Civic Republicanism: For the Good of “Everyone”

"But when we look at how much this “common good” can contribute to the isolation of groups with minority values, then the problems of such a concept become more evident."

According to Morone, the American government is made up of both civic republican and classic liberal values that work together in a cycle. It is in the second stage of this cycle that the “Democratic Wish” can be achieved, where, in an effort to change the status quo, citizens transform to “people out of doors” and increase participation in government. The reason for such participation is that some people feel unrepresented or excluded and in order to secure their individual rights (a classic liberalist value) they become more involved in the political system. It is in this cycle that new policies are implemented and the status quo continuously transformed with the goal of reaching a truly democratic system.

However, this idea of changing the status quo in order to make a group that feels unrepresented in the political system feel included makes me wonder whether this contributes in any way towards the exclusion of another group. Throughout our everyday interactions with one another, we come to find many things that we disagree with. Our different religions, values, and cultures make us different from everyone else. For this reason, it can be seen that making one group of people feel included and well represented by passing laws that are in line with their values might result in the marginalization of another group with the opposite beliefs. Of course we all realize this fact and come to the realization that we must ‘agree to disagree’.  However, it is disheartening when we, as the citizens of this nation and this world, let the media and political propaganda falsely lead us to believe that we can only fulfill the common good by downgrading a group of citizens. Perhaps the best example of this can be given by looking at the treatment of Muslim Americans after the September 11 attacks.

That day was a horrible shock to all of us, and one that resulted in many of us losing our loved ones. No one could even begin to understand how human beings could have so much hatred and violence that would lead to such an act. We, as citizens of a country under attack, became frightened and acted in the only way that we knew to feel secure again: by handing over our rights to the government. Soon the Patriot Act was passed and the very rights that our founding fathers fought for us to have were handed over by us in an instant. The media’s obsession with connecting the terrorists to the peaceful religion of Islam increased day by day and Americans began to target their Muslim neighbors and community members with their angry emotions. Mosques were shut down, first generation Muslim Americans were deported, and a group was isolated based on their ideological values. While many people saw the government’s treatment of Muslim Americans as a necessary step towards achieving the safety and the common good of all the citizens, they neglected to see that Muslim Americans were being demoralized in the process.

Sometimes it is easy to get carried away in political theory because everything is being evaluated in its ideal form. Before actually evaluating the concept of civic republicanism by looking at examples of how it exists in our political system, I would have agreed with everything that civic republicanism stood for. It is, according to Daniel Kemmis, “politics of cooperation”, a system based on “shared values” and working towards the “common good”. On paper, it looks like a wonderful idea. But when we look at how much this “common good” can contribute to the isolation of groups with minority values, then the problems of such a concept become more evident.

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