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I have faith in democracy.
I believe deeply in the principle that every person has the right to weigh in on the issues of the day: to have their voices heard, and to vote for officials who will best represent their interests.
I believe deeply that the purpose of a Constitutional democracy is to guarantee the protection of certain inalienable rights: fundamental rights which which must not be infringed upon, even if the majority are swept up by a fervor of radical beliefs.
Like all other progressives living through this time of awakening, I am painfully aware that all too often our great nation has failed to live up to its basic promise of guaranteeing those inalienable rights to all of its citizens. Our history of slavery, the delayed enfranchisement of women, and the continued economic exploitation of working families: are all shameful failures in this regard.
But I also believe in the principles of self-help.
I got into self-help the same way some people become born-again Christians, and largely for the same reasons. Self-help offered me hope when I was at a bad place in my life. I was depressed and overweight. My business had collapsed, my personal life was at a low point, and everything seemed hopeless. But I refused to stay there. I had no intention of remaining stuck. I started going running; and during my runs, I started listening to self-help books on loan from the local library. (Shout-out to Silver Falls Library, you are awesome.)
I credit those self-help books with changing my life.
One core tenet of self-help is that the past can be overcome. Just because things were bad in the past, does not mean things will be bad in the future.
We can decide to improve; and then we can deliberately and systematically make that change.
This holds true for our personal lives, as it holds true for our democracy.
Things were bad in the past. Yes! Things still have room for improvement. Yes! So the appropriate solution is to decide what we want to change, and go about making that change a reality.
The Public’s Loss of Faith in Democracy
These days, I am saddened to see that so many people on both sides have lost faith in democracy.
On both sides, people refuse to vote, and then they complain about election results. On both sides, people can’t bother themselves to participate in the democratic process, and then they grumble on social media that the outcome of the process does not represent their interests.
Anti-democratic thought on the far right
On the far right, people are opposed to progressive change. Some more or less openly embrace discrimination against different people based on every conceivable identity trait (race & ethnicity, gender & sexuality, religion, country of origin, etc, etc). A few are openly nostalgic for the days of slavery and property qualifications for voting. Embracing those kinds of ideas tend to make them favorably disposed towards anti-democratic, authoritarian figures. The far right’s embrace of those anti-democratic ideas and authoritarian figures led directly to the treasonous insurrection of January 6, 2021, a day which shall forever live in infamy.
The far right’s attack on the fundamental tenets of our democracy is shameful.
Those ideas have not gone away. We must remain ever vigilant, and stand strong against them.
Part of standing strong against those ideas, means we must not adopt our own versions of those same ideas.
Anti-democratic thought on the far left
On the far left, people are angry because the pace of change is too slow. That’s understandable; but the conclusions they sometimes draw are completely unacceptable.
Many on the far left do not want to compromise with conservatives in some sort of power-sharing arrangement. Since democracy requires power to be shared, some seem prepared to cast off democracy in favor of… what, exactly? It’s not always clear, but their sentiments get disturbingly ugly when you let them talk for too long.
Advocating conflict is a recipe for pain, brutality, and disaster. When you talk like that, you play right into the other side’s narrative. When you talk like that, you start to sound just like the people you claim to oppose. Promoting aggressively nihilistic ideas is guaranteed to only make things worse.
We’ve got to find a better way.
A culture of censorship
I disagree with core arguments of the “critical” family of theories (the family that includes, among others, Intersectional theory and, most famously, Critical Race Theory or CRT).
And it doesn’t even matter which specific arguments I disagree with. That’s already beside the point here.
Because the real problem with the state of our current discourse in America, is that you and I are both well aware that I’m not supposed to say what I just said. Disagreement has become unspeakable in the present public sphere, due to a culture of intolerance and censorship.
That’s no way to write public policy. Important ideas deserve to be debated. If we’re trying to reshape our culture, let’s consider best practices, and evidence, as well as our core values, and our basic sense of right and wrong.
Not just in academia and among liberal activists, but increasingly throughout the corporate realm as well: we are all supposed to constantly declare our loyalty to the movement that must not be named. In many social circles it is now considered offensive to even consider alternative perspectives. You must constantly agree with whatever the movement tells you to think, or else you will be accused of supporting the evil enemy. (Someone reinforced this for me over on social media just this morning.) You are not allowed to even take a moment to think about whether you agree or disagree with any particular statement. Disagreement is not an option. Your loyalty to the movement is all that matters. Disagreement may be punished by the loss of your employment, mass harassment, threats, and worse. You must say what the movement tells you to say, or else you will face the consequences.
But my loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States. And I’m presently a stay-at-home Dad, so I don’t have a job to lose: only my integrity. So I’m standing up for what I believe is right. This is going to be upsetting for some of my friends who have known me for years, so I’m sorry. I have consulted primary sources, and I have given the matter a good deal of thought, and I have reached the conclusion that the movement that must not be named is simply wrong, and I believe that as a current School Board candidate, I have a responsibility to say so.
A movement that bans any criticism of its own doctrine – and torments heretics – is not a proper political movement. It’s more like a religion. We should treat it as such.
A movement that doesn’t even want you to say its name is a movement that’s trying to hide something. It’s time to shine some light on this movement.
The dominant social movement on the far left has made it clear that anyone who questions any point of its ideology will be subject to “consequences.” But if we create a culture where people are afraid to debate important ideas, that’s a culture of repressive authoritarianism.
I prefer democracy, freedom, and equality.
The Way of the Moderate
So, now I consider myself a moderate. I’m too civil for the far left, and too egalitarian for the far right. I’m here in the middle, holding out my belief in the power of democracy; and I’m asking you to join me.
I believe we can do better.
The first step to solving our problems is to recognize that there’s a problem. I think we can all agree, that we recognize a number of problems. So we’ve already taken the first step.
The next step to solving our problems is to believe that it’s possible to solve our problems. This is where we’re sorely lacking in America today.
Some voices on the far left are actively opposed to well-meaning attempts to fix the problems in our society. I’m not kidding. They even have a name for it. They call it “solutionism.” I’m not on board with that world view. The way I see it, if you want help with fixing things, then let’s get that done.
If your car is in need of repair, you don’t blow up your car: you take it to a mechanic, and you get it fixed. If your house is in need of repair, you don’t Glass Onion your house: instead, you go to the hardware store, or you call an electrician or a plumber or a carpenter or whatever, and you fix the problem with your house. The same is true of our society, our economy, and our democratic way of life. It’s in need of repair! Nobody is denying that. But tearing it down is not going to solve the problem. We solve problems by identifying them and addressing them, methodically and intentionally.
Leading by Example
Another principle of self-help is that you can only control your own actions. You cannot control what other people think or do. However, the interesting thing is, you can lead by example! If you walk the path, people will follow your shining example.
Do you see the difference? We can’t force other people to do what we want; but if we consistently show them our good example, then people may decide for themselves that they want the same things that we want.
A good example is more effective than an angry lecture. It’s true in parenting, and it’s true in public policy.
We all have room to improve.
So let’s all go out and do better.
I hope you have a great day.
Today, and every day.
(Note: I actually drafted this blog post way back in January of 2022, shortly after I filed to run for State Representative, but I never posted it at that time. At the present time I am currently running for School Board, and, well, it seemed like a good time to make a few quick edits to this post and finally mash that “publish” button. I’ll be at the “School Board Candidate’s Night” hosted by the Silverton Grange on Sunday, April 23, so if you have any thoughts about the above, please feel welcome to share them with me then, and I’ll look forward to listening to your ideas and your concerns. Thanks for visiting!)