Thursday, May 24, 2007

Radicalism as a Democratic Social Indicator

This was written almost exactly two years ago. Not recalling the impetus, I did a quick news search, and apparently the most important thing happening in the U.S. that day was the opening of Star Wars Episode III. Anyhow, it seems even more relevant today

In a society that purports to be democratic, revolutionary or regime changing tendency ought to be successfully channeled through the democratic process, assuming equal representation for all. Thus, widespread sentiment advocating radical change in a democratic society is a signal that the democratic process is not working and is in need of change.

Though this is a simple idea, it is one whose salience is lost on the majority of those in a position to negotiate change. A survey of major sociopolitical watershed moments in American history reveals that it is only when those in positions of power within the democratic society are threatened with embarrassment due to the inconsistency of their positions that change is made. One need only reflect on the slow and tortuous history of struggle for equal rights for women and persons of color in this country to discover the veracity of this statement.

I believe that the power of this idea is due in large part to the work of the framers of our nation’s government. Guided by a general principle of equal representation, the men that set out the governing principles for the country insisted on a pragmatic solution. They were more interested in forming a lasting government than a perfect one, and that is reflected in the adaptability of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.*
*In contrast to the Declaration of Independence, which articulates a more idealistic sense of government, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are more liberal in the application of the principles that infuse the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

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