People have strange addictions. When I was ten I became addicted to watching C-SPAN. I’m not sure why. But it does make some more sense now.
Like most addictions, mine ended up subtly shaping the rest of my life. Last May I graduated from The Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. And as a certified government geek I can honestly say I love Donald Trump.
I’m not saying I’m in love with his policy positions, or that I support his view on the handling of kitty cats. To be frank, I think my President is as ignorant as he is arrogant. Yet for the first time since politics came into my life, I heard people asking questions about the way their government works – and not just on campus.
What’s a contested convention?
Hey! They can’t do that to Bernie…can they?
Polls are actually utterly flawed??
What’s the average SAT score for those admitted to the Electoral College?
How did he….What the hell does America stand for?
There’s a large sense of complacency surrounding American Democracy today. It’s as if we believe it will always be here because, for us, it always has been. But we shouldn’t simply pick a team and move on with our lives. American Democracy is so much more than that. Our first celebrity President will continue to show us why red vs blue is so dangerous. And that’s why you should love Trump too.
At the Schar School I learned America was built by men who believed they could be anyone, and do anything, as long as they had books to learn from. They read like addicts – searching day and night for ideas that work. In a bold defiance of tyranny they set out to create the most kick-ass democracy the world had ever seen. From the rise of Rome to the French Revolution, they studied it all. In their eyes, American Democracy could save the world if they got it right. They dreamt of better governance on Earth, and bled to make it happen.
A student of government, if he stayed awake in class, will tell you what the founders built a few hundred summers ago, in Philidelphia, is a pretty weird country held together by inclusive institutions; that those institutions are the reason we are the proverbial house on the hill; that democracy isn’t always justice and liberty donuts; that our founders were imperfect men, but also loyal dogs to a new radical notion of liberal humanism we take for granted today. More importantly, our founding fathers recognized a democracy must evolve – with citizens as informed and judicious innovators – if it is to be maintained. They created a “start up” culture that birthed the world’s greatest civic society and started the greatest experiment on Earth.
We’ve lost that culture.
Complacency is democracy’s kryptonite. The complacency surrounding American democracy today is the reason Congress is in crisis. We’ve let honest political discourse devolve into Thanksgiving fiascos and hype artists on TV. Community service has become a thing people do after unsuccessful court dates. Nobody knows who their local representative is but everyone knows Kim broke up with Kanye (or whatever) We’ve allowed all these silly things to happen while knowing it’s our civic duty to be better than that. We get the leaders we deserve. As citizens, it’s time to look in the mirror.
The character of government is a direct reflection of the character of civil society.
Honest political discourse births democracies. Civic engagement keeps them alive. We need both if we really want to make America great again; it’s what made us great in the first place.
Will the young civic society please stand up? It’s time for Democracy 2.0