Challenges to American Democracy
America is highly considered a land full of opportunities. It is the only country in the world where people perceive that democracy is real, and where equality is pretty emphasized. Trust is extremely crucial in an individual’s life while empathy assists in understanding what other people are feeling. Civil engagement involves working to create a difference in society through employing knowledge and skills to achieve that difference. However, a decline has been noted in trust, empathy, and civic engagement among Americans, and this has threatened democracy in the country. This study will demonstrate why trust, empathy, and civic engagement are on the decline in the US, and why this trend challenges American democracy, in addition to proposing solutions to deal with the declining empathy, trust, and civic engagement.
Policy Challenges Facing Local Governments in America
Trust among American citizens is declining. The American citizens are viewing almost every aspect of the American government with enormous pessimism. This trend has been on the rise, as people lay the blame for the government’s lack of interest. Only a handful of Americans can stand and declare that the government is offering its services efficiently. According to Volgy, being a government employee nowadays is perceived as a disgraceful profession (24). This perception is not good for an economy, as it poses a threat to a country’s democracy. Citizens have the right to shield themselves against an exploitative government, but fighting, for instance, to own guns, depicts a lack of trust in the state’s security system. Democracies may fail to thrive when the government falls short of formulating civilized policies.
The government’s actions contribute to the loss of trust among Americans. If people do not distinguish the laws to follow, and which to ignore, implementing such laws in the future would be extremely difficult. Citizens have lost trust in Congress, as it has never passed a satisfactory budget since President Obama took office, as the debt ceiling has continued to rise every year. Failure to alleviate poverty, discrimination, environmental deprivation, and inadequate health facilities, has caused horrible despair among millions of Americans, losing trust in the government (Volgy 29). Even though American citizens may not have the answers to their problems, it does not mean they can tolerate policy inefficiencies. For instance, the use of money in elections has always favored the incumbent, since he has the best machinery to raise the campaign funds from people who hold the economic power (Volgy 83). People can tolerate some misdeeds if they believe they are making some progress.
One of the differences between humans and animals is the tendency to mind about others or share individual experiences with others. Empathy is, therefore, the foundation of human behavior, which is also considered innate. The extent of how people empathize with others varies from one individual to another. When people empathize, they epitomize the distress that the other person is going through, and, unless their brains are spoiled, they feel the need to alleviate such distress. However, practicing empathy and advocating democracy is not an easy task (Tobin 83). Many Americans have chosen to resist empathy, even though practicing it is the way to democracy. Americans are reasonably unhappy with the current political system due to its failure in offering remedies to societal problems. They feel that the government is not giving an adequate explanation of why things that concern them are failing. Many people claimed they do not know what their leaders do every day.
Empathic leaders should be sensitive about how their followers feel about them, or even other things that pertain to the country’s leadership. When referring to the wave of horrific shootings that occurred in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut, President Obama claimed that American communities are facing an “empathy deficit,” which is more serious than the federal deficit (Honigsbaum). Although scientists assert that people are usually kind to other people who are like them, some actions leave one with more questions than answers. This condition is quite common among the youth, and some psychologists are citing social isolation as one of the causes of declining empathy. One factor that has mitigated low levels of empathy in the past has been a strong allegiance toward the two-party system (Volgy 169). This is because both parties have inflicted some undesirable policies on citizens, causing them to keep away from political processes.
Civic engagement is quite fundamental for the well-being of society. It involves citizens’ participation in improving conditions in their communities for a better future. Participating in activities that involve civil life makes an individual feel good, increases self-confidence and mind about others. Although American civic engagement incorporates much more than organized labor, the reluctance among many Leftists to look beyond the organized working class assists in explaining why civil engagement today is dominated by the center-right political proclivities (Skocpol 456). Americans have lost the taste in electoral campaigns, as these campaigns are nowadays driven by financial capabilities. Citizens usually expect relevant departments in the federal government to offer services that can improve their lives and the lives of the future generation. Democracy is threatened when voters fail to participate in a political process or any activity that involves society. Without civic engagement, citizens will feel powerless, exploited, and unhappy (Volgy 33).
Addressing Policy Challenges
Every problem that humans create has a solution. Policy and political challenges pose threat to democracy, and people may start losing interest in what the government does. One of the key tools in addressing political and policy challenges is having an intensified commitment towards civic engagement. If the American government can revive civic participation and encourage communal work, the American people can start gaining trust with their government. The government should pay much attention to the youth, who hold the future of the country. Youth development activities should be encouraged from the local level.
The government should endeavor to share its plans with the citizen, especially when handling issues that target the eradication of poverty, inequality, terrorism, and unequal access to medical care. Policies that touch on the tax system should be improved through introducing a progressive system of income tax. The education system can be boosted by unifying all federal student financial helping programs to form a single system that can help college students. The middle class is quite crucial in any economy and should be addressed by increasing the minimum wage while encouraging a public-private partnership in offering universal health insurance. The current electoral system should also be reviewed to encourage involvement in the political process. Volgy has suggested the strengthening of political parties by giving the two parties freedom to argue more on public policies that touch on many Americans (171). Americans will feel free to be associated with parties that fight on behalf of ordinary citizens, rather than rich people.
A large number of Americans are losing trust and empathy with the government due to its reluctance in addressing society’s needs. They claimed that the government is not open enough to ordinary citizens. Out of numerous aspects of civil culture, trust and empathy are quite crucial. Lack of empathy, in addition to an understanding of what is happening in the political arena, will spell doom to a democratic government. Civic engagement ensures that the government is engaging every community in its plans that aim at making a difference in their lives. However, when societal needs are not addressed, citizens will not care what the government may have for them. The government should review its policies to ensure that everyone is involved in building the country. If citizens are involved in all political and policy processes, they will become responsive, and American democracy will not be under any threat.
Honigsbaum, Mark. “Barack Obama and the ’empathy deficit’” theguardian, The Observer, January 4, 2013. Web. 21 February. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jan/04/barack-obama-empathy-deficit>
Skocpol, Theda. “The Tocqueville Problem.” Social Science History 21.4 (1997): 455-479.
Tobin, Rick. The Common Class: Egoism and the Attack on American Education. Lincoln: iUniverse, 2007. Print.
Volgy, Thomas J. Politics in the Trenches: Citizens, Politicians, and the Fate of Democracy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001. Print.