Representative democracy in America faces a serious threat. Our society is becoming increasingly alienated from the political process. A powerful indicator of this is the reduction in voter turnout; participation in presidential elections plummeted from 62.8% in 1960 to 48.9% in 1996. In examining this trend of political alienation in America, it is useful to study the legal premises of the most alienated segment of our body politic: The Patriot Movement.
The twin pillars of representative democracy are acceptance of majority rule and respect for the rule of law. The purpose of participating in political activity in a representative democracy is to become part of a majority that is capable of making law. Any segment of society that does not accept as legitimate the law that the majority creates - any group that does not share the norms of majority rule and the rule of law - has no reason to participate in the political life of the community.
The Patriot Movement is such a group. The Patriot Movement has contempt for politics and has cut itself off from political debate in this country. Its members reinforce their own beliefs without listening to others. They believe that the national news media is “nothing but the official mouthpiece of the government,” and have adopted “alternative system[s] of communication: mail order book services, computer bulletin boards, gun shows, Bible camps, pamphlets, periodicals and short-wave broadcasts . . . .”
The alienation of the Patriot Movement is not idiosyncratic. Rather, it is symptomatic of a larger pattern. The Patriot Movement is merely an extreme example of political alienation in American society. In the conclusion of this Article, I describe six ways to counter the political alienation typified by the Patriot Movement, thereby strengthening the processes of representative democracy.
- Patriot Movement