Op-Ed: What it Means to Live in a Democracy

Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Editors Note: This is the second in an ongoing series of columns in which members of the activist organization Seniors Taking Action are utilizing their collective lived wisdom to address the direction the country is heading and to give it context.

By John Darrow

According to the U.S. State Department, a democracy has 6 traits: (1) established by popular sovereignty, (2) majority rule, (3) individual rights, (4) free and open elections, (5) citizen involvement and (6) openness to compromise.  Technically, we live in a democratic republic, where some decisions (state and local) are made directly and others are made by “democratically” elected officials at the national level (a federal government).

Living in a democracy does not mean we are free to do anything we want.  We need to function within laws, which in our case are founded on our U.S. Constitution.  We also need the legislative, executive and judicial branches to maintain a balance of power.  What we experienced these last four years has really stressed our democracy.  

On January 6, 2021, we had an assault on our Capitol, followed by a historic 2nd impeachment and trial.  Many people were upset with the outcome, but more than a few were pleased by the decision.  Depending on one’s perspective, you saw democracy in action or you saw democracy break down.  Not enough senators voted to convict the former president, falling short of the 2/3rds majority needed.  

Was the whole process constitutional, or was it a totally partisan witch hunt to punish an ex-president?  If you think about it, how can the impeachment process be anything but political?  The House of Representatives can impeach with a simple majority; however, in the Senate you need a 2/3 vote to convict.  Those are the rules of the game.  Was the ex-President responsible for the abhorrent sacking of our U.S. Capitol and the insurrection we witnessed? Can you impeach a President no longer in office?

We live in a democracy and we live with consequences of our actions.  Were President Trump’s actions morally wrong?  Forty-three Senators didn’t think so.  Were they illegal? That will have to be determined in the courts.  Hopefully, a “post 9/11” style investigation into the events will be commissioned to learn more.

The best course of action is for “we the people” to all vote in the future and make sure we know who and what we are voting for.  We need (at least) two political parties working together in good faith in order to make America a better place for all.  Diverse views on how to solve problems should be a good thing resulting in lasting solutions.  When one party takes control and then allows an individual to run things, we have a problem.  This is exacerbated when that same party takes over the judicial system.  Then, we lose the balance of power that our forefathers had built into our constitution.  

For longer than the past five years one party had been sowing the seeds that “big” government is bad and the “mainstream” media is fake news.  These are characteristics of a totalitarian regime.  We need to get out of this “bizzaro” world that operates in two versions of reality.    One will not always get one’s way, but it helps if there is confidence in what we are being told.   Additionally, elected officials only know what we want if we tell them.  We need to let them know.

For the first 60-plus years of my life, I let others who were more interested in politics control things.  Now I see that if you don’t participate, you are likely to end up with a result you do not like. Now I know that you must study all the facts about the issues and VOTE or the other side wins.

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