Preface to The Declaration of the Democratic Worldview
By John Hank Edson
Dedicated To Barack Obama:
History will honor the architects
who advance the quality of humanity
by improving the structures of democracy.
This Election Day, November 4, 2008, we find ourselves in the midst of an extraordinary and important moment in the history of the United States of America. In May, 75,000 people overflowed an auditorium in Portland, Oregon to hear Barack Obama give a campaign speech in his run to become the first African American president of our nation. By the end of May, the Federal Elections Commission reported that so many Americans had donated money to Obama’s campaign that the commission could not keep up with its regulatory oversight duties. In July, a stunning 200,000 people gathered in Berlin in hopes of a sign that America might be returning to its enlightened ideals. And at the Democratic Convention in August, Obama delivered his acceptance speech from the middle of a football stadium to a standing-room-only throng of ecstatic voters. In September, Time magazine reported that more than three and a half million new voters had been registered since January in seventeen states alone. Clearly, the American people, and indeed the people of the world, have no doubts about the importance of this election to the future of our nation and to all humanity.
The energizing focus of this unprecedented public engagement in our political process is a black man who tells the nation, “It’s not about me; it’s about you!” And by the tens of thousands, American citizens are responding, turning out over and over again to be a part of Obama’s campaign, whether it be in the cold and snow or in the sweltering heat, in rural town halls or in urban concert arenas. Across the country, they have carried a sea of signs held high, on every one of which a single bold word exclaims: CHANGE! Waves of public declaration, chanted in unison with voices raised high, repeat over and over again, “Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!”
It is in this moment that the truths spoken by Barack Obama, “It’s not about me; it’s about you!,” and by millions of patriotic believers in democracy, “Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!,” demand and deserve an advancement of our democratic principles beyond their current 18th century condition. Dissatisfied with our political process, abused by our leaders, and pushed beyond all tolerance by the mismanagement of the public trust, we, the American people, are taking it upon ourselves to bring to our democratic principles all the sophistication we have otherwise come to embody in the way we navigate our contemporary, highly technological, scientific, and educated society.
When the principle underlying our democratic worldview, the principle of human equality, was first declared by the people, its newness was sufficient in itself to change the world. We simply claimed this principle to be “self-evident,” and the rest was history. But today, we are not so young a society as we once were, nor are the enemies of human equality so plainly organized as the English monarchy once was.
As time has passed, we have unfortunately allowed our democratic worldview to become antiquated as though we were safeguarding an archeological relic too frail even for human breath. We should have understood instead that this worldview was a technology of paramount importance that must be continuously tested and developed in order for our society to maintain its trajectory toward higher and higher levels of humanity.
While we have been neglecting the technology of our own humanity, however, those dedicated to the concentration of wealth and power solely among themselves have spared no effort to acquire every technological advantage and every available means of leverage over the people’s exercise of self-determination. It is for this reason that the people now wonder whether the American Dream is dead and whether our shared commitment to equality actually has any meaning. It is for this reason our political process now requires stronger support than merely the “self-evident” truth if it is to defend, restore and advance its democratic integrity.
Our shared awareness of the extreme state of governmental dysfunction and the potentially irreversible corruption of our democratic political process is what makes the positivity, populism, and common sense of Barack Obama so terrifically energizing. The public has no more patience for politicians who offer only excuses for why they are unable to advance the quality of our democracy. We believe in our equality and the power it gives us as a united people. We are tired of the voices in both parties telling us that effective and principled democracy is not possible. We are angry at the impact such attitudes are having on our society and on the reputation of our nation around the globe.
No one in America is immune to the powerful energy that is building around the detrimental impact our degraded political process is having on the quality of our individual lives. As a result, we are in the midst of a profound and transformative moment in our history as a nation.
We are, in fact, in a moment of discovery, in which a fundamental law of nature is being understood as never before. No longer will we have to explain that our human equality is simply “self-evident.” As at our nation’s founding, once more, a revolutionary perspective is about to cause a Copernican shift in humanity’s understanding of the natural relationships determining the value and sustainability of government, society and political power.
This understanding arises from the necessity and desperation we feel after our recent experience of a government that has deliberately sought to take advantage of hidden power dynamics, pressure points, and blind spots to incapacitate our ability to self-govern. When we thought our democracy would always survive, safe and sound, a beacon of liberty and justice to all the world, we never felt much concern for the condition and integrity of our political process. As this optimistic belief has been shaken to the core, we have seized upon the promise of change and the leadership of Barack Obama. Taking our cue from his leadership, today on Election Day, we recognize that it is not about him, it is about us.
By itself, Obama’s call to action is not enough. We, the people who this election is supposed to be all about, must determine for ourselves the nature of the democracy we are seeking to bring into being through such action. Yes, when we achieve clarity and consensus as a people about what we believe the nature, purpose and obligations of our government should be, then we can change our government.
Indeed, this coupling of a clear statement of the relationship between the government and the people with the assertion of the power to CHANGE! was precisely what enabled the original thirteen colonies to liberate themselves from England and to form a democratic government for the United States of America. This coupling, that is, was precisely the formula applied by our founding generation in The Declaration of Independence. Without this coupling of CHANGE! with a deeper understanding of the natural laws defining the relationship between the people and their government, the American Revolution never would have occurred.
Therefore, if we do really all want CHANGE!, it is now incumbent upon the American people to engage in a re-examination of the supposedly self-evident truths in which we believe, and to articulate for ourselves a principled, logical and advanced understanding of the democratic worldview to which we subscribe as the foundation of our society.
If we do not strengthen this foundation and give to it the precise and ingenious engineering we have so often proven ourselves to be capable of providing in every other context in society, then the political process we construct on top of it will crumble like the proverbial house built on sand. After two hundred and thirty-two years, it is high time we upgraded the archaic 18th century foundation we have relied upon for far too long.
With this imperative in mind, I have assumed the tradition that our founding parents once were forced to establish, and which we thereafter unfortunately neglected to continue: the tradition of coming together as a people to declare the basic parameters of a shared democratic worldview. We have long reverently regarded The Declaration of Independence, and the democratic principles articulated therein, with full appreciation for their spiritual import to humanity. In undertaking to write a declaration of the democratic worldview for the consideration of my people and my country, I have tried to treat our shared humanity with a similar reverence and idealism.
I believe we owe it to ourselves as a people to nurture and protect this reverence and idealism by giving it the fullest possible expression when we explore the dimensions of human equality, which are simultaneously too much taken for granted and too much denied. My hope is that this attempt will inspire others to express their pursuit of a more advanced, more humane, and more democratic society and that together we may realize the change for which we are clamoring and which our democracy so badly needs.
The Declaration of the Democratic Worldview is available at: http://democracypress.net