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Cafe Society to discuss democracy in America

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

The Cafe Society’s next session on Aug. 16 will focus on the challenges inherent in politically managing our highly complex, geographically, economically and socially diverse, and populous nation with reasonable fidelity in reflecting the views and ultimately gaining the consent of those governed. Rather than simply an idealistic political theory and succinct set of procedures for managing the life of a nation, American democracy is essentially a uniquely dynamic process built upon the general principles provided by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. And, of course it is always subject to interpretation based upon information provided through our news media by an increasingly diverse array of sources both within the government and the private sectors.

The current national elections are putting this process to the test and we may find the outcome very disruptive and untenable.

These informal weekly Cafe Society discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Mike Austin, one of the Cafe Society facilitators commented, “In the past one of the hallmarks of the American democratic process has been that it has effected changes in government leadership smoothly and without unnecessary turmoil and loss of continuity in essential aspects of national affairs both at home and abroad.

“Stewardship of our political process has been managed by an ad hoc system of political parties that vie with one to assert control and pursue policies that reflect their interpretation of what is best for the nation. Having fought the good fight the opposing party, in a generally sportsmanlike manner, usually accepts the outcome and steps back into the role of a loyal opposition, licking its wounds and preparing for the next round. In the current election a “non-party” candidate has prevailed in the complicated disparate electoral procedures governed by the states and is being superimposed on the Republican Party structure.

“Like many of these ‘open heart’ surgeries, the transplant may yet be rejected by the reluctant host. That in turn makes prevailing in November much more difficult. Already the candidate is crying foul and threatening not to accept the ultimate outcome. Fortunately our founding fathers put into place an indelible system of checks and balances that will provide some damage control, but the net effect promises to be utter chaos and the prospect that election acrimony will continue and intensify.”

Austin went on to say,”It is particularly difficult for an aspiring candidate to acquire national stature and effectively enter the lists for these deadly political tournaments. The price of entry is often prohibitive and the first casualty is all too often the personal integrity of the candidate — as they trade promises of access and influence for various forms of political support, particularly campaign funds. It is also essential that they wrap themselves in issues to reflect the causes that they champion, the more acrimonious and extreme the better it seems based on the current election.

“Under the best of circumstances our complex electoral college process in which it is possible for a candidate to win a majority of popular votes, but still lose the election is discrediting. It makes it hard for the winner to assert that he or she actually has a public mandate to pursue objectives identified in the campaign rhetoric.

“When you add to that open controversy over disenfranchised elements of our society, particularly the millions of illegal immigrants and disagreements on exercise of voting rights the democratic process as we have known it in the past may no longer be credible.