MAGA? I Don’t Think So!
The majority of Americans either fear retribution or are attempting to perfect the art of political correctness, but in either case they believe preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically insignificant impact upon public policy. If people believed in the power of their opinions, the country would look radically different. Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated. Paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges would be free. The minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter. Abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester, and voting would be more accessible!
A 2014 study by the political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern concluded that economic elites and special interest groups have succeeded in getting their favored policies adopted about half of the time, and in stopping legislation to which they were opposed nearly all of the time. In fact, according to the 2017 Democracy Index the United States was downgraded from “full democracy,” to “flawed democracy,” thanks to an erosion of public trust in political institutions. The Democracy Index is a catalog compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The index measures the states of democracy in 167 countries based on sixty indicator groups in five different categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties.
Civil liberties have become an after thought under this administration. The United States Attorney General has totally abandoned the “rule of law,” as the behavior of political allies fall short of ethical standards. Civic engagement by anyone who is considered undesirable is discouraged. Democracy has truly been an after thought for the past three years. Civic engagement circa 2020 is less about preserving democracy than it is about reengaging it.
Democracy in the United States has always been an experiment. History shows that the democratic process has always been subject to both expansions and contractions in terms of representativeness, accountability, and participation. While segregation is no longer formally the law of the land, racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and class still deeply hinder efforts to achieve change. Make America Great Again (MAGA) rhetoric engages those who are afraid of a diverse America. MAGA promotes an America of a fictional past, run and dominated by white, Christian, and heterosexual men. This America was powered by blue-collar manufacturing jobs, and in that America, people of color, women, and others did not have equal rights to white men. It is particularly troubling that many who support returning to the pre-Civil Rights era are supporting a cause that does not advance their own economic viability. Today America is facing some of the harshest political polarization that it has seen in decades. Leaders looking to engage the participation of marginalized groups must admit that those groups are relegated to second-class citizenship in the first place.
In addition, political agendas must design policy solutions that are all inclusive. Next week we will discuss how the disenfranchised acquire power and agency!