Book Notes: The future of democracy
“Democracy was not working for them.” That is how one of the readers of BIG’s newsletter portrayed the thinking of some of the Americans who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The reader went on to conclude: “If no additional efforts are made to create a more inclusive society, we may be heading for a full-scale collapse of our democracy, imperfect as it is.”
Here are some books worth looking into for ideas on how we have attempted to, and can in the future, create that more inclusive society:
There Is Nothing For You Here by Fiona Hill
The Russian expert who testified at former President Trump’s first impeachment trial, Fiona Hill provides an instructive observation of the failings of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia to provide opportunity for all of its citizens. Hill is well-acquainted with all three nations through study and personal experience.
Leadership in Turbulent Times Goodwin by Doris Kearns
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Goodwin provides examples of how past leaders opened opportunity for others: Abraham Lincoln in terms of the Emancipation Proclamation, Theodore Roosevelt in terms of the 1902 Coal Miner’s Strike, Franklin D. Roosevelt by way of policies introduced in his First Hundred Days in office, and Lyndon B. Johnson by his support of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
How The South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson
Richardson, historian and popular podcaster, traces the conflict of two ideas in U.S. history. One idea is that the sole role for government is to protect life, liberty and property. The opposing idea is that government’s role is to provide equality of opportunity by guaranteeing equality before the law. She notes that the first idea is based on the myth of the self-reliant yeoman farmer that legitimized the southern aristocracy. Promoting individualism, it was reimagined in the myth of the self-reliant cowboy. After the Civil War, Southerners are backed by the Westerner in not supporting the policies of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Republicans to open the way for poorer men to rise. Instead Southerners and Westerners support policies of the southern elite and thus continuing the oligarchy in U.S. politics that Lincoln fought. Richardson’s coverage continues through the Progressive Era and into the post- World War II era. She sees that equality for White men depended on inequality for people of color and women. Richardson calls this the American Paradox. Tactics change, though. Fear of communism is used to fight the egalitarian legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal after World War II.
To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party by Heather Cox Richardson
Richardson presents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower as three Republicans who had the good of the common man as a priority. Otherwise, Richardson sees Republicans falling into the pattern of creating a government for the financial elite and, thus, undermining democracy.
ORGANIZATIONS PROMOTING FOUNDATIONAL WORK FOR THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY:
Human Library https://humanlibrary.org/human-library-organizers/organizer/
Institute for Ecological Civilization https://ecociv.org/
Public Banking Institute https://publicbankinginstitute.org/
Well Being Economy Alliance https://weall.org/policyguide