Let’s Vote! Election Day is coming up, but the current political climate may not directly generate a “O, when the saints go marching in” pull to the voting booths. Frustration over institutional inefficiency and of a representation vacuum keeps growing. One political science authority who recently joined the concerns on the functioning of our democracy of Francis Fukuyama. In his new book, “Political Order and Political Decay: From the French Revolution to the Present”, he carefully analyzes how our model of democracy (separation of powers with a strong executive branch and president) has reached a point where it needs a visit to the mechanic. Fukuyama, who, at other times voices more gloomy perspectives, is somewhat optimistic that in our country reform is possible, if we take seriously its gridlock issues. Here are two he keenly observes:
1) Our democracy risks to become a ‘vetocracy’ or a political version of a culture of ‘adversarial legalism’. Using the law for interests and lobbying rather than for conflict management has caused a “sue happy” legal culture. (Red Bull was recently sued because the drink doesn’t actually give you wings.) The judicialization of power has evolved towards a primarily adversarial legal mindset that now has been applied to congress. Legislation and congressional procedures are used more to block decisions than to pass bills.
2) In addition, we are facing a crisis of representation. America has preferred a liberal democracy with a market economy because together they stimulated the spirit of innovation and growth. Yet, the economy has shifted today, to a market with limited winners, who now, in turn, exert unequal political influence, which is undermining the classic dynamic of representation.
Fukuyama is pointing to needed repairs, but his book leaves the practical work to others, which is undoubtedly a daunting task list. Facing this current political gridlock makes many disengage from the political scene, but at such point of structural crisis, not less but more democratic involvement is needed. This point is exactly one of these moments for more vocal voters, more voters casting their ballots, more voters who decide to raise leaders for tomorrow.
Maybe this is a time for saints, not in the sense of the statues that fit well on church pillars, but in the sense of people who are willing to bring hope and renewal in our community and our country, regardless reputation or gain, even in areas of murky and difficult issues such as the political scene. And maybe there is a reason why Election Day falls so close to All Saints Day. In any event, given Fukuyama’s limited optimism about possible change in our country’s politics, it is probably time to also pray for more democracy, more voters and more true leaders how are willing to serve. Let us go vote this Tuesday and continue to raise leaders for the future.
Attached is a Francis Fukuyama essay, published in the September/October 2014 issue of the Foreign Affairs Magazine, that adapted from his forthcoming book.