Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 10.18.16
Just Outside Washington


Whither Democracy?

I talked to my friend, Steve, yesterday about our upcoming election and its aftermath. I expressed my desire to have the election over, and my concern that the election will not change the Congress so that they will do their job [see below].

We agreed that two national priorities were fixing problems with the tax system and producing a budget with its associated departmental appropriations.

The budget/appropriations would provide the means so that the executive departments could carry out and manage programs.

Steve expressed his concern that if Donald Trump loses, his dedicated supporters will not accept the outcome of the 'rigged' election and that they may enhance the bullying tactics and resort to violence. We have seen some of this in their treatment of the opposition at rallies and the press in general.

We Americans pride ourselves on being exceptional and being the world's oldest democracy. In the last few years, we have not been setting an example for the rest of the world. Whatever happened to the shining city on the hill? In our domestic policies, we are disenfranchising voters, buying elections, and abandoning civility. These actions plus the dysfunction of our government causes the U.S. to lose its standing as a world leader. We see European countries like Poland and Hungary following the lead of Putin's Russia moving toward oligarchy.

Our current presidential election is getting a lot of press, and there is plenty of campaigning, which was equally true in 2008. In 2008 the turnout for the election was 58 percent, and the highest that turnout in the U.S. had been since 1968, however it was lower than Germany, Japan, the UK, and India.

It does not bode well for democracy -- remember 'of the people, by the people and for the people.'

But it gets worse; in Virginia, where I live, the 2015 state election was held for every elected office in the state except the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. That includes every schoolboard member, sheriff, County supervisor, state delegate and state senator. The turnout was 29 percent of the eligible voters; the ones not registered don't count.

Yes, we are all busy, and the issues are complicated. Sometimes we all wonder, where did we get these guys who are running. But if we cop out and Steve's concern about the sore losers taking an aggressive turn is correct, then we could lose our democracy and have a real oligarchy.

A cogent article on the subject is Was Democracy Just A Moment by Robert Kaplan.

This was published in the Atlantic in 1997. He uses examples of countries, which were failing as democracies to make his point. Mentioned were Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Mali, Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, and others. As we read Kaplan's article today, we must update the example countries' current situation from the news. And we find only deterioration of democracy.

America, it is time to wake up. We can't change all other countries but we can set the example.

The job of the U.S. Congress as specified by the U.S. Constitution

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fi x the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads; To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;