“Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” John Adams
While the US is in an inflationary spiral, an imminent recession, immigration and crime crises, legacy media and politicians obsessively claim Americans should focus on the threats to democracy, both here and in Ukraine; these are deflections away from what really matters. Neither the former president’s delusional behavior nor a conflict between two authoritarian thugs should merit our attention away from what we should be focusing on.
Here at home we have Congress pretending it’s going to do any better in shackling a populist thug than it did when he was under impeachment. Now they are in the process of prosecuting him for insurrection, and possibly the theft of classified documents. While the evidence presented appears daunting to any credible defense, we’ve seen this movie before and it didn’t end well; there’s no reason we should believe Congress has the competence or conviction to do any better this time.
Ukraine is not a democracy by any stretch of the imagination, but a festering sore of corruption from the moment it declared its independence from Russia. Ukrainian leadership has always been relentlessly authoritarian as Selenskyy has demonstrated again despite his claims of being a democratic reformer. There’s no legitimate reason for the US sending him billions in arms and munitions as if he’s our ally and Ukraine is a security issue for the US.
Encouragingly, polls have shown that Americans are focused first on inflation and recession, then on crime and immigration. While Trump’s egregious behavior has done irreparable damage to his popularity and party, it is not seen as an imminent threat, and Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the huge costs and risky escalation of our proxy war in Ukraine in the face of more pressing needs.
What John Adams was addressing in his quote above was his reasoning for a republic because democracy inevitably devolves into mob rule which leads to populism. It was the sentiment that evolved out of the revolution that it was essential to protect liberty to insure the sovereignty of the individuals in society and not the state. In order to safeguard against majoritarianism, the Electoral College was incorporated into the Constitution to assure political equality among the states and avoid the populism inherent in a direct democracy; it’s a system that expresses both the will of the majority while protecting minority rights, providing for a national debate inclusive of both.
It’s important to distinguish the various elements of what we call a nation. The essential element is society, meaning the natural tendency among people to relate to each other. Without the need to consider culture or politics, they cooperate with each other in an organic and spontaneous way in order to produce not only what is essential to survive, but to thrive. We have come to call that the economy. Then we have culture, which is simply beliefs and customs that evolve within groups in a society over time given regional characteristics such as geography, ethnicity and resources. Then we have politics, the civil organization under which a nation’s state is created.
None of the above is stating anything new, but historically the development of nation states has seldom been encouraging in protecting the liberty of its people. In most cases we see monarchial structures with a caste system categorizing people into useful elements for the preservation of power. At times these have evolved through wars, epidemics, famines or revolutions into various systems of democratic rule. Most people today believe that democracy simply means a government by elected representatives. However, if the process of electing representatives is majoritarian, it essentially becomes a popularity contest; this inevitably leads to populism, a political phenomenon revolving around a charismatic leader or leaders who appeal to and claim to embody the will of the people in order to consolidate their own power. Populism is the most obvious form of ochlocracy, which means mob rule.
When this occurs, politics becomes personalized, almost religious in its zealous appeal; political parties lose their identity as the principles that compelled them are replaced with an overriding addiction to power, a means to control the mob. Elections serve merely to confirm and consolidate the leaders’ authority rather than to reflect the different allegiances of the people; as Adams states, democracy commits suicide. The cleverest authoritarians are adept at upholding the illusion of democracy while destroying it; such civil organizations provide for the intervention in a society in order to manipulate its functions culturally and economically, erasing the distinction between the state and society, eroding liberty behind the curtain of democracy.
When politicians and their followers call everybody who disagrees with them a “threat to our democracy,” they actually want people to believe that only they can be trusted to preserve it, an illusion that cloaks them with virtue and their opposition with vice. They are not presenting an argument for considering them for office but a slogan to dismiss any argument objecting to their election. What is essential for the preservation of liberty is for Americans to understand, as Floyd A. Harper observed in 1949, that “The citizens of a democracy have in their hands the tools by which to enslave themselves.”