Our sixteenth president put it this way; democracy is “of the people, for the people and by the people.”
We have yet to meet Lincoln's great expectations.
“Of the people” is the basic philosophical requisite. “For the people” is what democracy is all about. “By the people” is an organic process that is to evolve out of our humanness, arising out of our humanity and culture but an ideal yet to be achieved.
How do the people achieve this third more practical expectation. The easy answer is through the elective process.
As all the people cannot participate in government, especially in national government for practical reasons, the representative process was invented. It's explained in our constitution.
Therefore, it seems that once a nation decides that it is going to be a democracy it must also decide on how its elective process is going to represent the people.
Most cultures have governments on the local level as well, serving as a miniature replicas of government at the national level.
It would seem that the clan, the tribe or today the local government, that is closest to our everyday activities would be best able to represent “the people.”
As one long interested in how to make democracy work, I have been trying to study how our local government works here in Shorewood. I've been interested, of course, in the election process and how citizens are represented here in Shorewood.
I've been writing about how we fall short of achieving this great expectation on a local basis. This year, it seems that we have done worse than ever. No one's at fault but no one has risen to a leadership role in even suggesting a correction.
One Shorewood resident has suggested that if I want representation that I should run for office. Upon election, if that were so, then I would still be in no better position to represent the rest of the people of Shorewood than are present trustees and perhaps not even be in better position to represent myself.
“Election-at-large” works rather well in electing a mayor, a governor and even the president when each runs representing the principles of a political party.
Shorewood does not require candidates to be members of a party nor to announce their general party affiliation. Neither does a candidate represent a specific district or group of people.
And when the Village Board members appoint someone to fill and empty seat, which they have had a tendency to do here in Shorewood, who then does that trustee represent? Perhaps all of the other Village Board members?
Yet we often know more about that appointee than we do about other candidates and usually the appointee needs to be better qualified than a ordinary candidate to make it. He/she is judged against a number of candidates and therefore, not without some opposition, at least for the post, if not policy.
Here the question is representation.
It seems that the best method for attaining representation is through party affiliation, and failing that, the candidate should announce an agenda. I doesn't make any difference anyway; for without the ability to vote for an opposing candidate there is really no political effect.
It seems that from a practical standpoint, our principles and political needs are usually satisfied by a candidate who represents those party principles.
In this country there are two major parties, although many others may exist, more often than not, our officials come out of one of those two parties. Each party with its own agenda.
What is lacking here in Shorewood are representatives who hold “real” agendas and who are opposing other candidates with different agendas and perhaps from opposing parties.
(More to follow, later.)