The new "messy" of the democratic process

The new "messy" of the democratic process

The reasons that our democracy seems to be stalling are much deeper than just "democrats vs. republicans."

I’m sitting in the Douglas County Democratic Caucus in Omaha, Nebraska, looking at more red-faced frustrated people than I’ve ever seen in a single room. You might think they’ve just concluded a discussion about the Republican party, or a contentious vote regarding legislative candidates. Instead, the room is in an uproar over a messy hearing over a small aspect of legislative order. This is the inherent “messiness’ of the democratic process; a process that few people truly understand and one that even more people misattribute to political resistance.

Before the caucus opened I had an opportunity to speak to the caucus delegates individually; a private school teacher, an attorney, a disabled veteran, a retired farmer, a retired police officer, a surgeon. These individuals were invested in their party, and excited about the future of their city and their state. They were in it together. However, as the caucus began I saw the individual melt away and become a “caucus member,” a member of a demographic voting bloc in which the divisions, not the common causes, were emphasized. To a point, this is the nature of a caucus, to give the various interest groups a voice in the party’s agenda. The interest group, however, has become the primary agenda.

The allegiance and the promotion of special interests has become the political landscape in the nation as a whole. Party ideology may provide the greatest number of interest groups with some common cause to rally behind, but the primary allegiance is to that interest group. Be it veterans, various minorities, LGBT, retirees, public school teachers, or individuals 18-24, or 65 and older, special interests are what leverages party politics among the Democratic Party. Attempting to synthesize interest groups is the intrinsic “messiness” of the democratic process.

Now, take into account a public ignorance of the democratic process. Studies have shown that people are not only ignorant of the process, but of civics in general, which shows a slackening investment in our civic awareness as a public. This is particularly true in more local democratic events for any interest group, organization, or political entity. When you attend a local association forum or local political function, the special interests come out just as strongly but the difficulty in moving forward is compounded by the lack of procedural understanding. The result is a very messy democratic process indeed.

We, as a nation, need a grassroots political movement. Not the kind that either Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, or President Obama claim to have, nor the Tea Party or the Occupy Wall Street movement have been branded as. Instead, we need a grassroots political movement toward education and investment in the democratic process as a process. We pride ourselves on being a democracy, yet understand little about the fundamental procedures and philosophy that are its foundation.

Few people seem to acknowledge that democracy was created to exist in perpetuity, to evolve and improve with the people, as the people govern themselves. Instead, we find a bureaucratic piece of machinery that is loathe to evolve and seems separate from the people. This is the time not to invest ourselves in a political ideology, but in the political process that allow all people to participate in their own governance.