Most of us probably remember from our Civics class that our democracy is based on 3 co-equal branches of government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial. We as voting citizens elect our chief executive, the President, and our representatives in the Legislative branch. These elected people act on our behalf, so it is critical that we elect the right people. But how do we know who to vote for? There are always choices. The candidates themselves run rallies and sponsor political ads. But do they tell us everything that we should know to make an informed, intelligent decision. Probably not, after all they are working in their own interests. So where do we turn? To news media and a free press, and social media, is our recourse. Social media is like networking, or sharing of ideas, thoughts, and opinions. It is not primarily a fact based news source. Our news media, both print and online, represents our major source of information.
News media comes in a variety of flavors; it can be biased; it can express opinion and fact, sometimes mixed together; but long standing outlets have established reputations by which their content can be judged. This source of information is rightly protected by the constitution as it is critical to a healthy democracy. Bottom line is that the information and data required for a voter to make an informed decision is available. As it is required for meaningful votes in our democracy it is critical and as important to the health of the democracy as the 3 branches of government.
It is an easy conclusion: A healthy democracy has 4 pillars, all critical – the 3 constitutionally defined branches of government and a free press. It doesn’t work as a healthy democracy if not balanced and each functioning independently.
The 4 pillars are necessary but not sufficient, however. The added requirement is that the electorate utilizes the free press/news media to make considered voting decisions. Large scale blind obedience to the message of special interests or political special interests will inevitably cripple our democracy. The message: We all must exercise our right to vote and do some in an informed manner as independent minded citizens.