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 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.
At every level, the system was built on a recognition that we need to be protected from the distorting effects of power. The Founding Father 's structure has done a reasonably good job of protecting us from the worst political excesses and allowing for incremental evolution of the system itself. However, the power landscape has shifted in many ways that our founders could not have anticipated, which has meant that the corrosive effects of new power centers have seriously undermined the integrity 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, America 's 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.
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, today 's 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 America 's 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? That 's the challenge set before the American people in the coming years.
Sacred America Series #13
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