen making people believe that an Ohioan could or should compromise with an Oklahoman about capital punishment or gun control; moreover, it’s absurd to believe that a Mississippian is talking to a New Yorker about abortions and queer rights. There is no actual space for such dialogue to take place in any broad, in-depth manner.
We should reinterpret the basics of dialogue in a digitalized world: Dialogue tolerates dissent; is of uncertainty; is of complex language; is reading to write and writing to read; listening to speak and speaking to listen; it’s critical and comparative; it’s additive; it is contextual, practical, and abstract; it’s to persuade, not manipulate, in order to reach best and propitious decisions. It’s not 140 characters, “likes,” and “opening monologues” laced with rage and certainty through television and computer screens viewed widely by Americans contextualized in disparate geographically and historically informed spaces.
A reconceptualization of the American setting lends itself to finding dialogue. I submit that the axes for societal boundaries and order do not lie in the oft-framed debate between the viewpoints of the so-called “nationalists” and “globalists,” but also within the structures through which the typical person has agency and movement as well as the market space from which he cannot be detached. This is, namely, state-level dialogue of and for democracy where he is most geographically, socially-culturally-psychologically, verbally, and orally connected.
Moreover, it is his given inextricable economic expanse which, in the Western world, is roughly continental (the inner EU market and NAFTA as a construction). From this standpoint, one could consider political identities such as ‘pro-state independent’ and ‘North American democrat’ (small d) in a world no longer neatly mapped by national borders.
Such an identity leads me to advocate for the more moderate of the latter two roads because devolving democracy in its near entirety to the states will be difficult for the typical person to absorb and consent to. It is, however, worth noting that many European states enjoy a higher degree of ‘welfare’ (as in social well-being) than the United States lending such a structure viability and qualitative credibility. Unifying forces could still come in the way of freedom of interstate movement, free interstate trade, bloc NAFTA negotiations (Canada-US-Mexico), coast-to-coast sports leagues, and a common US defense and security.
On the other hand, there are meaningful divisions in the European Union between more open and liberal countries and more closed and conservative ones; as well as between larger, economically competitive ones versus smaller, less competitive ones. Devolving Constitutional power—even with agreed upon oversight mechanisms—would ultimately lead to a lack of protection against minority, women’s, and other civil rights abuses in the most socially conservative of states and create state economic disparities.
This option, albeit ‘radical,’ is however, at a minimum, a logical counter bookend to the continuation down the road of political impasse as we should all ask ourselves how much we truly value our democracy as it is increasingly becoming a ‘radical’ masquerading of high offices, media dramatization and disinformation, and corporate and special interest controlled puppetry who, often, have only been playing democracy.
The way forward begins with an acknowledgment that people in different spaces interpret the world through different sets of meanings. Factoring such relations that encompass not only difference but power in to one’s societal calculus for the sake of democratic stability and betterment is principal in making anything so large work. Democracy, after all, is the process by which the typical person gets things. More democracy means making tangible one’s government. More democracy means healthcare and wellbeing. More democracy means education. More democracy means minimized and—in last resort situations—humane incarceration. I very much suspect the majority wants such.
Therefore, I propose that the typical person should focus on the state(s) to which one has meaningful connections in order to reduce any detached connections he may have with other political dynamics across the nation. These detached connections make us susceptible to division. This, however, does not mean to simply disregard anyone outside what is not immediate and familiar. Instead, it provides an alternative to regarding ‘America’ as ‘red’ versus ‘blue’ through opening up our macro conception to the continent. It is for certain that the US opposition(s) to current Republican politics share critical North American geopolitical space with Republican constituencies and supports. They also share such with Mexico and Canada, as all of whom together determine the security, sustainability, and prosperity of a joint production in a world of economic blocs.
The typical person should re-symbolize objects of the nation-state like Washington D.C., the “mainstream media,” ‘borders,’ state capitols, and other prescribed indexes for the sake of responding to a well apparent macro dysfunctionality. Understanding one’s context embedded in larger interconnected contexts and considering where one can be effective leads one to the state level. The state level is the political space in which the typical person should involve himself through dialogic argument, advocacy, organization, driven-by-the-self demonstration, creative and thoughtful contribution of any sort, and voting. Advocate for people to have household phone lines; or identify, control, and limit their viewing of certain media; or do something for their culture through technology. There's a vast number of ways to make a positive difference. So long as citizens are in the right space for an auspicious purpose, they will use their intelligence to make contributions.
—there are important gubernatorial and other races at this level this fall; in addition to important national elections—
A realization of the typical person as a “mind in society”—one who lives in the space of “what could be”—and certainly not one paralyzed and appalled by screens disseminating information en mass is a pre-requisite of self-governance. In order to move to this consciousness, we need a structural insertion of a league of independents in Washington.