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The Democratic Experiment 

Taking a Gander: America teeters in the balance

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In a recent op-ed in The Atlantic, Sen. Mitt Romney warned Americans about the inclination to see our country through rose-colored glasses. He fervently warned us that the war to save our democracy is real, and that it's not serving us well to merely believe those things for which we hope. Hoping and reality are not the same.

Included in Romney's warning were the words, "A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable. Congress," he noted, "is particularly disappointing: Our elected officials put a finger in the wind more frequently than they show backbone against it. Too often, Washington demonstrates the maxim that for evil to thrive only requires good men to do nothing."

Romney nailed it.

We all know that the United States of America was born of great courage and lofty dreams. Fed up with the understanding that the British colonies would continue to be both marginalized by the Crown and exploited for their vast resources, brave patriots were willing to fight in order to secure a permanent weaning from the motherland. A Declaration of Independence was drafted, and a Constitution and Bill of Rights became the core of a new democracy.

Every country and culture has its special story of origins, a sort of Book of Genesis relating to its beginnings. Sadly, man seems to have the need for creation of a real whopper, so the basic facts of America's inception have been embellished as a means of promoting patriotism and regarding our country as the one God himself loves best.

Somehow we, as a country, have believed that the U.S.A. is superior in every sense. That unhealthy assumption of entitlement has allowed us to assume that our nation will live forever, and that its world leadership will never be challenged. Or, at least, that belief was remarkably consistent over the past hundred-or-so years.

That sense of entitlement—as good as it may have felt—is now staggering. The rest of the world no longer views the U.S.A. as the power or authority it previously was.

The smugness and superiority of the American people have played a key role in the failures we now suffer. Instead of the unequivocal world leader, we are the world's laughingstock. (Thank you, Donald Trump.) Even worse, the success of Trump, in his attempted hijacking of our democracy, has become a model for other world tyrants who wish to emasculate their populations in order to consolidate power. The worst of them are carefully studying the playbook of America's worst traitor.

The fact that most Americans have sufficient food, housing, education and medical care has distracted our nation from the vigilance necessary for self-preservation. It is partly our country's smug sense of entitlement that has allowed it to be soundly thrashed and humbled, largely by the forces within. We must face it.

When I review our history, it is difficult to comprehend the devotion and commitment of those first Americans. We seem to have such a high tolerance for government excesses and incursions. The reality is that a fight is the last thing any of us want.

It's easy to see that the cushiness of our lives has doomed us to have an almost limitless complacency. Americans haven't been known for the spirit-of-'76 attitude. Instead, we've shown that we'll do absolutely nothing, right up until that time when things previously viewed as nuisances become excruciating pain.

It is probably considered very "adult" to not be bothered by trifles, and our society has taught us to make waves only under the most egregious circumstances. Nothing changes in our country until pain becomes widespread.

In many ways, America's colonists had understood that life was essentially good, and that there was little to kick and scream about. But we all know how it works—little irritations seem to grow both in complexity and severity, and that was certainly what happened in the Britain's satellite American colonies.

The background irritation of "taxation without representation" had been simmering for years, but finally it transitioned from a matter of unfairness to one of pressing immediacy. Unfortunately, the founding fathers inadvertently created something that could not survive indefinitely. Certainly, we have much to be thankful for, but the government of, for, and by the people was not properly addressed. Case in point: You can't have a democracy while the electoral college still exists.

If every voice and every vote is to count, the electoral college system stands in the way of a workable and enduring democracy. As I understand it, we're the only democracy in the world wherein every vote can be nullified by those who confirm election results. No so-called democracy can survive when the value of individual votes is discounted or subverted.

That, of course, wasn't the only failure of the founding fathers. Human rights and personal choice were never meant to be decided by the states—with their ideological, provincial and religious quirks—and certainly not to be decided by a high court of highly-political appointees who cannot and will not put aside their own long-held, wackadoodle prejudices. There's a reason our country was considered to be a democratic "experiment;" the founders knew that it wasn't set up perfectly.

It's time to make the necessary changes for our nation's survival. Think: SCOTUS appointments and life terms; the electoral college; the filibuster; the new partnerships between church and state; and the big-money control being exerted on all branches of our government and on the free press.

The American form of democracy has exposed itself as a system that was not only ill-conceived and deeply flawed, but is—at least in its present form—destined for eventual failure. The concepts were mostly right, but the execution of the new government had a number of glaring inadequacies—ones that we must deal with today. If we fail at that task, the USA, as we know it, will cease to exist.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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