Monday, February 17, 2020

Dying In Plain Sight

Democracy is dying in the United States. And its death is very much a public death. Max Boot quotes Montesquieu: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”

Certainly, Congress is -- at least partially -- to blame. But much of the public appears to not give a damn:

I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.
A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

What is happening in the United States is a reminder to all of us that democracy does not come free. People will argue about the source of the quote. Some say Edmund Burke. Others John Stuart Mill. Regardless of who gave it to us, the line remains true: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil [or the death of democracy] is that good men should do nothing.”

Image: Psychology Today


Lorne said...

A chilling indictment of today's reality, Owen.

Owen Gray said...

It's not enough to recognize that reality, Lorne. If refuse to so something about it, we will stand condemned.

Rural said...

Perhaps just as troubling as the 'apathy of a citizen in a democracy' is those who blindly cheer on those who would destroy it, Owen.

Owen Gray said...

Point well taken, Rural. Empty barrels always make the most noise.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Rural and I have somewhat different takes on this question. That, I suppose, should come as no great surprise given that democracy means such different things to different people. Many Canadians accept false majority government as democratic because, after all, everyone does get to vote. Yet if one party takes a solid majority of seats without the support of 60 per cent of the electorate and compounds that by abandoning its election promises yet still claims to have a "mandate" where is the democracy in that? If you promise one thing and then, installed in office, deliver something else, can you even claim you received the "informed consent" of the 37 to 39 per cent who did vote for you? Harper played that dirty trick. So too has Trudeau.

I believe it was in the 80s that the CBC's great Patrick Watson presented a 6 or 8 part series on democracy, exploring the differences in how the term was understood by the populace from one democratic nation to the next. The range is very broad. Even within one nation state, democracy can change. Did we not consider ourselves a democracy long before we introduced universal suffrage?

Rural doesn't think that Canada in the 21st century should tolerate non-violent civil disobedience of the sort we're seeing now. I expect this is just a preview of the next wave of civil unrest that will be arriving perhaps as early as later this decade. We can see from the American example what a riven, deeply-divided society can beget. It can degrade into something akin to a Lord of the Flies tribalism. I would sooner have non-violent civil disobedience any day.

As for Boot, I would love to know when he would say America last had a democracy. Trump is merely the culmination in a decades-long dismemberment of American democracy.

Owen Gray said...

The problem with democracy, Mound, is that it can get very messy. Fifty years ago, in the United States, there were mass protests and burning ghettos. In Canada, there was violence which culminated in The October Crisis. In France, people took to the street on a daily basis. I suspect we're heading into a somewhat similar situation now.

e.a.f. said...

My take on it there isn't much information on their news casts regarding the issues. You can follow Rachel Maddox and get the story, but most stations just don't provide the type of information people actually need. The MSM is complicit in this. Many in the U.S.A. don't even have an understanding of their Constitution, much less what it states.

There is a lot of words out there, but not much in the way of actual, factual information. That's the way the American oligarchs like it and of course the Russian oligarchs.

Americans won't notice until its too late The Democratic Party is all over the place and killing each other off one state at a time. About the only one who is working is Tracey Abrams. She's working to ensure people can vote. the rest once they drop out of the race, you don't hear from them. They don't say who they're going to back, hoping all will consider them for Cabinet or V.P. This is the politics of the ego.

Owen Gray said...

Nicely put, e.a.f. This is the politics of ego.