We often hear people say they’re just not into politics or they don’t like to talk about it. The reality is, politics is really just another term for values. The question therefore, is what are your values. What do you believe in. American culture contains a number of core values. Not all Americans share the same views, of course, but the vast majority subscribes to the general ideals of; liberty, democracy, individualism, family, equality and liberty. Accordingly, we acknowledge laws that administer fairness and dole out justice are intended to limit our shared values. For instance, we believe you can own a gun, but you can’t own a military grade weapon like a grenade launcher. We all believe you can own a bicycle, but you can’t ride that bike on the interstate. We believe that an individual can pursue any level of wealth they choose, but you cannot rob a bank to acquire that wealth. We also believe in the right of free speech but agree that no one is allowed to yell fire in a crowded movie theater. These are not ideological abstractions, they are the fundamental beliefs that motivate our intention and define what is important in society. This same parallel can be applied to the issues of; healthcare, climate change, immigration, gun legislation, education, public corruption, taxes and so on. These are not political debates but instead, they are moral arguements. Unfortunately, the challenge arises when an individual is not fully aware of his or her own values. In turn, they drift into ideological debates and squabble over political policies rather than evaluate our shared values in the first place. This uncompromising prejudice keeps us divided and robs every one of the opportunities to deliberate the common ideals underlining our most critical issues.
There is a link between politics and shared values, but there can also be a wide chasm. What the public learned about these terms in high school gets lost in the actual practice. For one thing, the populous is lax to fulfill its obligation and commitment to educate themselves and participate in the democratic process at all levels. On the other hand, politicians seem to spend less time fulfilling the wishes and values of their constituents and more time satisfying corporate interests in return for campaign contributions.
Are corporate goals equal to collective values? Not really. Corporations may be primary vehicles to implement our shared values, but since the 1980’s, they have gone way off course. Pursuit of shareholder profitability has broken a previous bond to their employees and communities (e.g. shared values). Shareholder profits now seem to outweigh the importance of the products produced and the people who produced them, and drive location decisions that disrupt communities in pursuit of cheaper labor and production. This together with the Citizens United decision and changing tax laws have had a drastic impact on income distribution, who gets elected, and whether or not “shared democratic values” are still a thing.
I think we are in complete agreement on this issue and as you so aptly point out, this issue like many others, is multi-faceted. From voter suppression, gerrymandering, the dismantling of labor unions and so on, the issue is complicated. However, I believe the solution is simple. The citizenry must become more engaged in their government. As the old saying goes “democracy is not a spectator sport.”
We simply can no longer remain apathetic and wait for the billionaires, congress, a special prosecutor or even the next president to save us. There is no calvary coming over the hill. We must take responsibility and save ourselves and our democracy. A representative republic is designed to be governed by the people. Unfortunately, the people have become complacent. They are increasingly uninformed, disinterested and absent from the voting booth. In rankings of global voter participation rates, the US is now 26th among developed nations. Apx. 50% of Americans take the time to actually vote-even less during mid-term elections. Compare this with Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Sweden, Israel, Such Korea, New Zealand as an example, which all rank above 75%.
The consequence of this dereliction of duty is that legislation is proposed and often written by globe-trotting corporations and enacted by politicians who carry their water and subsequently ignored by the their constituents. Americans must get involved before it becomes too late. The question is do they have the will?