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The Death of Participatory Democracy

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An assumption at the base of the concept of participatory democracy is the basic goodness of its participants — fairness, rational thought, the understanding that "community" means living together in peace and with fairness.

That idea of communal and mutually beneficial democracy has been thrown under the bus with the rise of the Hate Right, the MAGAs, the unforgiving, the uncompromising fearmongers who might live right next door.

"We'll see you at your house," is the headline of a recent New York Times article, which describes how public officials from Washington to Redding, California, are being driven from public service by those empowered by hate and self-righteousness.

Public officials live in terror of the people they serve, from presidents to senators to county supervisors and clerks. "We'll see you at your home," one Bakersfield man told his city council. "We'll murder you."

As a journalist, I can't forget the Baltimore Capital Gazette murders by Jarrod Ramos, who killed five journalists by shotgun in 2018, egged on by then-president Trump, who didn't like criticism.

Trump has now renewed his call for violence. "Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, refused to rule out violence if he were to lose in November. 'It always depends on the fairness of the election,'" The Times reported. This is the man who directed supporters to storm the Capitol and execute his own vice president.

Criticism, fairness, level-headedness — and the public debate and discussion should follow — are essential to American democracy. In 1644, when John Stuart Mill wrote, "Let [truth] and falsehood grapple," his assumption was a "free and open encounter" among differing opinions. That freedom is crushed by those who will neither participate nor listen to free and open debate, and who make up their minds to pursue violence instead of rational thought.

Ted Pease, Trinidad


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