Happy Birthday, Constitutional Democracy!

By YeOldeScribe ~ July 6th, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

The Fourth of July is an interesting day when you really think about it. Americans like to celebrate it by eating a lot of food and blowing up stuff. The amount of money that Americans spend on this holiday is only surpassed by Christmas. It’s kind of ironic that Americans choose to embrace capitalism and wastefulness on the Fourth of July, because that’s not really what the holiday should be about. Instead, Americans should be celebrating democracy – specifically constitutional democracy – and resourcefulness.

You’ve probably always thought of July 4th just like every other American has – America’s birthday: the day our great country became a sovereign nation. But we’d like to propose to you a different way of looking at things. Instead of looking at the Fourth as America’s birthday, try looking at is as the birth of constitutional democracy.

See, the whole concept of the people essentially ruling themselves via elections and codified law didn’t catch on before America came along. Sure, the Romans dabbled with a senate and other governments existed that had democratic parts to them, but when America came along, something even more significant than the country itself was created: the idea of constitutional democracy.

We at Political Progressives think that some people forget just how awesome it is to live in a constitutional democracy. Everyone loves to complain about how horrible a job the government is doing (including us) and you all have some friends that will insist that communism or a dictatorship or some other form of government would work better. It’s all fun and games to theorize that one form of government would work better than another, but the problem is that little thing we like to call reality. In theory, communism works great. And assuming you have the right benevolent dictator, that would be the way to go. But dictators aren’t benevolent, and communism really doesn’t work great in real life. Democracy may not be perfect – in fact, we’ll be the first to tell you that it has gaping flaws), but it does work – and it works (fairly) well.

More than that, constitutional democracies are a celebration of everything their predecessors aren’t. America was born from the oppression of England’s monarchies, and it’s not surprising that our first shot at creating our own government (which was the Articles of Confederation, and not the Constitution as we know it today) placed a vast majority of governmental power on individual states. Our founding fathers didn’t want America to turn into England, or even England lite. So they created a government with a weak ruler and a strong supporting cast. Over time, the power of that ruler (the President) has grown, but it’s still remarkable how far we’ve been able to come – going from oppression to freedom.

At the same time, this new form of government placed a lot of responsibility on individuals. Admittedly, at first it was just white male land-owners, but this has morphed with the passage of time as well. Now, all men and women over the age of 18 can vote – no matter your race, creed or gender. The responsibility is on the individuals – or groups of individuals – to elect leaders who create the rules. The idea of putting so much power (and responsibility) into the hands of commoners at the time was unheard of. And although we got off to a slow start to it, eventually that’s what democracy has become. All people have the ability to advocate for themselves via the ballot box.

Of course, it comes as no surprise on a day filled with laziness that usually less than half of all Americans can be bothered to vote in a Presidential election - and those numbers drop dramatically for mid-term elections, state, and local elections. By the time the first Tuesday of November rolls around, people have forgotten their July 4th celebration. They’ve forgotten that what makes this nation great isn’t fireworks or fatty food. They’ve forgotten that when they’re celebrating America, they’re really celebrating constitutional democracies. They’ve forgotten they’re really celebrating themselves and their power in a great political system.

Our challenge to you, then, is to not forget. Always remember that you’re living in one of the few forms of government that actually respects your one voice – if you choose to use it. So, after the last bottle rocket has been lit and the last sparkler burnt out, remember that the celebration doesn’t stop. You can celebrate July 4th every day if you just participate in our wonderful little constitutional democracy.  

Your voice is brighter than the most colorful firework. Light it up!

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