I don’t think we fully realize it, but the meaning of the democracy is really a two-fer. The first and most ubiquitous meaning is identified with citizen participation in policy making and leader choosing through the process of voting, lending their support to this or that particular platform and also taking ownership of their nation’s direction.
There’s a bonus meaning to democracy, equally ubiquitous, but less understood and rarely spoken of in its full context. This secondary element consists of the manifest idea of equal rights, equal opportunities in societies, equal access to health – the expectation that because we are all human, we are all due certain benefits, regardless of personal preferences or place of birth. If we take a moment to study the sound-bites of some of our current presidential contenders, we can see this particular stream of democracy appearing as a theme:
- Jeb Bush – “Our prosperity and our security are in the balance. So is opportunity, in this nation where every life matters and everyone has the right to rise.”
- Rand Paul – “This message of liberty is for all Americans, Americans from all walks of life. The message of liberty, opportunity and justice is for all Americans, whether you wear a suit, a uniform or overalls, whether you’re white or black, rich or poor.”
- Bernie Sanders – ” We can live in a country:
*Where every person has health care as a right, not a privilege;
*Where every parent can have quality and affordable childcare and where all of our qualified young people, regardless of income, can go to college;
*Where every senior can live in dignity and security, and not be forced to choose between their medicine or their food;
*Where every veteran who defends this nation gets the quality health care and benefits they have earned and receives the respect they deserve;
*Where every person, no matter their race, their religion, their disability or their sexual orientation realizes the full promise of equality that is our birthright as Americans.”
The Pledge of Allegiance gives a nod to the underlying meaning of democracy: “with liberty and justice for all,” and our Constitution absolutely endorses this idea with our right to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Taking into account this critical, if secondary, meaning of the word, we can see that Financialization has taken its toll on our democracy. As resources are stripped for the benefit of the few, the many are left without even a track to run the race upon. Equal rights to healthcare and security, as well as equal opportunities for education are denied when privatization of these services become increasingly expensive and available to only a fraction of the population. Such a society is deemed an oligarchy.
Democracy is the unique cornerstone on which our nation was built, giving us equal voice in politics and policy making, but also ensuring us that our status as humans gives us a particular claim to equal rights and opportunities. As the weed of Financialization continues to overtake the garden of democracy, not unlike a parasite, it behooves us to take a moment and admit that we are in danger of losing our rights altogether (read anything concerning the TPP, it’s awash with undermining democratic principles) and this pending election will determine our fate as a nation. We need to pay attention to platforms, not the person. We need to know which platform would restrict rights for women, which platform would restrict rights for voters, which platform would restrict rights for workers, which platform would restrict equal access to healthcare and education. We need to be able to identify which platform would stand up to Wall Street and the Financialization of our economy, which platform encourages education, which platform embraces the ideology that all of us should at least have our basic needs met.
We will celebrate the first meaning of democracy next November when we go to those little shaky booths and mark our ballots for the next President of the United States, taking ownership of our nation’s direction. We will celebrate the second meaning of democracy if we support the candidate willing to implement a platform that solidly retains our equal opportunities and rights as humans.
Here’s to democracy, a two-fer. May we realize it in its fullest context.