Our nation's society and culture extol the power and virtue of democracy, but it is easy to forget that the Founding Fathers, well aware of the short tumultuous history of democracy in ancient Greece, were extremely suspicious of people power. At every step of constructing our system of government, they built in checks on the popular will.
The purest expression of democracy was the House of Representatives where members must stand for reelection every two years, but the Senate was built upon rotating six-year terms so it cannot be upended all at once. The President was given power to veto Congress's legislative acts, and the Congress can impeach the President. The judiciary is always on hand to adjudicate disputes as when it declares acts of the President or Congress to be unconstitutional - a power not in the Constitution but which has evolved out of necessity.
We are now amid a political crisis that confirms the suspicions of the Founding Fathers about democracy. One of our major parties, in response to a virulent undercurrent of popular angst and anger, has nominated to the Presidency a man conspicuously unqualified for the position. Hardly a day goes by that Trump does not offer up fresh evidence of his unfitness, but it does not seem to diminish his popularity, at least among his ardent supporters. The latest polls show him well behind his opponent, but he retains a hardcore support of about 40 percent of the voting population that must not be ignored.
The pundits - and I assume I am a pundit - are challenged to explain this unprecedented situation. Actually, the explanation lies all around us. We have allowed our society to devolve into competing camps of haves and have-nots. The wealthy continue to accumulate riches while the people at the bottom struggle to make ends meet. Millions who were once comfortably middle class are losing ground. Such disparity of wealth fosters political unrest.
Even more problematical in my opinion is the erosion of education and the corruption of knowledge generated by the digital revolution in which nonsense runs amok far ahead of the ability of credible news sources to provide balance. At some level, democracy depends upon mature people obtaining credible information to enable them to make reasoned decisions. But the Trump supporters disdain traditional sources of viable information in favor of rumors and conspiracy theories.
For his part, Trump responds to each fresh exposé by simply denying and lying. He apparently fancies himself an American dictator along the lines of Russia's Putin. He makes it clear he would run riot over our Constitutional protections taking revenge on those who dare defy him. He has even threatened to throw his opponent into jail, which is something third world dictators do, not leaders of civilized nations.
I believe that on Election Day the American people will reaffirm our basic decency and commitment to our heritage, but we will still be left with dealing with Trump's hardcore base which does have legitimate grievances, the primary one being economic as so many people struggle to make ends meet. We have to address this through pro-growth policies that benefit working people, such as making serious investments in our infrastructure, a hard line on unfair trade practices, regulatory relief for small businesses and entrepreneurs and a visionary program to endow displaced worker with the skills they need to obtain viable employment.
Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. You can quote from this with attribution. Let me know if you would like to speak with Jerry. October 2016
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