The only proper solution must be a democratic one, where people debate the problems, suggest solutions, and consider the pros and cons and their ramifications. Then, the people must decide how we as a country will proceed.

An important obstacle will be the prevailing attitude that democracy is about winning elections. While a common view, it is both false and dangerous. When viewed as winning elections, democracy, likewise, becomes defeating the opposition. It becomes focused on depriving the opposition of having a say in the democratic process.

Granted, there will be winners and losers in any vote, so it is easy to see how such an attitude can become dominant. Still, if that is the attitude, eventually, democracy will fail. The alternative view prevailed at the Constitutional Convention and during the ratification process. It is a view of democracy that seeks consensus.

Building consensus is hard work. It sees everyone as part of the process, with a voice to consider. Those who disagree are not people to demonize; they are people with perspectives one must consider in any solution. It focuses on working together rather than defeating.

Building consensus was the attitude that founded the country. The Constitution was a compromise document on virtually every point. Nobody got everything they wanted. Everybody gave up something. Even during the ratification process, supporters made compromises, resulting in the Bill of Rights. In a healthy democracy, the goal is to seek the most significant majority possible. It requires a good understanding of the issues and the various points of view.

Our system currently focuses on fifty percent plus one, or whatever is required to win. Such a focus can only lead to division and polarization, which is where we find ourselves. It breeds instability since no decision is final. They only last until the current group loses power.

The only way to ensure policies remain in effect is to keep the other side from winning. The issues become secondary. You don’t need a good understanding of the issues or why the other side disagrees. You only need to know they are the enemy and must be defeated. The only way to ensure this long-term is some sort of tyranny, which is why democracies fail.

This book will focus on understanding the core issues. You may disagree with some of the analysis or the proposed solutions. That is fine. These are present, not as the final word, but the beginning of a course correction. The hope is that this will be a starting point, not for mandating this or that policy solution, but to begin the discussion toward reaching the broadest possible consensus. Anything short of this would be self-defeating.

Source: Preserving Democracy, 3rd Expanded Edition (forthcoming May 21, 2024), pages 5-6