In light of recent events, I wanted to write a short post on where I think politics in the U.S. is heading, and why. As will become clear, some of my views derive from unorthodox sources.
People have wondered why there seems to be a decreasing interest in politics, whether represented by 2014’s stunningly low voter turnout, or by the distaste for “status quo” politics that followed. Even with a return to more “normal” voter participation in 2016 and -18, there is a bipartisan distaste for anything called “mainstream” or “status quo,” meaning that Americans share in wanting something different.
Bernie Sanders and his ilk think that this has to do with ever-increasing inequality: Americans of all stripes don’t believe “mainstream” politicians have anything to offer them anymore. For me, I think there is something even deeper going on.
Part of my view is informed by what’s called the Age of Aquarius, an astrological concept explaining a broad shift of zeitgeist we have been undergoing for the past several generations. A good article on the concept can be found here, and a good video can be found here. In the Age of Aquarius, we shift from hierarchy and illusion, which had been the dominant themes of the preceding Age, to transparency and equality, meaning that everyone wants to be absolutely in control of their own life, and they want the truth. These two shifts explain why politicians of all stripes have found it increasingly difficult to hide corrupt behavior, and why there is a bipartisan motion toward deregulation.
Furthermore, for me it explains why people seem to be getting sick of democracy itself: in democracy as envisioned, consensus is formed when one side outvotes the other—in other words when “majority” is reached. When this happens, the minority must stew in silence until the following election, at which time they can try to form a new majority and outvote the other side. No matter who wins, there is always a significant portion of the population that feels they are not actually represented—that those in office are running roughshod over their vision of what America should be.
Actually, even the winners don’t properly feel “represented” within the zeitgeist of the Aquarian Age: instead, they feel that a person who crudely approximates their views is speaking on their behalf, when instead they would like to advocate for themselves.
This is why I believe the U.S. has of late begun to slip toward authoritarianism: feeling that true self-determination—the trend of the Age of Aquarius—is impossible within the system as constituted, people have given up on the system, and have voted into office a man who wants to run it as a company of which he is head. This response of voters is similar to what would happen if you were working at a company where you felt your views were never fully respected; ultimately, you would disengage, continuing to do your work at the company, but only ever half-heartedly—phoning your work in, so to speak.
Instead, what wants to manifest in the Age of Aquarius is something much closer to direct democracy: this would be different from the way in which our country was envisioned, in that we would no longer elect politicians as mouthpieces who more or less accurately “represent” our views. Remember, the founding fathers did not think the U.S. public smart enough for full jurisdiction of our lives, and this view does not jive well with our rising consciousness and hunger for self-determination. We know that we are capable of making our own decisions, and the increasing instability of the system has to do with our frustration over the lack of fulfillment of that desire.
In direct democracy, there would be a reconciliation of the two fundamental forms of “freedom” that have always driven the American public. A Political Science professor shared these with me in college, and I have always been moved by them.
Form one is called “freedom to:” it is the postulation of freedom as something which grants us the ability to do things, in other words as a resource. So, an example is the money that gives us the freedom to travel, or go to college, or purchase amenities to study for a test. On the other hand is “freedom from,” which is the postulation of freedom as something which protects us from harm at the hands of an invasive body. This is generally speaking the Republican vision of freedom: we have freedom “from” the government, through protection “from” the government interfering in the course of our lives.
The thing is, all Americans want both kinds of freedom, and we want this because it is our birthright as evolving, Aquarian beings. We want to be able to do what we want to do (“freedom to”), but we also want protection from those whose endeavors would trample upon our will (“freedom from”). For an example of how these desires are bipartisan, see how Democrats want “freedom from” government intervention when it comes to women’s bodies, and Republicans want the “freedom to” a public internet when it comes to net neutrality. There is not really much of a distinction here, although we are informed to the contrary.
Thus, what wants to happen in politics is a dissolution of the current two-party, “representative” system in favor of an integrated, “direct” system that allows people to exercise autonomy over their lives while simultaneously receiving protection from the tramplings of others’ wills. This is nothing short of a unifying vision, and it is as such because the U.S.’s purpose is, and has always been, the exploration of freedom in all its complexity. The volatility we now witness is the symptom of a much longer, and ultimately rewarding, process.