The dictionary definition of “tipping point” is “the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place”. If you follow climate change discussions you have heard about tipping points as global temperature rise beyond which climate change effects are irreversible, even if CO2 is stabilized or reduced and even if global temperature is reduced.
With regard to our democracy, we can ask the question – “Have the recent changes in our society, in our political environment, in our government operation and policies, pushed us beyond a tipping point for the future viability of our democracy?”. There is clearly no way to say for certain, but I believe that it is a clear possibility. Let’s consider what is happening. Racial incidents are becoming much more common. Immigrations issues – the tendency to blame the lack of jobs and increased crime on immigrants. We are experienced an ever increasing gap in the distribution of wealth – the top 1%, the financial elite. Religious beliefs and values very widely – resultant discrimination against LGBTQ and abortion. The is a huge increase in gun violence and huge gaps in gun rights positions. Much of this parallels our politics that has become polarized to the point of stagnation. It is a contest – win at all costs and preserve one’s position. This political polarization has become embedded in our culture. It is supported and reinforced by all the polarization in broader society. The contest has become intense and given rise to a whole new set of tactics – gerrymandering, fake news, exploitation of social media, seemingly boundless money for campaigns, poorly qualified political appointees, exploitation of congressional rules for political only benefit. In short, national interest and welfare seems no longer to be a priority.
Our political culture has changed for the worse. Even if political power changes with a future election, the contest seems most likely to continue. The challenge is to figure out how to retreat from the political contest culture and to return to a healthy democratic spirit of national interest and rational compromise. I remain a cynic. On the other hand I also believe in an innate American spirit. So I am also hopeful. Our history is that we, the American people, rally when confronted with crisis. I believe that this may be the future here. It is not difficult to predict potential crisis. Whatever the crisis the path forward will have to be a huge outcry at the polling booth – an election of young, right-minded representatives to work a solution on our behalf.