I don't normally comment on politics writ large, but here's what's going through my head on the election of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat today:
American democracy doesn't work very well anymore. I'm not the only one concluding this. It fails on its most basic terms: it can't manage to enact the stated will of the majority of the people, even when that will is in accordance with the judgment of the designated experts (as it is on health care). America, as a nation, doesn't seem to be working that well either.
Obama is probably one of the best Presidents our current system could produce. But that's a very qualified statement. He is abundant in the qualities of charisma, charm and communication skills, with an impeccable sense of the symbolically apt gesture. This are the qualities that the mass/social mediapoliticosphere demands. He doesn't seem to be as strong in moral courage--the devotion to fight like a bulldog for ideas that are right, but unpopular. Or even when they are popular, but there is opposition to them.
The charming, symbolically apt thing to do was to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, on the occasion of conducting two wars, and give a really great speech about it. The morally courageous thing to do would have been to refuse it.
Anyway, so American democracy: worn out. World government: not yet ready for prime time (cf Copenhagen). Yet people are suffering tragically and the world faces huge threats looming on the horizon. How then is the conscientious person to try to make change?
I think it's a good idea generally to try to work through institutions that are more functional than our national government/Congress and to build new kinds of institutions/groups/ bodies to get things done:
The courts. Nongovernmental organizations, charities, and philanthropies. Some state and local governments. Mass movements and coalitions. Science labs and research organizations. Social media. Social networks. Mainstream media. Spiritual and intentional communities. Even the marketplace.
Work with what's working. Work with what we've got.