Unless there is a transformation in America so that citizens become strong — a great civic awakening, so that citizens are awake, prepared and engaged — our republic is doomed. We have a republic, as Benjamin Franklin noted, “If we can keep it,” and, if Franklin were here today, he would conclude that we are experiencing system failure. In order to maintain a republican system there must be eternal vigilance. There must be strong citizens. To be a strong citizen in a republic has a very different meaning than what it means to be a strong citizen in a totalitarian state.
Big money, corporate influence, rampant gerrymandering, voter suppression, fake news and unrelenting propaganda have weakened the system. But, the underlying cause of our system failure is the sad fact that our citizenry is very weak. A republic with a strong citizenry would never have permitted the corruption of money and gerrymandering to have occurred in the first place.
Our citizenry is weak because of two big changes in American life: 1) Public education has abandoned its prime responsibility to prepare youth for citizenship and 2) The civic community structure has disappeared. Unless these two big weaknesses in America are addressed, the downward spiral of our republic will continue and the trends toward oligarchy and authoritarianism we are seeing today will culminate in a shameful denouement. We need a great civic awakening, so that citizens are full participants in their republic — awake, prepared and engaged.