There is more than just a United States’ election at stake these days and more than the reputation of the US, which is taking a beating.
No, with the rise of the Tea Party and its influence on the Republican Party, culminating in the terribly dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump, the question being forced on us is simply this: Is democracy still a viable option?
Compromises are essential — not optional — in a democracy. People of differing views meet in the middle, with things leaning a bit toward whomever is the more powerful group at the moment. Thus we slug our way along, a step with the left foot here and the right foot there.
Since the early 80s, compromise has become a dirty word signifying cowardice and lack of principle. Like most cultural trends, the rejection of compromise has been guided in large part by our advertising industry. How many automobiles — beginning, so far as I recall, with Buick back in the late 80s and now including Audi and Cadillac, among others — have promised that they can give us cars with no compromises? It is obviously utter nonsense and is a dangerous and damaging lie.
Where did this lie come from? How did it become a theme for advertisers? Questions like that can never be answered with precision but sometimes we can come close. In this case, most of us who were adults by the time Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were battling for the presidency remember that Reagan promised us there were no limits. There was plenty of oil, he promised, to last for a century. When he was elected he dismantled the efforts begun under Carter to develop alternative sources of energy. We haven’t yet recovered from the damage he did in that one area alone.
Even before Reagan, I recall the feminist movement in the 70s promising that women can have it all. They can have careers and a family and be fulfilled in both at once.
But the feminists did not simply make up a theme to tout. the idea was already in the air. think of the order of things: Crash of the stock market, Depression, World War II, and a sudden burst of middle class wealth after the War. It was almost unavoidable that
Americans would slip into thinking the times of deprivation were over and the time of abundance had arrived.
And, thanks to misguided fools like Senator McCarthy, we became distracted into thinking that our only threats were external. Petty-minded leaders have always wanted to unite the people around a common enemy. For Hitler it was the Jews. For McCarthy — and just as much Reagan — it was the Communists.
Now we can look back with some embarrassment and say they were right, those folks who kept warning us about the dangers of materialism. It is our own greed that has done us the most damage. We can have it all, we like to believe. We can have all we want of whatever we want whenever we want it. We have become a nation of selfish and self-centered little children.
Is it any wonder that we now have a popular candidate for president who is a selfish and self-centered little brat?