In just a few weeks approximately slightly less than 50% of American voters will feel themselves in the political minority. In this age of unbridled, often undisciplined rage we need to take stock and be concerned. In a democracy, majority rule is another one of those inconvenient truths. You can’t ignore the possibility that you and your group may have to live as the political minority for periods of time. Fifty one is two more than forty nine and this simple math leaves no room for magical thinking. Excepting the Civil War and this last 2020 election, no one has tried to deny this inexorable logic of the Constitutional system. Hopefully for the future of our democracy we will begin to repair the damage and the political minority will concede to do the work every political minority has had to do in the course of the nation’s history.
While I am a ‘long game’ positivist, in terms of the four to eight year stretch I tend to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what may occur in the immediate. The Good Decision Project is in a way part of my self-management. In the short game however, the people I meet each day, the community activities I participate in, and the work I do comprise my basis of mental health and center of gravity. But in a working democracy, if in the political cycle you find yourself consigned to the political minority for a spell, the worst, least productive, most anti-democratic position one can take is to conclude that you and your group, the good and intelligent, have lost to them; the ignorant and evil. If you lose your majority, it is time for deep transparent radical form of internal honesty. You have lost the “hearts and minds” battle and that is all that counts for the long game. And for political effectiveness it is always the long journey/campaign for the hearts and minds that prevails.
In the religious realm there is a concept called purgatory. This idea dates back as far as the 12th century and has been refined, rejected, reformed, and redefined variously as a state where good souls go for expiation and purification. Most recent renditions refer to it as an intermediate state of being that in some way includes internal suffering leading to redress and atonement. Through the political lens, the loss of an election is the loss of much agency in the public realm. Unfortunately the loss of agency, personal or otherwise, at any level of human existence is painful. Most likely the loss of an election contradicts your Sense of Good, so the suffering is also often existential. Purgatory in the realm of politics is that space of personal as well as collective suffering following a loss. The danger of our time is people will seek to relieve suffering through violently imposing their failure on the public realm rather than do the work of a minority seeking majority. Whatever you call the space of the minority, it demands the social courage and discipline to turn in to yourself and to the community to discover what went wrong with the your approach to the body politic. Curiosity for children is almost pure tone learning and play, and for adults while curiosity remains to be about learning, its practice also requires at times the courage to discover and respond to the painful truth of error.
Democracy is a historic value structure that while not a religion, acknowledges the imperfection of individual humans and transforms the collective impulses of community into a public realm of shared authority. Democracy chooses the electorate’s authority over the authority of any individual . Whatever happens next month, the only lesson to be learned for both the prevailing party and the minority party is there is serious work to be done. Anything less than serious, intelligent, informed, courageous work could be a precursor to a national tragedy.