This is the last in a series focused on herding cats (AKA managing democracy). As the last one hundred years have passed, socialization has dwindled. The district concept of local government was a natural fit to a society that required a high degree of comingling to maintain an awareness of local activity, business interests, and the latest tidbits of political and educational interest.
Today, in stark contrast, comingling is a disappearing behavior. Mariner’s metaphor is that society has moved from baking cakes from scratch to using box mixes. Similarly, comingling among peers takes lots of time and effort that isn’t easily available anymore; the pace of society has pushed into the background what was once a natural balance between citizens and political districts. Local and Congressional representatives had no choice but to comingle as much as possible to maintain their popularity and relevance.
Technology has changed this, of course. Everything from Interstates to television to business expansion to the Internet and computer-telephones enables a solitary individual to be in a state of continuous processing without input from real humans. Conversely, the solitary individual has no influence on other humans.
Just as box mixes made baking cakes a less involved process, so too has the election process, sans comingling, become a matter of who can muster the most money to campaign on television and, surreptitiously, use the organizational influence of their political party rather than acquiring influence among constituents. To push the metaphor, using a box mix means one can make only one kind of cake regardless of the occasion. Today, the box mix doesn’t taste so good.
As unnatural as it feels, as inconvenient as it seems, as awkward as it may be to comingle, it may be time to rediscover the joy of making cakes from scratch.
There are many TV series about house renovation. The same holds for what the voter must do to the house of government. A side effect of streamlining any process is that it concentrates function in a smaller space needing fewer people. Some functions that need to be re-democratized:
Open access to money from any source
Access to voting days, times, methods
Lack of referendum in federal and state governments
There are many other issues. One that is troublesome is the lack of voting by citizens. In parts of India, voters dip a finger in ink and don’t have to worry about participation which is high. In the US, voting may have to be forcibly required through cash or denial of governmental benefits. Americans are a tough, basically capitalistic bunch. Mandating an individual’s behavior seems so, well, socialist.
Day in and day out, herding cats seems a bother. Yet, because of indifference, US democracy has become a plutocracy. The rich call the shots and take all the profits.
Get off the smartphone, turn off the TV and talk to some human beings about restoring democracy.