American Extremists: Impatient with Democracy

Taking walks with family members is one of this Spirited Reasoner’s favorite daily activities. Last week, as we attempted to cross a busy street, a motorist stopped, waving for us to go ahead and cross. Unfortunately, there was a car coming from the other direction, so I shouted, “thank you,” and waved for her to go ahead. Approximately one millisecond later, a guy in a pickup truck behind her honked his horn, leaned his upper body out of the driver’s window, and screamed, “go on!” Thus, the first motorist’s kindness had been repaid with the all-too-common currency of road rage.

No doubt you have witnessed similar acts of American impatience. Try driving the speed limit on any major highway and you will soon find a NASCAR enthusiast on your bumper, insisting that you break the law. Try saying a nice work to a cashier in a busy supermarket and your fifteen second conversation will be met with glares from other shoppers impatient to get home.

Rudeness of this type would normally seem forgivable were it not engulfing our political and judicial systems.

There was a time when Americans could experience defeat at the polls and their mature reaction would be to figure out why voters had preferred the other candidate. They would then proceed to search the ranks of their party for a candidate more likely to appeal to a majority of the voters at the next election.

Today’s Americans have no time for democracy. The events of January 6th and the subsequent acceptance of those events by a majority of Republicans indicate that at least one party felt justified in overturning the Monopoly board and all its pieces if the game didn’t go their way.

But don’t think this post is just about bashing Republicans. Progressive Democrats have jumped on their own Impatience bandwagon, accusing President Biden of inaction in the face of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade. The fact that our system of government does not allow the President to act as dictator—i. e., the fact that President Biden cannot simply change the Supreme Court decision by executive fiat—has not diminished the criticism of far-left extremists against him. “You must do something!” they cry. “And you must do it now!”

Unfortunately, fixing the reactionary majority on the Supreme Court in a manner consistent with our constitutional democracy will require decades rather than weeks or months. Even if, for example, Congress were to codify Roe v. Wade in the form of federal legislation and present that legislation to President Biden, there is nothing to prevent a future litigant (perhaps the attorney general from a red state) from challenging that statute, much the way Roe v. Wade was challenged. What would the red state’s argument be? Perhaps that there is no enumerated power contained in Article I, Section 8 that allows Congress to act in the sphere of abortion rights.

If we want to maintain our system of government, we must resign ourselves to the understanding that our national mess will require years and years of patient fixing. The alternative is to fall victim to the seduction of the next dictator who promises to make everything right in one fell swoop.

Hitler on the right. Stalin on the left. Spirited Reasoners have done their homework. Extremism always begins with euphoria and always ends with terrorism and mass murder.

The more evidence of impatience I see around me, the more worried I get that Americans are no longer willing to roll up their sleeves and do the heavy lifting required to operate a democracy. Let’s make it our job as Spirited Reasoners to demonstrate a better way forward.