I love democracy. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is the greatest civic innovation of the past 300 years. But it is, as the founding fathers so frequently labeled it, a “grand experiment,” meaning it might work or, like lots of experiments, it might not. Had I been in attendance at some of those 1776 gatherings, I think I would have used slightly less austere language. I may have traded “grand” for “crazy,” and “experiment” for “riverboat gamble.”
Now, this experiment/gamble gets really, really risky during the election cycle mainly because anybody–anybody–who meets the very basic Constitutional requirements for candidacy has the right to run for the highest office in the land. Anybody. Let me say that again: anybody can be President of the United States, which leads me to the point of this article.
I don’t remember an election cycle with anything close to this year’s kind of bizzarities. We’ve got a businessman turned reality TV star with an abysmal character past, an admitted ideological socialist, a neurosurgeon, two junior senators, and a former first lady under criminal investigation. There may be a couple of regulars, but I think it’s safe to say that this candidating season is the political equivalent of a buffet line at the Golden Corral.
You’ve been to the Golden Corral. It’s confusing and incoherent and random. It’s like they took any idea anybody ever had for a buffet and squished it into one building. This race is like that: confusingly, strangely, Golden Corral-ishly random. No matter who you are or what kind of politician you like, they’re on the menu. And that means that the experiment of democracy is about to get a pretty serious test run over the next 4+ years.
A long time ago, a smart fella named Joseph de Maistre said, “Every country has the government it deserves,” and “in a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.” I don’t know who will be sitting in the White House on January 20. But he or she won’t be less than what we, the people, deserve. In the grand experiment of democracy, the fate of the nation rests in the hands of its citizens. A government of, by, and for the people, therefore, will only be as good as the their elected representatives. I’m writing this article early on Super-Tuesday, so a fair amount of electing will have already happened by the time this article is printed, but there’s still a good deal more to come. Going forward, let’s choose wisely and reflect the nobility of our citizenship in the people we send to office on our behalf. Let’s prove that the grand experiment of democracy was more of a sure thing than a crazy, riverboat gamble.