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American voters are waking up to the hard reality that U.S. presidents are not elected by “We the People…” — known as direct vote. The United States is a Democratic Republic as established by our Founding Fathers, land and slave owners, to ensure their plutocracy could keep democracy on a leash.

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The addition of the Electoral College to the U.S. Constitution meant popular vote could be trumped at any time. The last time popular vote lost out was the Gore vs. Bush election in 2000, aided by a controversial Supreme Court ruling.

Though anti-democratic provisions in the U.S. Constitution restricting voting rights have been largely amended, we’ve yet to break free from the influence of plutocrats. A joint Princeton and Northwestern University study offers empirical data concluding that the United States is presently an oligarchy.

Was America’s newly formed Republic the most enlightened politics of its day? Has our model of democracy served as a beacon of light and hope around the world over the course of two hundred years or so? Despite glaring shortcomings, the United States’ influence has been instrumental in making the world a better place.

Failing to become the exception to former great civilizations, at some point our influence turned into abuse of power, and oh, the painful backslide. If we wish to “restore this country to greatness,” as one presidential candidate campaigns, let’s be honest about when and how we left it.

After all the 20th century hard-fought modest gains in human rights, the end of last century saw them once again systematically eroded by special interest groups and their politicians. Necessary social safety nets and regulation continue to come under attack. Have we not learned anything?

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Just as taking proper care of our veterans who valiantly served our country must be included in the cost of war, so too must social responsibility be included as the human cost of doing business within an imperfect economic system.

Moral compasses tend to slip in direct proportion to skyrocketing profits. Global trade agreements further allow the U.S. to find itself complicit in human rights violations, taking advantage of lower wages and leaner standards in struggling nations. Meanwhile, quality of life and the wages of the average American are falling behind other nations.

Marketers continue to tout we are the greatest country on Earth despite the failure of American-style capitalism to trickle-down prosperity and equal opportunity. Sadly, citizens who distrust government and feel alienated from society are at higher risk of turning violent, acting out their frustration.

Six years ago, protesting corruption and injustice, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of Tunisian municipal headquarters. The uprising resulted in the toppling of iron-fisted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, igniting a revolution that spread around the Arab world known as the Arab Spring.

The country is so distant, so small, yet parallels exist between our two nations that are remarkable enough to warrant notice. And as we imagine ourselves to be intelligent and sophisticated enough to keep from setting ourselves on fire to make a point, evidently we’re willing to vote a political candidate into office who is more than willing to do it for us.

According to an International Republican Institute poll, Tunisian concerns center around job creation, improved standards of living, and public safety. They say that “remedying political dysfunction . . . is the key condition for implementing positive lasting change.” Sound familiar?

Pew Research says 75% of Americans share the same concerns. Where Americans are divided is how much government should play a role in alleviating poverty, injustice, and corruption. Government is neither the problem, nor the solution, but does play a vital role in regulating fairness and equality when individual and corporate moral compasses lose their way.

The truth is, the ripple effect of Bouazizi’s actions continues to reverberate around the world, including in the U.S., as rage boiling over. The disenfranchised and those who’ve always suspected their vote doesn’t count for much are determined to have their say.

But, friends, can we do it from a warm heart instead of a cold one? As awakened leaders, it’s imperative we are vigilantly mindful that our choices, directly and indirectly, serve all of humanity beyond personal interests and short-term victories. Let us not allow fear and anger to inform our decisions.

After Tunisia displaced their 23-year hardliner, it appears we may have two hardliners of our own to choose from this November. In the middle of our political spring, let us pause for a moment.

By working together peacefully to create political change, we demonstrate we are mature enough to handle direct democracy. As the world watches, the next six months will be very telling. Are you ready for it?

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