A Democracy in Peril


Marshall Strome, MD, MS

Publish date

A Democracy in Peril
Topic(s): Policy Politics

Our founding fathers envisioned us as a constitution based democratic society and penned a document that successfully provided guiding tenants which until now stood the test of time. Currently our democratic principles are being tested as never before. Every elected official taking office for a federal government position is required to take an oath to uphold the constitution. It is painfully obvious today that many have no intention of doing such with some taking direction in that regard from the former president. What safeguards did the framers envision would protect the constitution from duplicity? The brightest legal scholars can interpret what was intended but it was left to the supreme court to make final judgment. One would assume the supposition was that judgments made would eschew partisanship in favor of upholding what was constitutionally correct.  

However, we now are in the disquieting circumstance of having an overtly and ideologically partisan supreme court that is both morally and ethically challenged- the latter resulting from a deeply flawed appointment system.  Some members of this court would fail any ethical litmus test. One of the sitting justices’ spouse advocated nullifying the results of a presidential election. Yet there has been no movement to censure or more importantly have him recuse himself in conflicting cases. If Roe versus Wade is overturned then two recent appointees blatantly lied during their confirmation hearings regarding their position on precedent.  At this time there are no established parameters for considering their removal should such occur. Thus a politically polarized court whose chief justice seems incapable of even getting the court to uphold reasonable rulings by lower courts leaves the constitution and this democracy vulnerable.

Unfortunately, just as egregious is elected officials in both congress and the senate not only failing to uphold their oath of office relative to the constitution but engaging in spreading dystopian ideologies for the sole purpose of maintaining power. Sadly, a subset of the ill-informed populace, lacking veracity follow the latter further jeopardizing our democracy.  

We have several polarizing issues but two supported by a majority of the citizenry are pressing- abortion and gun legislation. What would seem unfathomable is those antiabortion, because they purportedly believe in the dignity of life, are more often vehemently against any type of gun regulation, all the while knowing it puts small school children in jeopardy. It’s worth reemphasizing the hypocrisy of the latter. This group of individuals insists on bringing children to life but then maintain that their right to own high powered military weapons, AK-47s among them, requires accepting that some children will die as a result. For the religious right recall Job-“the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”  The recent “breakthrough” gun control legislation proposed by a senate subcommittee is little more than a stop-gap political measure.  If passed it is of some import because it places some very limited regulations on those purchasing guns. However, increasing funding for mental health care which is a major provision in the legislation should have been a stand-alone issue addressed long ago. Funding school security programs further makes schools more like armed fortresses with potential adverse psychological issues for children.

It seems like an eternity since a child could walk alone or with friends to school with an open school door waiting to receive them, when there were no shooter disaster drills and teachers didn’t have to contemplate being armed. There would be no need for armed guards in schools if weapons of mass murder were outlawed and those under the age of 21 weren’t eligible for ownership. There are those that say it isn’t the guns but some of the owners that are the issue. It is undeniable that all countries have mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, families with contentious divorces, poverty and the disenchanted but countries like Singapore  Canada, New Zealand and others don’t have the number of mass murders secondary to shootings that we have- instead they have strict gun control laws. 

As the supreme court decision draws closer, weekly the number of pro-abortion advocates is increasing, making it the majority opinion of the populace. If Roe versus Wade is overturned it is the poor and disadvantaged that will be more so adversely affected. Why not ask those pro-life to adopt some of these children? Why not ask them to help pass bills to improve inner city schools, to provide more free nutritious school lunches, to have better pre-school programs and after school programs to keep the young males in a constructive environment and off the street. Why is it that cost containing measures for federal and state funds always seem to hit these programs first?  If those pro- life advocates really cared about life after birth they would advocate as strongly for the later as they do against abortion but few if any do. The sad fact is that African American babies and especially boys are the least likely to be adopted. Further in 2016 the number of teens killed in Chicago by a firearm was 3 times the national rate. Astounding, however, is for young black men that rate was nearly 50 times the national rate

Abortion and gun control are linked as depicted and the majority of Americans favor both.

If in a democracy the minority continues to prevail, autocracy will soon follow. Reiterating, our democracy was recently challenged as never before and remains on the precipice of extinction. Saving our great democratic experiment will require that the majority rule. The medicine to accomplish such will have a bad after taste but once passed we will emerge stronger and better equipped to provide for our citizens. Doing it will require eliminating the electoral college. It is an anachronism whose time has passed. The popular vote tally should suffice. Further, the filibuster subverts the will of the majority and also must be eliminated in favor of a simple majority vote. There are those who will say impossible. Tolstoy said “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” 

Those words should remind us to trust ourselves.

Marshall Strome, MD, MS is a Professor of Bioethics and Humanism at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, an Adjunct Professor of Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University and Professor and Chairman Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic Head and Neck Institute.

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