Astronomers, philosophers, and others have had an ongoing debate as to why, given the vast numbers of potentially inhabitable worlds in the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos, we have not yet detected the existence of intelligent life anywhere else. Several hypotheses for this paradox have been proposed, but one theory seems peculiarly insightful as it relates-to what we’ve witnessed in this country leading up to and after the Insurrection of January 6, 2021: self-annihilation. To paraphrase this theory, intelligent species destroy themselves shortly after reaching certain technological milestones because they can no longer control either themselves, their technology, or a combination of both. We have plenty of examples from human history lending support to this idea, illustrating the consequences of unchecked human aggression and the impulse to dominate.
While our founders believed people were reasonable and decent overall, they also knew the new nation needed ways to limit the devastating effects of those other destructive behaviors within individuals and running through society. So, they went to great lengths to build in ‘self-defenses’ for their new form of self-government. Much of their work is seen in the fundamental institutions they created, and the civic behaviors they sought to promote. They provided us with a blueprint for societal survival in the fundamental values they bequeathed to us, one of the most important of which is Education.
Education helps individuals and society determine objective facts; and facts are essential for resolving disputes, and for instilling confidence in the public, thereby supporting social stability.
The founders were life-long learners; and many were self-taught. Several were masters of history, government, philosophy, and logic, reasoning, and law. Virtually all of them appreciated how fragile republican forms of government are because they understood human nature so well. They were also keenly aware of the direct relationship between an educated and informed electorate, on the one hand, and a stable participatory democracy on the other hand.
In addition to Education, they taught us to value and cherish the necessities and norms they believed were required for sustainable democratic self-government, including:
• Distribution of political power and governing between two major political parties, and three co-equal branches of government;
• Trust-worthy and Fair Elections; and acceptance of the outcome by all;
• Primacy of Rule of Law and Factual Objectivity in governance; guided by Reason, Science, Logic, and Education;
• Co-equal Third branch of government comprised of Federal Judiciary independent of political pressures, and bound by the Constitution and the Rule of Law, acting as check on the other branches.
All the above, in their own ways, and in combination with each other, were designed to promote stability and peaceful self-rule. For example, the emergence of the two major party system distributed political power at fundamental levels between two of the most historically significant, and competing ‘factions’ in society, i.e., those emanating out of economic interests, such as owners/landlords of property on the one hand, and users/renters of property and laborers, on the other hand. A similar dichotomy might distinguish between conservatives (or, inherited wealth; traditionalists; etc.) and liberals (or, ‘new money’; reformers, etc.).
The two-party system was believed to promote stability by limiting the extent to which either party could become too ‘extreme’ in one direction or the other (that is, too ‘conservative’ or too ‘liberal’). Capturing and retaining political power would require the major political parties to adopt more moderate positions by appealing to a significant portion of the electorate who are non-aligned or independent, such as a growing and healthy middle class.
TWO PARTIES TODAY
In modern times, the two parties have increasingly distinguished themselves on the basis of racial equality and anti-discrimination. Not surprisingly, racial equality wasn’t on the founders’ radar when they were contemplating the dynamics of society and distribution of political power. (Nonetheless, the founders displayed their fair mindedness in other ways, such as for example, through protections against religious discrimination, and which lead to the separation between church and state, as well as the prohibition against establishment of a state religion.)
If social stability is a desired outcome, as we believe it is, then a major political party comprised mostly of Whites (and their admirers, ‘passers’, and wannabes) for the primary purpose of maintaining White Privilege is irrational in a multi-racial society, where a growing middle class should be encouraged (as we believe it should). There are a whole host of other reasons why a Republican party dedicated to maintaining White Privilege is a bad idea, but the most obvious reason that comes to mind is the possibility of the re-emergence of another ‘White Russian’ asset like the one on its way out, who maliciously caused so much intentional harm to both our fellow Americans, and to the Rule of Law. Such a legacy this Republican party has left Americans.
At a minimum, American democracy needs courageous, new Republican leaders to take back control and form a new partywhich unequivocally renounces racism, hate and the seditionist White supremacists, anarchists, and their supporters in Congress who enabled the Insurrection. They must join Democrats in demanding accountability, including expulsion from Congress of the seditionists.
RULE OF LAW and INDEPENDENT FEDERAL JUDICIARY
Perhaps the most vital legacy of stability they left us was the value they placed on the Rule of Law since it underlies virtually all the others. To protect society from the instability that would result from the unbridled passions of the ‘factions’ or autocratic tendencies of rogue individuals, our founders created a “system of laws, not men” and in which “all are equal under the law.”
To interpret and apply the law consistently and fairly, they created one of the most valued institutions of all: An independent federal judiciary, capable of resolving disputes without worry of political repercussions, and the brilliance of which we’ve seen in action in recent weeks. When the law is applied consistently and fairly, the likelihood disputing litigants will accept the decision is greatly enhanced.
PROTECTIONS AGAINST DISINFORMATION
The trial process is designed to discover the “truth” so that a fair adjudication of disputes can be achieved. One of the highest priorities in trials is that of discovering the truth. Truth is critical to not only fair trials, but also to the effective functioning of a democracy. Disinformation which defames, or distorts, or which is designed for criminal purposes can form the basis of both civil and criminal liability.
Courts (and judges) act as a safeguard against the negative effects of disinformation, for example, because they only permit into a trial evidence which is clearly identified and authenticated, and which is subject to examination and cross-examination. Because there was no credible evidence whatsoever to support the baseless allegations of voter fraud, all of the more than 60 frivolous Republican lawsuits challenging the election were expeditiously dismissed.
But courts cannot stop the lethality of the disinformation on their own, especially when the propaganda is being purposely generated, manipulated, and amplified by foreign adversaries in order to inflame domestic racial and other social tensions, reported in the mainstream media.
Our founders could not have foreseen the destructive effects on our democracy, or the social media technologies which overwhelm us today with their power of instantaneous, global, targeted, mass communications. However, in their great wisdom, the founders did provide us the means to defend our democracy: the Rule of Law, and we must use it to hold accountable all Republican seditionists who propagated the myth of a “stolen election” and perverted their constitutional oaths by voting to overturn the certified results of the Electoral College. The only intelligent remedy for their betrayal of the American democratic process is expulsion from Congress. If America is to survive and thrive, it must continually defend against not only the disinformation itself, but also against those who would use the disinformation to usurp political power and engage is such nefarious, reprehensible behavior.
POSTSCRIPT: One of the other answers to the paradox of the ‘silence of space’ is that development of intelligence is extremely rare, similar to the rarity of democracies in history. Perhaps intelligence can be either a curse or a cure when it comes to self-annihilation. Our founders may have viewed the stars from a different perspective than we view the them, but their view of the ‘universe of the mind’ and the importance they placed on their own intelligence and that of their fellowmen of good will, can guide us during this tumultuous time. And let us hope that a new and intelligent Republican party will emerge, and take a responsible role in preservation of our democratic republic!