For the past few years, I’ve been part of the Clubhouse community. One of the highlights of that community for me is its rooms that discuss news, history, and politics. However, as the midterm election cycle developed, the political rooms became so divisive and angry that they affected my mental health.
I realized we might be slowly eroding away the democracy I had grown up with and felt so proud of. Moreover,this seemed not only to be happening in America. All over the world democracy suddenly seemed in jeopardy. Friends of mine stopped talking to each other. Racism and anti-Semitism became more acceptable in public conversations. And I, usually a change junkie and able to accept everything that came my way, became fearful, anxious, and depressed.
I realized I love the America I grew up in — or rather I loved its “story.” But realizing that the ground truth was much different from what I was taught to believe in school really shook me.
Does democracy really work? Does it promote equality of opportunity? Can it exist alongside the systemic racism that’s built into our institutions?
And how does everyone else feel about it?
Now that the midterms are over, and I see that democracy will live to fight another day, even though we remain deeply divided, I think we all need to pay more attention to how our process works.
Let’s question things in advance of the next election.Let’s force both parties to put up qualified candidates — people who actually have an interest in serving the public and not just taking money out of the government’s coffers. Let’s get over our obsession with celebrity, pretty faces, and sports darlings and elect workaday people who can solve our problems: the debt; the tax code; health care; education; international relations.
How do we do this? I run a club on Clubhouse called Karma Club, whose stated purpose is to leave the world a little better than we found it. The club has been holding rooms on Thursdays at 11:30 MST on this topic, and you are welcome to attend. In the first of these rooms, I asked for positive suggestions about what we could do to change the parts of our system that do not seem to work. Here are some of the ones we received:
1.Continue to vote as if your life depended on it
2.Protect the rights of minorities to vote — be allies
3.Spend more time on the ground in rural areas
4.Support PACs for younger candidates
5.Vote the issues, not the party
6.Don’t believe in polls because they are often aligned with parties
7.Vote in primaries to move your state forward. (Climate change, water)
8.If you choose non partisan alignment, briefly switch to a party, vote in the primary, and then switch back to independent
9.Continue to register and enroll younger people.
10.Seek out younger groups and give them visibility
11.Encourage people like Maxwell Frost (GenZ) to run for office
12. Put younger people in leadership positions immediately
13. Encourage outliers to run in local positions. (New Jersey truck driver unseats local incumbent)
14. Put up a candidate for every position. Let no one run uncontested
15.Organize a massive civics and outreach campaign for young people (Andrea)
16. Try civics teaching as a second career
17. Reach people who are unregistered and in the habit of skipping the midterms
18. Re-engage with existing youth groups (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts) that pull youth to cooperative awareness (Richard Dennison from Jamaica) Under age 12
19. What is the difference between Republican and Conservative, and Democrat and Liberal? Examine that
20. Learn what the libertarian party wants. (to force a runoff?)
21. Change the rules: rank choice voting and other methods that discourage partisan politics
22. Make a long term plan to get the money out of politics
23. Form a commission to look over all regulations and get rid of the ones we don’t need.
24. Enforce existing regulations better and MEASURE them.
25. Fix the primaries so that independents can vote. (California can, Arizona can’t)
These were only the beginning.The long and short of it is that we have to concentrate on getting people to understand how our government works, and not just to fight over whether it is a republic or a democracy. If they understand the difference between a democracy (freedom to choose) and dictatorship, they can make better choices.
We also have to teach the difference between political models and economic models. I cannot tell you how often I have heard Democrats as promoters of “socialism,” and Republicans as promoters of “authoritarianism,” when in truth the first is an economic model and the second a political model. They are apples and oranges. And I routinely hear worse on social media.
Yes, I minored in political science many years ago, when economics and politics and history were all taught separately. So I may be biased.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what
never was and never will be.” — Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancy