I cannot think about the 2012 election in America without recalling words originally penned in French: Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.
So wrote Joseph de Maistre in 1811. Maistre was a philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat who lived in Savoy (modern day southern France). His words–more familiar to Americans in English, of course–clearly show the relationship between a people and their government: Every nation gets the government it deserves.
At the DNA we often say that politics is downstream from culture. Maistre’s observation clearly reflects this truth. So does the 2012 election. The culture of a people inevitably leads to their political philosophy and determines the government they have.
Most discussions of elections and politics use the language of policies and programs rather than the deeper language of culture, i.e. principles and paradigms. This distinction of vocabulary is important for all societies, but especially democracies where citizens participate vigorously in determining the outcomes.
The threat to democracy is not so much the elected officials, but those who put them in office. An election is less a referendum of a particular politician or party than a manifestation of the nation’s cultural vision. President Obama recognized this, and said so more explicitly than any other national figure in the 2012 election cycle. In his September 6th acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama said:
On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.
President Obama is correct. And the citizens have chosen the path they want to take.
It is relatively easy to vote out a corrupt politician; much harder is changing the culture from corruption to justice. It is one thing to replace a foolish political leader; it is quite another to change a foolish citizenry to a wise one.
But let there be no mistake, the government is a reflection of the people. A nation gets the government it deserves. A foolish governor is a symptom of an unwise citizenry. The issue is bigger than personalities and parties; it’s the value given to wisdom in principles and paradigms.
For a century America has been shifting from the Judeo-Christian paradigm to a Post-Christian framework. With the 2012 election, we may have passed the point of no return.
But that’s for another post.
- Darrow Miller