Our political system is broken, or so says Represent.Us. Regardless of the source, this thesis certainly needs our attention. On the surface, the organization offers food for thought for those concerned about the apparent dysfunction of our political process and methods of governance. Though well intentioned, it does makes an overly generalized statement concerning the founders implied notions of democratic inclusivity. Such a system of true democratic principles applicable to “ALL” was never really the intent of the founders as evidenced by such things as the electoral college, a total disregard for the equality of women, and a time when people of color were defined as property. Their egalitarian rhetoric did not make it so. Such lofty oratory does not substitute for the actual provision of a level playing field for all. Our collective disinterest, civic ignorance and non-participation in our own governmental affairs leads us to believe that the corruption and polarization of today is somehow something new. It isn’t, as evidence by a patronage structure that dominated the federal government until the introduction of the merit system in 1883 and the entry of the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th century. Power, wealth and influence have always been in the hands of the few.
So back to Represent Us. The following video infers an important point–Ours is not just a problem of ideology, political polarization and the demonizing of our opponents. Ours is a systems failure that does not value or prioritize the methods and policies necessary for a functioning democratic republic. The system itself is unable to overcome its inherent biases that only benefits those in power. There are no real internal incentives to change it. If this is the case, then our actual methods of governance need to be reformed in such a way that actually embrace those valued democratic principles so eloquently scribed more than two centuries ago. Then the question becomes: What are we going to do about it? Represent Us foci is on the power of grassroots efforts at both the local and state levels.
As always, I would also suggest that it is equally important that we insist on the re-prioritization of civic education, government and U.S. history in both our K-12 and university undergraduate programs. Education has to be more than just the acquisition of a set of soon to be obsolete applied skill sets. In deference to the demands of economic necessity, our democratic republic also requires a civically knowledgeable and engaged society. The successful continuance of this 240+year old experiment called the United States requires an equal commitment to both our economic and civic well being. With further inspection, Represent Us may provide us with a clearer understanding as to where we all go from here. Our attention is of a necessity.