What becomes of a nation when it is untethered from the people?
Wow, Sam. Good question. Great piece.
"We live in an era of economic stagnation, increased polarization, and an epidemic of despair and loneliness. These crises exist because representative democracy itself no longer meets our needs;"
Indeed. I suspect that the cause is primarily because the people don't vote directly on most issues. Instead, we elect representatives, who despite their best intentions, often get captured by campaign money and vested interests.
I have long argued that, to the extent we can, we should utilize citizen assemblies and allow direct democracy, perhaps through the use of quadratic voting instead of 1 person 1 vote; https://www.lianeon.org/p/the-promise-of-quadratic-voting
"It is not realistic to pretend that we can draw a neat distinction between the social and the political. Each intersects with the other, the two becoming intertwined in the process."
It's certainly true that the two are intertwined but failing to distinguish between them risks obscuring the changes that will be necessary to bring us to a healthy society. The fact that people don't feel properly represented isn't just the result of people feeling alienated by how the system operates, it's primarily down to the fact that there are specific technical shortcomings in the political processes by which MPs and governments are chosen.
Some of the ones that I've written about, and offered solutions to, on my own site are:
1) the lack of any mechanism by which the electorate can spontaneously dismiss their representatives;
2) the fact that voting processes don't allow voters to properly express their preference between different candidates, and don't offer any opportunity to vote for a randomly-chosen candidate;
3) the fact that all the functions of government are lumped in together, to be overseen by a single representative;
4) the fact that sovereignty is not distributed between different levels of political representation;
5) the absence of effective mechanisms for ensuring separation between Executive and Legislature.
These are all things that clearly fall within the realm of politics, and we're not going to solve them if we lump them in with our emotional need for belonging, recognition and a feeling of equality.