Norman Plotkin

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Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote: “There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.” And it doesn’t matter which side holds the office. It seems that this flaw may now extend to all politicians. Of course, Americans love to love their politician and hate everyone else’s.  In fact, in 1990, Californians passed overwhelmingly term limits and at the same time returned 96 percent of incumbents.

As we approach the midterm elections there is a frenetic energy building. But it’s not the excitement depicted in the 70s film with Robert Redford, The Candidate, it’s mean and nasty, it’s hater accusing hater of hating more, it is a very uncivil civics and the logical extension of our adversarial, two-party system.

Politics have always been a bit messy, carried out in smoke filled rooms by less than savory characters, but we all hearken back to a time when in the late enlightenment period this country was founded. At the time there was a tradition referred to as noblesse oblige, or the noble are obliged to serve. Diplomacy was carried out in French and it made sense that we form a representative democracy, a republic. This was much preferable than a direct democracy, which resembled more like mob rule.

The founders built on the enlightenment thinkers who wrote of the social contract, the consent of the governed and patterned this republic after the Greek and Roman ideals of reason, logic and the rule of law. The Constitution was cobbled together in secret after the Articles of Confederation were a miserable failure and the young country was about to fall apart just as it was coming together. Imagine if an overhaul of that magnitude were to be undertaken today. Conversely, can you see the scene in Philadelphia if the modern media existed then? Satellite trucks lining the cobblestone streets beaming the day’s feed up to the satellite links and out to the major outlets; never mind the constitutional prohibition against quartering soldiers, all of the inns and homes have been overrun by reporters and their entourages. It never would have come together, but let’s hold that thought for a moment.

The Constitution emerged and was incubated in a very different society than the one we live in today. This society was marked by homogeneity: white, male property owners were the franchised and a blind eye was turned to the irony of the Declaration of Independence’s self-evident truth that all men were created equal. The Union was tested and constitutional challenges have arisen and largely been managed by the dynamic document. Suffrage, civil rights, free speech and many other landmark issues have been largely resolved by what many refer to as the living document.

In the modern era of the 24/7 news cycle and the echo chambers of the internet 350,000,000 opinions are shared ad nauseum muddling the distinction between a republic and direct democracy and making it virtually impossible for government to get anything done and instead, politicians grandstand (even more now than ever) and we have moved beyond the aw, shucks, homespun wisdom of Will Rogers who reminded that the country was safe when the congress was out of session.

In Ted Koppel’s 1998 commencement speech at Stanford University, he lamented that we have  become so comfortable “being defined according to polls and ratings and surveys, in the Dow or on the NASDAQ, in the outcome of elections or in public propositions or referenda, that we have sunk into a sort of general relativism, in which all issues are determined by majority vote or a public display of the lowest common denominator: We learn, according to the syndicated lesson taught by Jerry Springer, that while all of us are flawed, we who are watching are not nearly as flawed as the poor souls he parades in front of us. Which may, if the lesson is repeated often enough, teach us that, rather than struggling toward an ideal of perfect behavior, we can always console ourselves with the examples of those even weaker than we are.”

And so, as we approach the midterm elections the Jerry Springer effect is in full display. But no one will be happy about the outcome. The president’s party will lose seats and control of one or both houses of congress might change hands. So what? No one will be happy, we will have divided government and the hate and acrimony will continue. It is the nature of the adversarial, two-party system, a very patriarchal, masculine system marked by running campaigns, like a military campaign.

As we transition from a material world view to an energy world view and the approach is led by a quantum perspective, perhaps it is time to soften our approach to politics. There was much chagrin about America’s failure to elect a woman president in the last cycle, but insofar as women who become politicians have, for the most part, tried to out man the men, they have missed the opportunity to play to their strengths of keepers of subtle knowledge and impressions of past experience, deep, intuitive knowers who can equalize opposites, nurturers and creators. The Dalai Lama has said that it is the western woman who will save the world. But not so long as she emulates the masculine patriarchs who have worked us into this state of affairs.

The diverse society we live in today has outgrown the two-party system. The monolithic options are no longer relevant to the vast majority of the population. Longtime Sacramento columnist Dan Walters used to write an annual article on whether it was time to embrace a parliamentary form of government and it was always met with relative disdain from both sides of traditionalists. It just may be time for that type of radical change.

A parliamentary form of government has many interests who after an election must form a coalition government. A coalition government is far more likely to be effective with the added bonus that the collaborative nature will foster matriarchal type energy to exist and excel. The question is: “have we had enough of the hate and acrimony of the two-party system to make radical change?” And of course, can radical change even take place under the microscope of scrutiny in our modern society.

Go vote this week, if you haven’t already done so, but don’t be mad or raise the hate stakes when nothing changes.   

Norman Plotkin