Democracy in the New Frontier: Where do we go from Here?

Over the past four years, there have been an overwhelming number of unprecedented political occurrences in America and around the world. Beginning with Russia’s successful interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, continued historic acts of extreme partisanship and politically motivated behaviors that thwart good governance have rippled across nearly every continent. The sense of normalcy in leadership seems to have ‘left the building’ with the old frontier. In the “New Frontier,” racial attacks on Hispanics and Muslims are allowed by leaders. A steep decline globally in freedom of the press is tolerated. Personal interest, nepotism, and bribes for favors at the international level mark the new version of democracy.

It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when democracy became endangered. Hidden social differences led to the election of Trump as U.S. President. Democracy likely began to decline as a result of hate and fear from a disenfranchised populous. Losing political and social power makes you do weird things, for example, the Rohingya genocide in Buddhist Myanmar. The killings occurred late 2016-2017, despite ‘ahimsa’ (non-harming) of any living thing being foundational to Buddhism. In June 2016, the UK had its’ fill of migrants from the Syrian War and voted to secede from the EU in effort to “take back" control of its’ borders. In Venezuela, dictator Nicolas Maduro refused or leave office after fixing his presidential re-election to the tune of banning votes not cast for him and withholding food distribution to dissenters. In other parts of the world, tensions were equally growing out of hand in terms of racial, class, religious and economic differences. The result has been increased partisanship, social unrest, and the urgency for democracy according to each fractured groups’ needs.

The U.S. has led the way in freedom to express what I call “Democracy in the New Frontier,” or tunnel-vision democracy, where each individual group proclaims it is more democratic than the next. Freedom House notes that democracy has been waning in popularity since 2005. The issues of inequality and unchecked power advancing the interest of the wealthy are key factors that cast shade on democracy. From the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, populist and political activists globally have made it clear that 99% of the worlds’ workers will no longer tolerate a political system that foster wealth into 1% of the worlds’ population. Likewise, from the onset of the Obama Administration, those who fear loosing power to people of color have also made it clear that they will not tolerate a political system that fosters acceptance and integration of non-whites. Both groups claim “this is what democracy looks like.”

The major problems is pluralism whereby one single principle means different things to different people. Democratic basics like free elections are no longer absolute because a free election to one person means showing up on a Tuesday mid-day to vote, and to another it means losing a day’s pay at work. Moreover, to private companies, like Facebook, free elections are similar to free enterprise where anyone can pay to play. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg feels he has the right to earn income from advertisers, regardless if the content sows political discord.

The Journal of Democracy Research further shows that such facts play a role in the legitimacy of democracy. The subjective perception of democracy as the best political system has been in decline, as countries worldwide see flaws in the U.S. system. America’s founding fathers wrote a U.S. Constitution boasting liberty, freedom and justice for all, yet are guilty themselves of crimes against humanity towards Native Americans and African slaves.

So where do we go from here? Pluralism falls under the category of “theories of truth” much like Trumps “alternative facts.” This is Democracy in the New Frontier, where no one is right and no one is wrong. The New Frontier allows for every version of the truth because truth’s are based on individual perspectives. In the New Frontier, influence is the most important power in politics, and our story is the new capital. America stands to lose the global community's belief that she is the leader of the free world, lest democracy take on a clear definition that includes a sense of morality at its most basic level. Democracy in the “New Frontier” includes a variety of truths that result in global norms that do not degrade basic democratic principles.

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