USA Today recently announced what must be, at best, an incredibly shallow assessment and comparison of governments, around the world, with the conclusion that the US is a "failed democracy." It's failed because "trust in government, political parties and leaders had plummeted to extremely low levels' in the US..."according to a research arm of the publication, The Economist.
And don't blame it on Trump, they said; it just paved the way for Trump. First off, how could any reasoning person blame it on Trump? Trump has been in office only a few days. Anyone who thinks that Trump has had any influence on the state of civic attitude is not someone worth addressing. Secondly, if the US has failed as a democracy it might be because it was never intended to be a democracy. The Economist should know that, even if most people don't. The US was founded as a Constitutional Republic, aimed at protecting the individual citizen from the insanity of mob rule, into which most democracies eventually disintegrate. If the persistent effort of trying to portray the US as a democracy, and the teaching of such to school children, has failed, then that's a good thing. And finally - no one should have a "trust in government, political parties and leaders."
Our founders didn't trust those things, why should we? The structure of our government - the very careful crafting that went into the writing of the US Constitution - every syllable of it - was directed at making sure the average citizen didn't have to "trust to government." It was written with the hope that no individual had to live with their heart-in -their -mouth for fear of the idiosyncrasies of just one man, or what a group of self-serving politicians would do to the stability and enjoyment of their life. Each of us was expected to be the director of our own life, determine our own destiny, and to have the freedom in which to do that. That people might feel anxiety about the election of Donald Trump is a reflection of just how far astray the practice of our government has come. If those who are wringing their hands about President Trump understood the Constitution - which they don't - they would know that no president is supposed to have the kind of power they fear. Theirs is the same anxiety that Trump supporters felt when they saw President Obama take up the "the pen and the phone." It was that anxiety which elected Donald Trump. Trump supporters knew no one person was supposed to have so much power, and their anxiety rose when no one appeared to be stepping up to stop him and to insist on adherence to Constitutional processes. They did grow to be distrustful of the government establishment, which seemed, blithely, indifferent to massive Constitutional violations. And so, they sought out the person who seemed most not to be a part of the cabal. One could say that the election was one Constitutional check that worked - or so we must hope.
The framers of the government of the US were distrustful of centralized power because they were, in essence, the product of such failed power in other countries. Most of the people who came to these shores did so to flee the failures of other governments. The founders, or their parents, grandparents etc., had experienced firsthand, the suffering, misery, and pointlessness of life under monarchs, dictators and tyrants of all sorts - centuries of it, in fact. And, they understood that "democracy" as an ideal was always doomed to failure because it usually, eventually, delivers the reins of power into the hands of one or just a few. A democratic process was to be pursued in the new nation, only in the selection of representatives, but even that was tempered by the electoral college. The idea that "government is our friend" is a rather modern idea, one implanted in the thinking of generations of hapless children attending government schools. It was never a concept held by the victims of political power in any other era of history. It has fomented in the absence of teaching about the Constitution and about history. The Economist's study claimed that President Trump benefited from "the low esteem in which U.S. voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties." That is undoubtedly true, and it's not something about which President Trump is unaware. He spoke directly to that disaffection in his inaugural speech: ...today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another - but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People. . . What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people." There is uncertainty about what President Trump will do, but how anyone who values their own individual freedom can object to his inaugural proclamation, is a puzzle. To reject such a goal is indeed to reject the goals of the US Constitution, of our founders and of freedom itself. That there are people who would do so, is one of the most startling realizations of my life, but it is a fact that I have come to accept, even if I don't understand it. The most I can attribute to their opposition is that they prefer to coerce the unearned and seek power over fellow citizens, because that is what the alternative means. We can only hope that the study's conclusion is true - that people no longer "trust in government, political parties and leaders" and that the people want to regain local control and individual freedoms that allow them to direct their own lives. And we can only hope that the solution will be to insist on returning power to the people rather than the incongruous approach of imposing more government. It may very well be that rather than a "failed democracy," what we are witnessing is the success of a Constitutional Republic - something for which there is no comparison, anywhere else in the world.