What to do
As an American citizen concerned about the integrity of our democratic processes and institutions in the wake of the 2016 election, I believe more than ever in government. Not as a top-down, dictatorship but rather as a bottom-up participatory process that is driven by the will of the people. I do not accept the false Republican mantra that government is intrinsically a bad institution and consequently should just be "smaller". I've no objection to a smaller government per se, but its size is not my primary concern. Rather, it should be effective and efficient, with strategic thought as to how it can best achieve those goals while supporting all Americans.
Government is the process that provides the enabling environment in which we the people pursue life, liberty and happiness. Government should provide services, infrastructure, and the legal frameworks (policies, laws, regulations) that protect and serve the interests of the American people at home and around the world. Government should not be run like a business as its function is not to maximize profit for its shareholders - or CEO. Rather, government should function for the benefit of all its citizens, realizing that it is the background to our daily lives, not the main event, and that it has no business legislating our religious beliefs, sexual practices, or health decisions. When our government is comprised of individuals who do not actually believe in government (i.e., the people), who prefer instead to deconstruct or destroy our government, it ceases to function as intended - for the people. As long as our elected officials do not believe in government of the people, by the people, and for the people, the American experiment in democracy is at risk of extinction.
So, what can we do? How can we strengthen our democracy? How can we get it back? Here are three considerations. It is only a place to start; the list could be considerably longer.
Get career politicians out of government. Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our government should not be run by “politicians”, who are more concerned with their careers (i.e., reelection) than with serving the interests of the American public. We need elected officials in our government who are there to serve – temporarily – the needs of the country. Elected officials who do not hesitate to put the country and constitution above their own political interests, or those of their party. Our government needs a constant influx of new ideas and perspectives, from all Americans, not just a privileged few. Maybe we need term limits, maybe we just need a very engaged citizenry. Either way, let’s get rid of the idea that individuals can make a “career” out of being elected to government office.
Get money out of our election system. We need campaign finance reform to prevent certain voices from dominating the narrative and unduly influencing our elections and governing policies, regulations, and laws. Again, elected officials are public officers who serve all Americans, not the special interests of the wealthy or powerful. People for whom money is important should not be in government nor be able to influence it more than anyone else. Government is for the masses, not the wealthy few. Free speech is for everyone, not just those who have money.
Get irresponsible and unethical members of Congress out of government. At the moment, this is directed at Republicans, who must earn our trust again before getting elected, but does not discriminate across party lines. The degree of depravity and deception with which Republican members of Congress all seem comfortable since November 2016 is simply unprecedented – and cannot be tolerated. Regardless of party affiliation, our elected officials should hold themselves to the highest standards of morality, ethics, and transparency. They are not elected to office so they can increase their own net worth, or that of their family. Members of Congress, and the President, swear an oath to uphold the constitution and the laws under which we all operate. Any member who will not do so should be “repealed and replaced”.