Did you know that according to the 2019 Democracy Index, the United States is ranked 25th?
The index takes into account the electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.
The top 10 are - no real surprise - Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, Denmark and Canada (tie), Australia, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. And we, the self-professed leaders of the free world come in 25th.
In fact, among the Index’s four categories - full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime, authoritarian regime - the United States is labeled a flawed democracy.
This knowledge, that came to me at the end of this traumatizing week for our nation’s democracy, is at the same time surprising and not. Surprising perhaps to that ever-shrinking hopeful side of me, while the more pessimistic-leaning side of me simply nods in recognition.
It’s the difference between just having a hunch about something being pretty bad, but not being quite sure you trust that what you see is really as bad as you think, and then consulting an outside party who confirms it. It really is as bad as you think.
You can no longer talk yourself into believing otherwise.
So, now what?
No, seriously, I’m asking, because I’m struggling with it.
I am relieved that at least most of us have spoken up and said it’s time for a change. That it’s time to be better, that we are better, that we deserve better.
I am looking forward to the leadership of the first woman to hold the office of Vice President.
I am comforted by the optimism of others and impressed overall by participation.
But the problems of our nation have not gone away simply because we’ve removed the most obviously reckless element of it. Real change - the change that we need not only to move up the list but also to see the improved reality that comes with that move - does not come easily.
I think of this quote by Max Weber: “Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.” And I am reminded that change is slow and incremental. Painfully so at times.
I also think of messy, which I’ve heard used several times in as many days. As in democracy is messy. Life is messy. We are messy. And change doesn’t happen in a straight line.
Even though it is, admittedly still hard to see right now, we are capable of it. We are capable of listening to our better angels.
This, I’m afraid, will have to do. At least for me.
This will have to be my consolation as we move toward the end of this difficult year…this difficult four years…and look to the future. Different leadership, a different agenda, and most crucially, different rhetoric. All of it highly anticipated and warmly welcomed.
Not the sea change that one might have been hoping for, but surely a start.