A Fervent Call for Saving Our Precious Democracy With Enlightened Governance

By Donald A. Collins | 4 March 2014
Church and State

The Washington Monument, a memorial to George Washington, the USA’s first president, is the most prominent landmark in Washington, DC. George Washington inspired reverence as the man most responsible for gaining the American colonies’ independence from England, as a leader in forming the nation’s government under the Constitution, and as the first president of the new United States. (Credit: Adampdx09 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

As the Crimean situation hits the front pages, there is universal agreement among even the most hawkish members on the Hill such as John McCain that the military option (i.e. boots on the ground) is off the table. Gee, that didn’t take much brain power.

However, as we learn of the utter venality of the ousted Ukraine President now cowering? (I doubt it) somewhere behind the newly erected Iron Curtain in Russia, we realize that many of our own billionaires have the same instincts but could pay in our faltering republic to get laws passed that allow for massive accumulations of wealth using currently legal means.

According to Jake Tepper on CNN, there are around the world now 1600 billionaires, 500 in the USA. Remember it is alleged that 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of America’s assets.

And it is not getting any better. Check out the February 14, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine article recent issue “The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks’ Most Devious Scam Yet” which tells about how “Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever”.

And the Wall Street Journal’s 3/4/14 front page story about the hedge funds owners 2013 personal incomes, which included the top taker, Leo Black, who got about $560 million in profits. No wonder he could easily afford to pay almost $120 million for one of the few Edvard Munch “Scream” paintings.

Anyway, in May 2012, I reviewed a book on Amazon by two thinks tank mavens, Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann entitled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” (Hardcover) which postulates this imbalance of wealth that has helped create a government that has become unable to function for the masses of people these elected elites were picked to govern us.

I wrote then:

Two respected policy analysts, one from a liberal think tank, the other from a conservative one, have stated for us news junkies a verity which is obvious, yet not well understood in its implications for conducting future sane policies.

As a former Republican when moderate Republicans were un-crucified in that Party, I can well appreciate their concerns as stated in their May 1, 2012 Washington Post article: “It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate—think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel–are virtually extinct.”

The implications for that extremism are dramatic. Inability to compromise or to make any connections with the other party means (again from the Post piece) “When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

In short, they write, “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

They mention the charge reminiscent of Joe McCarthy from Congressman Allen West (R-Fl) who stated that “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress are members of the Communist Party, regretting that virtually no Republican challenged that absurd comment.

This situation produced almost complete gridlock, as issues such as our obscenely huge debt, health care reform and climate change are lost in Republican embrace of ideologies which lead to no decisions.

This stark book needs wide embrace by independent voters who will determine the next election.

That the authors sided with Democrats in calling Republican positions extreme is not surprising as both are of that persuasion, but it was not my purpose then or now to demonize either party or any single policy position. I am guessing that if I sat down with either of them or any on the other side of the aisle, it would be possible for us to identify Democratic views with which they and I would disagree. For example, take President Obama’s steadfast unwillingness to properly enforce our immigration laws.

Not much seems to have changed since May 2012. I gave the book 5 stars and of the 283 Amazon readers who commented on my review, 248 gave me a thumbs up.

However, and frankly this is the part I rather oddly savor, some comments were highly negative of my review and very Ad Hominem, more anxious to claim positions on the extreme left or right than talk about the reality of the authors’ messages.

Yes, we do have serious divisions in ideologies, religions, and cultural views, and ethnicity, but the decline and fall of the USA, unlike the Roman Empire, as a great democracy or republic form of government in a world where such governments are quite rare would be a world wide tragedy.

Rather than pepper this piece with mentions of specific issues about which I have written many articles for this and other publications, I wanted to dedicate this op ed to a very special new category on this web site called Democracy and Government with hopes its readers will write in about. There is, I believe, everywhere, in the Crimean situation, in the matter of any contentious issue you can name a solution which can avoid extreme outcomes.

Maybe no peaceful solution could have stopped Hitler’s rise in the 1930’s. But today on our tiny planet, having made entry into the Atomic Age, with its environmental limitations, its burgeoning, perhaps un-feedable populations and the human tendency to think the game is only theirs to win or lose can surely keep too many from not thriving in the turbulent decades which loom ahead. An apocalypse is not off the table.

Democracy, that precious commodity now so much under pressure, can only survive if those in power exercise maximum restraint, comity and caring about the future. Bad leaders have checkered all of human history, but they must now especially on our very fragile planet be somehow contained (thank you, Mr. Kennan) by the vast majority of good people who need now to assess their own motives and work for the common good..

The unique gift of a functioning republic from our Founding Fathers was flawed by the existence of slavery, not yet fully emotionally excised. But the progress made there gives me hope that the most pernicious of issues can evolve without breaking our social contract. You recall the famous English philosopher John Locke opined that such a contract can only survive if the vast majority of our citizens gain more from their fealty to it than not. I believe we have reached a potentially dangerous imbalance between the have and have nots, which could lead to an even wider loss of loyalty, trust, and allegiance that exist among many of our citizens today.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA.

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