Partisanship in an Ethical Democracy
Board chairman Gordon Haist introduced the speaker, Raymond H. Dominick III, retired history professor from the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University. Raymond has written extensively and taught OLLI classes about history and the environment.
Raymond’s first objective was to remind the audience of various periods of deep polarization in the four hundred years of American history. The situations and periods he listed included the following:
Today, however, Democrats and Republicans are vastly different. Republicans typically like Cracker Barrel restaurant, live in rural areas, express loyalty to churches, read the Wall Street Journal, proudly insist on gun rights, want prayers in public places and want abortion banned. Democrats typically like Whole Foods, live in urban areas, are indifferent to church, read the New York Times, want guns restricted, want prayers kept out of public places and believe abortion should be legal.
“It’s very hard to change people’s minds” about such issues, he said. “As a constitutional democracy, we live with a system designed to prevent majority opinions from overwhelming minority opinions.” The result is that voters in California have 1/38th the power of voters in Wisconsin.
Colin Moseley moderated comments and questions from the audience. Below are some of the remarks:
Referring to Cicero’s quotation, “The good of the people is the highest law,” Gordon Haist raised the question: “Who are ‘the people’ ?“
Raymond Dominick then pointed out the answer to the question of “the people” depends on who is doing the asking. Nationalism, he said, is an ideology advocating for a community based on shared language, culture and history. It explains in part the many European wars over the centuries: the Ottoman Empire versus the Austrian Empire and World War I as examples. Extreme nationalism leads to fascism, he said. Few groups have ever been more patriotic – and more violent - than the Ku Klux Klan, which opposed the blacks, the Irish, the Italians and the Jews.
The discussion session had to be terminated by 3:30, but could have gone on much longer. Our special thanks to our speaker Raymond Dominick III, for his magnificent and well organized presentation.. Also thanks to Colin Moseley and Gordon Haist for Moderating the discussion and to Fran Bollin for her always excellent summaries.
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