democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.

March 1st, 2016

Photo Jan 09, 7 01 00 PM

I’ll make you a promise at the beginning of this post: I’m not going to try to convince you of anything.  I’m not going to argue.  I’m not going to persuade.  But I am going to say some things that I believe.  You can listen if you want.

If you’re an American, you’re probably well aware that there’s an election coming up.

How could you not be?  Our media has turned into a 24/7 cacophony of political commentary.  It makes us all agitated and desperate, certain that the sky is about to fall if some other position gains any ground.  It’s exhausting.  And I think it’s kind of… wrong. 

I believe so much in our country.  So much that I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  That’s not the point.  That’s not what makes our system great.  If you take my word for it, if you vote for a candidate because I tell you to, or because your parents told you to, or because the media or the leaders of a political party tell you to, something has already gone wrong.

An election is kind of like a jury.  For those of us who practice law, juries can be daunting.  You spend months or years putting together all the facts about a case, and at the end, you turn the decision over to twelve random people picked off the street, and they decide who wins and loses.  That’s our legal system, in a nutshell.  It places a tremendous amount of faith in the average person to get to the heart of things and make the right decision.  And most of the time, they do.  It’s amazing.

Elections are the same way.  There’s so much rhetoric and posturing and theatre that goes into them, but at the end of the day, the ultimate decision belongs to every single person in our country.  Our elections are decided by the tiny, individual decisions of 300 million people, each one of us contributing in our own small way.

When I think about our country, I’m almost overwhelmed with pride.  I’ve devoted my career to the law, which is the foundation of our whole system.  I’m so proud of that.  When I’m hung up on some day-to-day frustration with an aspect of my job, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to be doing what I do.  How fortunate we are to set our own laws through a democratic process, even an imperfect one.  What a privilege that is, and how much it matters.

Two hundred years ago (which is not really very long, when you think about it), in the wake of the American Revolution, we created an entire political system out of a few basic principles.  We based that system on two things: fundamental individual rights and checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.  That’s pretty much it.  Every single American who is reading this has lived their life with the freedom created by that system. 

That freedom was an incredible gift.  And it wasn’t a gift that someone gave us.  It was a gift that we — as citizens — gave ourselves.  We agreed to come together to form our own government.

No, it wasn’t perfect.  But in just a few generations, it’s made incredible progress.  And it keeps getting better and better.  Want to know why?  It’s because we didn’t create a static system.  We created a flexible political system that would keep evolving along with us.  That was the miracle.  It wasn’t that we did something right, one time, two hundred years ago, and then sat back and watched it all play out.  Check the right box, and then enjoy a perfect life forever, thankyouverymuch.  That’s impossible.  That’s a dream world.  That’s not what we did. 

Instead, we created tools that could keep us moving toward what’s right, every day, in tiny increments.  That’s the miracle that I watch playing out around me, every single day.  That’s what makes me so proud of our country that I can barely breathe sometimes.  That we’re getting there.  That we keep going.  That we know better today than we did a hundred years ago, and we keep adapting.

That if we just keep pushing forward, we’re going to be ok.

I really believe that.

I argue about ideas all day long, but sometimes arguing for your ideas misses the point.  Democracy isn’t about getting one set of ideas pushed through, even if you think those ideas are totally, completely, 100% exactly right.  I’ve had political conversations with people of wildly different viewpoints, and I’ve always found that when both sides can argue with respect and information, there’s common ground.  We can usually figure out where we agree.  And that common ground is our democracy.

I originally meant for this post to tell you guys who I’m voting for.  I could tell you who, and I could give you my reasons why, but we all know that you shouldn’t take my word for it.  I’ll tell you this: The candidate I’m voting for is someone who I believe is a good person.  A true public servant who genuinely wants what’s best for the American people.  Someone who I believe can do this job, and do it well.  But if that person isn’t on the ballot in November, I’ll vote for someone else.

I don’t want to talk about any particular candidate. 

I want to talk about the choice itself.

Lots of states have primary elections today.  Others will have them over the next few months, and we’ll all have a general election in November.  Sometime between now and then, please register to vote.  You can do that online in thirty states (see the list here), or else by using this form.  If you need help, send me an email (use the Subject “Voter Registration” so it doesn’t get stuck in my spam folder).  The more of us who contribute our voices, the better our system works.  I trust that. 

Our democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.  The privilege to choose our leadership is an incredible one.  We were given it, and it’s up to us to ensure that our kids get it too.  There are a million ways that we have to work really hard to make sure that happens.  It takes a huge amount of personal responsibility, from each and every one of us. 

Sometimes it feels exhausting to have responsibility for the whole system fall squarely on your shoulders.  But that’s how the system works.  Through empowering millions of us to make our own decisions.  Through compromising to reach a middle ground.  Through respecting each other and listening to everyone’s opinions and perspectives. 

Through inching closer, day by day, to what’s right.  As best we can.  Until we finally get there, if we ever do. 

Tags: life

39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wilhelmina // Mar 5, 2016 at 12:46 am

    If you think the US is so great, you’ve clearly never spent much time outside its borders.

    This post has all the depth of a wading pool. All that expensive education, and you still write like an eighth grader entering an essay competition.

  • 2 Maria Garcia // Mar 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    We have responsibilities for our country. Attending is one of them. According to me, main point should be the future of this country, investments for this country.


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    Beautifully written. I think you’re on the right track. I’m not agreeing blindly with everything but I get where you’re coming from. I embrace people to share their opinion more and not hold back, keep it up! 🙂

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