Dysfunctional Democracy: Why Reversing the Absence of Political Integrity is Everyone’s Job

by Dr. David Gruder

The Three Needs That Democracy Dares to Reconcile

As I mentioned in a prior post, there are three societal dimensions that democracy dares to reconcile:

  1. What preserves individual freedom
  2. What serves collective highest good
  3. How to honorably respond to the legitimate special needs of specific groups in the context of what preserves individual freedom and what serves collective highest good

All of our challenges as a country revolve around trying to reconcile the seeming contradications and conflicts among these three needs.

What We Are Doing Instead of This: Dysfunctional Democracy

Instead of joining together to co-create policies that live at the intersection of these three pillars that make true democracy possible, today’s politicians and pundits instead take polarized policy positions, slamming with pejorative labels and vitriolic attacks those whose polarized policy positions differ from theirs.

This prevailing polarization strategy effectively clouds the real issues and makes it impossible to co-create truly viable solutions to those issues. Yet, this stragegy is being engaged in across the entire political spectrum and is being reported in the media as though it is merely business-as-usual. In truth, this is an example of lack of political integrity, of Dysfunctional Democracy.

How to Get Back on Course During This Election Year

The Public’s Responsibility: The public clearly knows that there is something deeply wrong with this polarization, but they don’t know how to put into words that what needs to replace this polarization is collaborative dialogue about how to reconcile these paradoxes. The public is thus out of integrity because they tolerate political polarization that is contrary to democracy.

The Media’s Responsibility: The media are out of integrity with their responsibility to public good by not being far more active in helping the public understand this dynamic so they can start demanding that all government leaders re-focus on engaging in the collaboration that democracy requires (“politicians” are supposed to be leaders and role-models not “politicians”). The media are out of integrity with their responsibility to the public because they discovered that their ratings soar when feed off and promote political polarization. In truth, by doing this they are abdicating their responsibility in a democracy, which is to educate the public about these most basic principles of democracy, to blow the whistle when polarization occurs, and to help them understand that political polarization reflects the absence of political integrity.

The Educational System’s Responsibility: The educational system is out of integrity with their responsibility to educate children about these fundamental underpinnings of democracy and to help them develop strong enough critical thinking skills so that they are not susceptible to spin and so that they demand political integrity from government leaders and from the media.

The Responsibility of Mental Health Professionals: The mental health community is out of integrity with their responsibility to educate people about the consequences of being out of personal, relationship and societal integrity, and with their responsibility to help people grow in ways that more deliberately expands their integrity.

As you hopefully see, lack of political integrity is indeed a societal problem that equally includes politicians, the media, educators, the mental health community and the public. It’s time for all of us to get back on course. Please join me in taking an Integrity Pledge to help this happen. Go to www.IntegrityPledge.org and take the pledge today.

Also, Google "nonpartisan integrity analyst" to view the press release I released today about this.

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