What IS a Cosmetic Democracy?

A line of light silt and dust is pushed off the stage by a person wielding a wide broom, leaving traces behind; what’s captured is then scooped up into a pan, and dropped unceremoniously into the plastic can in the corner.

Lights come on brighter as players take their places, shuffle papers, check their hair and their mike units, and look nervously at their watches. The show is about to begin.

Debates, televised across the nation, with polls, running totals of donations, talk of swing states, tv & radio ads, candidate visits, the approaching election dates. The required essence of a democratic society. Right? With all the players and pieces in place, the show goes on.

Is that what democracy is … or what it’s been reduced to? The ingredients of a prolonged electoral show … or is it something else? Is there something missing, perhaps forgotten, something not “covered”?

While some of those readily recognizable elements of TelevisedElectionTime may have importance in the carrying out of the process, the true essence of democracy lies elsewhere for sure. It’s an invisible spirit, a shared belief and desire for the best in us as humans to come forth from our minds and hearts and find sufficient common ground to move forward together in fairness, and not at each other’s throats like cave dwellers fighting over a scrap of meat.

Sad to say, what we have in America today is much more of the show than the substance. Those in positions to lead (or at least give orders and wield power) are more than happy to content themselves with promoting the two-dimensional cardboard cut-out of the figments of democracy to substitute for the real thing. It is a far easier task when one has near total domination of the means of mass communication to produce the look-and-feel show of democracy than have to contend with messy thoughts and desires of actual people who may, in fact, hold ideas very different than those who are producing the show.

As long as at least some of the public are willing on selected dates to line up and deposit what they believe are their choices into some device, it’s enough to present something for the world to see. Candidates. Electoral Calendar. Speeches. Fundraisers. Campaigns. Are any of the deep concerns of the citizens being discussed or debated? Perhaps. It’s by no means a prerequisite in a Cosmetic Democracy.

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