Democratic Virtues
by David Nevins

The U.S. Constitution sets up a system of checks and balances in governance to prevent tyranny in our republic. The functioning of our checks and balances is now in doubt, largely due to the erosion of the democratic virtues of civility and compromise. We’ve been in a downward spiral for most of the last 20 years.

Now is time for thoughtful Americans to  come together and support the rebuilding of the infrastructure to strengthen our democracy morally, intellectually and in practice.

The speech delivered by Jeff Flake Senator from Arizona a couple of weeks ago, will be thought by some as a political attack on our President but I believe it is not. If read carefully liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and independents will see the speech  as a call to all citizens and leaders to reclaim the American virtues of democracy that define us as a people and as a nation.

As you read his speech ask yourself whether you are complicit in not speaking out against unacceptable behavior from your elected representatives.

Senator Flake said:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The theme Senator Flake spoke of is not new. Thomas Jefferson recognized that democracy was born from discourse and discussion, and that such resulting discussion would be replete with differing perspectives and opinions. This visionary group of men believed that ideological differences would ultimately lead to inquiry, and inquiry to truth. In their writings to each other they discussed how civil discourse and critical thought were essential for their grand experiment in democracy to withstand the test of time.  Our country is better for their ability to vehemently disagree, argue, debate and ultimately, compromise with civility.

And so let us demand more from our elected representatives. It is time the vision of Jefferson became the standard we demand of our candidates and of our elected officials. We must demand a new politics that allows room for people from different parties and with different beliefs to sit around a table and make the tough decisions everyone knows need to be made. For this to happen we need a new type of leadership. We need leadership that serves the people through listening and empowering us to solve problems together.

I close with a few words from the Senator from Arizona:

“But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.

“The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that that is just the way things are now.”

Click here for the full text of the speech.

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