Wisconsin’s greatest governor, Robert M. La Follette, declared:

“We have long rested comfortably in this country upon the assumption that because our form of government was democratic, it was therefore automatically producing democratic results. Now, there is nothing mysteriously potent about the forms and names of democratic institutions that should make them self-operative. Tyranny and oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other. We are slow to realize that democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle. It is only as those of every generation who love democracy resist with all their might the encroachments of its enemies that the ideals of representative government can even be nearly approximated.” (From a John Nichols column in The Nation.)

Fighting Bob’s actually applies more broadly. What it takes for healthy politics is no different, really, from what is required of spiritual practice or any meaningful responsibility. Of course, we need to discern when a “duty” is imposed by illegitimate or unethical authority. This requires taking our own personal stands, best with others of integrity, as well as being willing to seek the integrity of those we seemingly oppose.

In Ajahn Buddhadasa’s words, “Dhamma is Duty, Duty is Dhamma.”

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