What Democracy Are We Trying to Save, Exactly?
Our lives are so undemocratic, any “democracy” left in our politics rings hollow.
Our Progressive golden girl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines yesterday for saying that American democracy might not exist ten years from now. Eyeing the encroaching tide of Republican gerrymandering and widespread goose-step obedience to Trump’s Big Lie, I share those concerns. The threat of a fascist authoritarian take-over of the United States government is very real, and very alarming, and I too feel the rousing call to rise up and defend American democracy.
But how would I do that, exactly? What options do any of us ordinary folks really have to defend American democracy as we know it, let alone to deepen it? I’m not a Supreme Court justice who could rule on gerrymandering. I’m not a political representative. I don’t run a media empire. I’m not a CEO of anything.
In an interview on Russell Brand’s Under the Skin last year, Edward Snowden made the case for reimagining how we think of conspiracy. He and Russell discussed how the most egregious examples of elite conspiracy play out in full view every day. The real conspiracies are not in Q drops and pizza parlor back rooms, but in the places where all of our representatives agree with each other. If the only viable political candidates we have all agree on certain policies, We the People have no political voice to change them.
Though I fear what would happen if our federal government succumbs to fascism, I can’t remember the last time the federal government really impacted my daily life beyond sending me a couple stimulus checks in 2020. The most interaction I have with the state is with parking enforcement, and I’ve never been given the chance to vote on any parking-related laws in my life.
I’d wager the same is true for most of us. The interactions we have with our government are primarily in the realm of local laws and codes, traffic stops and food stamps, beat cops and jury duty. More federal-level government policies might impact our access to welfare or healthcare, and tax changes can impact our access to certain goods, but as the old adage goes, at the end of the day, (nearly) all politics is local.