We're exactly halfway through this series on "Barack Obama, Election 2012, and the Future of American Democracy." Let's take a look at the logic of my "dying" rhetoric in the previous eight discussions and where I'm going in the next eight posts.
My purpose in writing this series was to engender serious national dialogue about changing America and troubled American democracy. The 2012 reelection of President Barack Obama -- a self-ordained transformational leader -- is a timely opportunity for us to talk about the uncertain future of our "Great Experiment." Thus I offered my rhetorical question: "Is America Dying?"
Strong Reader Response.
Apparently, many of you are engaged in the unfolding discussion, with more than a thousand written comments -- both positive and negative and some downright nasty -- having been logged online. Much of the negative commentary has revealed partisan objection to my even linking the words "Obama," "America," and "dying" in this series. But, fortunately, an audience appears to be developing for this national dialogue. I must admit I enjoyed a regular critics' quip that "I seem to be horrifically drawn to Browder's 'academia' to date."
Some are engaged because you sense that these posts encourage serious talk about the health of American democracy. One commenter wrote recently: "Today's question is not that we struggle (for did not our Founding Fathers struggle in their day, aye, and bleed and shed bitter tears as they strove and built and struggled and rejoiced and sorrowed and mourned and celebrated the birth of a new nation?). No. The question is have we grown? In Wisdom? Compassion? Reason?"
Others are engaged because you can't believe what you're reading. As another commenter wrote after my last post about America's philosophical civil war: "I find this discourse the kind of 'jabberwocky' designed to divide us as a nation."
As a long-time professor and politician, I really appreciate those readers who have contributed valuable insights and constructive suggestions to the discussion; and I can ignore intemperate, personal, or partisan attacks. I was especially heartened when Dave Johnson, my friend and a new, progressive blogger ("The Mighty Pen"), reminded the other commenters that: "To have any hope for progress, the Great American Discussion is a prerequisite."
In this halfway post, I will provide a framework to help readers figure out the flow of my thesis about our national experiment in democratic ideals.
Here's What We've Covered Thus Far.
1. Election 2012 and the Future of American Democracy.
America is changing in ways that are important, exciting, and unsettling for the future of American democracy. Barack Obama swept into the White House in 2008, and he was reelected in 2012 with inspiring grandeur; but economic crisis and divisive politics have raised questions not only about his vision but the functionality of our "Great Experiment."
2. Is America Dying?
I propose that the favorable systemic environment of American democracy has disappeared; we have entrapped American democracy within a philosophical civil war; American democracy no longer works the way it has in the past; and Americans seem to be tiring of their historic Great Experiment. My theoretical supposition is that, if these four propositions are true, then, systemically, America is dying.
3. How Dare I Ask: "Is America Dying"?
The possible demise of America is an unpleasant thought; but that is my compelling "what if" question for America as Barack Obama enters the legacy stage of his two-term presidency. I believe that analyzing America's democratic destiny -- thoroughly, critically, and perhaps terminally -- is the central public debate of our time.
4. What Do I Mean by "America," "American Democracy," and "Dying"?
I define America as a national experiment in democratic ideals. I use the term "American democracy" to refer to the practical mix of people, politics, and government whereby we have pursued democratic ideals, fairly effectively, for the past two centuries. And "dying" can be viewed as the increasing inability of the American system to perform normal, sustaining, necessary functions of life.
5. Could 932,367 Secessionists Be Right about the United States?
Secession is not the answer to our distemper. However, the ease and quickness and fervor with which the White House petitions took hold is indicative of something awry. Considering the distempered condition of contemporary America, we have to keep wary watch on such movements. There is a disturbing confluence of negative developments at the national level that fuel these outbursts at a critical time for American democracy.
6. A Systems Analysis of American Democracy.
According to my systemic analysis, our closing natural conditions and declining support for national authority have produced an unfavorable environment for American democracy; furthermore, a philosophical civil war has entrapped, or "boxed" American democracy in a destructive fight over ideals, values, and governance.
7. The Systemic Environment of Dying America.
The original challenge of westward expansion and the subsequent challenge of political nationalization have contributed greatly and sequentially to the evolving success of American democracy. However, in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, this historically-favorable environment turned sour.
8. A Philosophical Civil War in Dying America.
We have entrapped our national democratic experiment within a philosophical civil war about "what America means" and "how America ought to work." The struggle for control of the American experiment in terms of newly contentious ideals, substantive values, and procedural principles, present a national challenge that is qualitatively different from anything experienced within the past century.
Here's What Lies Ahead.
9. American Democracy No Longer Works As It Has In the Past.
10. Americans Seem To Be Tiring of Their Historic Great Experiment.
11. Critical Juncture for Tired America.
12. A Foreboding Vision of Dying America: California.
13. Alternative Options for Dying America.
14. Welcome to the "American Federation"!
15. So, Is America Really Going To Die?
16. Barack Obama and the Transformation of American Democracy.
Therefore, let's proceed, next week, with the second half of my series on "Barack Obama, Election 2012, and the Future of American Democracy."