I got to thinking about human nature as I worked as an election judge on Tuesday. So here’s what I think the American election system and the government which the Constitution lays out—what that says about our understanding of human nature.
Elections in a democracy like ours are based on the assumption that ordinary people have the intelligence and the right to choose their leaders. Now the election results may convince you otherwise, but that is the premise. Demo-cracy: people power. Elections embody what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address—government of the people, by the people, for the people. Elections are based on a pretty high view of what ordinary people are capable of doing.
When our elected representatives get to Washington, however, they encounter a system which has the opposite view of human nature. The way our constitution sets it up, the legislative process is designed to hedge the abuses which are assumed will result from human beings getting power. The gridlock with which almost everyone is fed up, is the result of the checks and balances built into the system by the Constitution. In order to get anything done—i.e. a bill passed—one house has to pass it by a majority. Then it’s sent to the other house which also has to pass it by a majority vote. If both houses pass it—a miracle these days—then the President has to sign it. At any point along the way, a few people in Congress can stall the legislation by not voting with their party or the president can veto it. On top of that the Senate has the filibuster with which one person can hold the whole process hostage.
The whole thing is based on a view of human nature which believes that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s why there are so many checks and balances.
Sounds like a mixed message, doesn’t it?
So, what do you think the results of Tuesday’s election say about trusting ordinary people to make good decisions?
So, what do you think the coming year will reveal about people of “good intentions,” i.e. a Democrat as President and a Republican controlled legislature, will say about human nature?
If you ask me, our dollar has it right when it declares, “In God we trust.”