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  • Marie Trout

Are You a Fan of Democracy

It is getting increasingly difficult to have a meaningful debate across party lines. The battle lines have been drawn, and name-calling, slander, confusion, and untruths litter the airwaves.

In such an environment, there is no longer a sincere interest in arriving at the best ideas for governing a country.

There is rather interest in expressing loyalty to one side over the other.

I have friends who defend President Trump without even thinking twice because he is a “good guy.” It doesn’t matter what he says and does. To these people, the President upholds “their” values, and that is what is important. It is thus primarily about loyalty to a person, and to ideology.

Likewise I have friends who take every opportunity to oppose and protest President Trump as a matter of principle. Some of them are devoted to the idea of protest without ever looking for compromise, and they claim that pure obstructionism is the only way. This is obviously further amplified by President Trump’s lack of willingness to engage with journalists with whom he disagrees. He does not want to be challenged, and the message reads loud and clear: “I am only interested in conversation with those who are loyal to me.”

So debate and dissent are obviously not welcome at the executive branch. We are encouraged to follow this example and join the war against other Americans – and by doing so, to mock our recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance as just a meaningless posture. The phrases “one nation,” “indivisible,” and “with liberty and justice for all” simply become empty talking points in this environment. It is up to each one of us, no matter our political persuasion to remember, that these are by contrast reminders of a greater and nobler cause that joins us in a common destiny as Americans.

We lose the very foundation of our democracy if we make dissent suspect, avoid discussion, and kill messy differences of opinion.

It is paramount that we engage in dialogue particularly around questions such as these:

Will relaxing regulations on polluters produce more jobs, or just give carte blanche for polluters to cut costs? Since the prevalence of earthquakes in central and eastern states have increased exponentially because new techniques of gas extraction have been employed forcing high-pressure salt water into the earth, who should we ask to pay the price for this? How do we ensure clean air and water for future generations if we weaken regulation? How do we best find a balance between safety long term and job creation? Are there new technologies that are efficient and that create jobs and that do not pollute? Why was the EPA created during the Nixon administration in the first place?

What are the consequences of relaxing regulations on banking and finance? Have you looked into why these regulations are put in place? What kind of regulations protect small businesses? What kind of regulations are put in place to protect consumers in general?

What are the consequences of a voucher system for public schools? How will it impact education long-term? How do you feel about public money funding religious schools with voucher systems – also other religions than your own? How does this impact the separation between church and state?

What are the consequences of reform in Medicare? Are you prepared to work until you are 67 or 70 rather than 65? What are the consequences of such delays of retirement for job creation for younger people? What if you are unemployed and do not yet qualify for Medicare. Should you be able to get health insurance? Who benefits most from privatization here? The shareholders, insurance companies, or the retirees?

These are but a few questions among many more that are too important to be framed by partisan allegiances.

Our democracy loses, when it is expected of us to not disagree with policies favored by our party.

This is about freedom of speech, religion, and love of country. And these freedoms are counter to blind allegiance to divisive agendas. For better or worse, when we pledge allegiance to this country, we also sign on to a messy process of democracy and debate.

I have several friends who apologize if they put forth a statement that they feel is counter to my political persuasions. Think about it: this fear of debate is frankly unamerican. Let’s welcome disagreements and through debate arrive at the best future possible with the smartest solutions that are based on reasoned debate and solid research, rather than empty talking points and misunderstood loyalty.

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