In my Sunday school class this past weekend, we talked about the election, how hard it is to know whom and what to believe, and the fact that political candidates pretty much never seem to be there to actually accomplish the things they promise or that we hope they might.
One person in the class said that “democracy is broken” in the United States, and I found myself wondering whether that is true. I definitely think that there is a need for reform of older ways of doing things. But I feel as though complaining about politics or democracy is a bit like complaining about the media. Why is there so much sex and violence in the movies or in commercials? Because that is what we the viewers want. If movie tickets and advertised products did not sell using these methods, advertisers and filmmakers wouldn’t use them, they would try something else.
Isn’t it the same with politics? Why do candidates and parties try to make you afraid of their opponents, slander them and try to make them out to literally or metaphorically be the devil?
Because it has worked time and time again in the past.
I don’t think the political situation in this country is so bad because democracy isn’t working the way it is supposed to. I think the political situation in this country is so bad because democracy works precisely in the way that we are seeing, when people are more interested in passing the buck of responsibility for informing themselves, or for making change, or anything else. As long as the majority of us want someone else to change the world for us, as long as we look to politicians and political parties to make us feel safe – by first making us feel afraid and then relieving us of that burden, as long as we want to be entertained and pandered to rather than served with honesty and respect, then we’ll continue to have politics that gives us what we want.
And so perhaps the question to ask is why it works so well, and how we do the hard work of trying to change the mind of the majority of people in our country, in order to change the vote or anything else that depends on what people prefer. Because unless we can persuade the majority of people in this country to want something different, then the choice is between a democracy that gives it to us, or opting for something other than democracy.