Oh, those silly ancient Greeks. They came up with a system of governing so fragile and vulnerable that it has endured a mere 2,500 years or thereabouts, and it is now on the verge of being destroyed by one man. That’s right; it’s the end of democracy. Joe Manchin has broken it – or maybe it was Donald Trump. Someone has, that’s for sure, as this is the left’s new favorite slogan. Clearly, it wasn’t a very good system to begin with if one individual can snuff it out.
Recently blubbering about her 2016 presidential election defeat, Hillary Clinton warned that, should Trump “or someone of his ilk” ascend to the White House again, it “could be the end of our democracy.” Jennifer Rubin, hilariously often described as a conservative columnist, remarked on Twitter: “If Manchin is no on both BBB and voting, Biden is done. Democracy is hanging by a thread.” Rubin was referring to the West Virginia Democrat’s Dec. 19 announcement on Fox News Sunday that he is unable to support Joe Biden’s gargantuan spending plan known as Build Back Better.
Democracy Dies in Rhetoric
It doesn’t stop there. MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan also took to Twitter, howling about how Manchin “is killing the Biden legislative agenda, and perhaps the future of American democracy too … “ Wajahat Ali from The Daily Beast – yes, The Daily Beast is still a thing, apparently – asserted “the need for massive structural reform,” saying that, without it, “we’re a shell of a democracy.”
This isn’t just about Manchin, though. “U.S. Democracy Faces Real Threats,” screamed a Dec. 17 opinion headline in Bloomberg. The author of this irrational screed railed against the Supreme Court, the Senate, and, well, Trump, because these leftist commentators just cannot quit their Trump obsession.
The new narrative has been established. The threat of global destruction at the hands of climate change – or weather – hasn’t worked because, as polls show, most Americans place climate change at, or near, the bottom of their list of concerns. Abortion “rights” aren’t blowing the winds in favor of the progressive agenda because, by most indications, the country is just about evenly split on the subject. The specter of gun violence won’t get the left what it wants, either, as record numbers of Americans are purchasing firearms for personal protection.
What’s a poor collectivist to do, then, when his (or her, or zeys) dreams of a statist utopia are being undermined by the destructive forces of personal choice? Why, claim the entire system is under threat of demolition, of course. This isn’t merely about this or that issue, oh no; this is about our entire way of life being turned upside down. Except, the left is peddling an illusion, because democracy is not – and never has been – our way of life.
Fundamental Misconception – or Deception?
Democracy has become a buzzword for civilized society and fair government. Why it is viewed that way by so many people is puzzling. Winston Churchill observed, “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” The Founding Fathers didn’t care for it. The good part of democracy is that people get to choose their lawmakers, but, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out more than once, that only works out well if the people are able to make informed decisions.
The bad thing about democracy is that it allows one part of the nation to dictate terms against the wishes of the other. Nineteenth-century political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville described this as the “tyranny of the majority.” Tocqueville was a visionary. So much of what he wrote seems, in today’s America, astoundingly prophetic. On the subject of democracy, he was spot on when he wrote about how “the ever increasing despotism of the majority” would crush individual rights by allowing the state to claim it is acting in accordance with what most citizens want. The end result is inevitable; no individual rights can be allowed because they interfere with the common good and, thus, democracy leads, eventually, to authoritarianism.
There had to be a way, then, to curb the worst excesses of democracy while still allowing the people to elect their leaders. The Founders opted for constitutional republicanism. By enumerating a limited number of federal government powers and leaving all remaining authority to the states and the people, the framers of the Constitution ensured – or so they hoped – the federal government would be constrained. Just as importantly, the wealthy urbanites of America’s largest cities would never create a majority that could impose its will upon the rest of the country.
Alas, the potential for corrupting this system was always evident. In 1787, as he walked out of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What kind of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin?” to which he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Leftists have this annoying habit of referring to America as a democracy. They do so not out of ignorance – for America is not a democracy – but in pursuit of a singular agenda: to condition people to believe it is, and, therefore, that individual rights must be subjugated to the will of the majority. The flaw in this plan, as previously mentioned, is that so much of what leftists claim most Americans want is not, in fact, what most Americans want.
Progressives struggle to understand how democracy works in a republic. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) demonstrated this lack of comprehension as she vented her frustration – inaccurately as it happens – with Manchin’s decision on BBB. “I mean, it’s a farce in terms of plain democracy,” she told MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “because I represent more or just as many or more people than Joe Manchin does — perhaps more.” And that, AOC, is why we have a republic and not a democracy: so that your constituents in New York cannot impose their will upon West Virginians who are, according to the Remington Research Group, overwhelmingly opposed to Build Back Better.
When the left claims democracy is under attack, it is really lamenting the fact that too many Americans still cling to their own pesky opinions rather than bow to what progressives insist is best for the common good. If leftists want to demonstrate their commitment to democracy, perhaps they could start by insisting vaccine mandates and other COVID-related restrictions be put to a vote rather than being imposed by authoritarian edict.
As for democracy itself, no one has ever been able to kill it by voicing a dissenting opinion. On the contrary, democracy dies when obedience to the state becomes the one quality prized above all else and when alternative views are successfully portrayed as dangerous and subversive.
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.