As we plow our way through this hot and dismal summer of 2010, the democracy vision is collapsing about our ears.
It’s not so much that we’ve ceased to believe in the core values of democracy as that we’ve grown disillusioned with the ability of our supposedly democratic system to uphold those values. By almost any measure, we Americans are less free and equal now than we were a generation ago, and have far less control over our own government.
At the same time, our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have undercut our faith that Western-style democracy is a universal human norm which can be exported as easily as blue jeans and Coca-Cola. Perhaps the clearest lesson of those two misbegotten wars is that a system of free elections and majority rule — though adequate to resolve the minor differences of opinion that arise in a relatively homogeneous society — only creates turmoil when applied to the power struggles of well-organized and heavily armed minorities.
Even worse, that same kind of turmoil could lie in the future of the United States — where our increasing cultural diversity is already giving rise to seemingly irreconcilable tensions — unless we can develop a more flexible way of operating.