Politics allows men and women to play with forces normally reserved for the gods, which is part of why political leaders were historically seen as divine representatives. They literally wielded godlike power over the lives of their subjects and were thus treated with reverence, even when badly abusing that power.
The founders of our country recognized the corrosive effect that godlike powers have on men and women who are not consistently operating from a godlike consciousness. Their political actions can turn to self-indulgence, inflation, and tyranny rather than service. In creating a new system of governance, Americas founders had the opportunity to conduct an experiment away from the rigid political hierarchies of Europe. In this experiment, appropriate checks were put on the godlike powers so that normal humans could create a decent and workable government even when the leaders were behaving in self-interested, power-hungry ways.
The basic structure of governance enacted by our Constitution involves the separation of power into three domains: executive, legislative, and judicial, each with checks and balances upon the others. In addition, the legislative branch was created with the checks and balances that result from two separate houses. The founders also created America as a representative democracy rather than a full democracy: leaders chosen by a majority of voters, they felt, would be more likely to make wise decisions in the service of the whole than would the average voter. The need for re-election would keep politicians more honest and accountable and ensure some degree of representing the needs of the whole.
Like a computer operating system that starts crashing when the code that runs it is no longer adequate to deal with new demands, Americas current political infrastructure has begun crashing. We will need to go through a major upgrade of our political system to adequately address the distorting effects that the new powers on our cultural landscape wield. Without such an upgrade, our self-congratulatory rhetoric about democracy will increasingly be out of sync with the truth of the moment.
We need not see this as a failure. Rather, its remarkable that our system was built so well as to last this long without a major overhaul. We just need to be honest that the checks and balances are no longer robust enough to deal with current realities. So what are some of these forces that the founders could not have anticipated and which are rendering our current checks and balances inadequate?
All of these changes have resulted in an increasing mismatch between the checks and balances that were created 230 years ago and the expanded sources of power now seeking to manipulate our system of governance. Simply put, todays powerhouses have overrun the political defenses erected by our Founding Fathers. The end result, if we are not able to arrest the process and create a true political upgrade that integrates all the reflective wisdom earned in the last two centuries, will be that Americas political operating system will crash into a more archaic form.
Do we have the courage to admit the truth of the situation and the will to undertake the work of reform at all levels? Thats the challenge set before the American people in the coming years.
Sacred America Series #13
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