Democracy is Fragile

What other choice do we have?

Signing the Constitution

Of the three basic forms of government, democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy, democracy is the most fragile, and least stable.  It is fraught with tendencies to devolve into mobocracy or idiocrasy, to fall into populist tyranny.  But the others are worse, as Churchill quipped.

Democracy depends on an educated electorate.  Not the education of the PhD in Esoteric Studies, or Nuclear Engineering, but the ordinary education in civics one used to get in schools.  The nature of a federal representative democracy such as ours, how the various branches and levels of government relate to each other, and what are the obligations as well as the rights of citizens is essential to a functioning system.  As was noted after the First World War, to impose a democratic form of government on people who can neither read nor write, and who are caught in a web of ancient hates and grievances, is impossible.

But, alas, today we have an uneducated electorate, one might say, a deliberately dumbed-down electorate, which responds like any dumb brute to selected stimulus.  Pavlov’s dogs have nothing on the immediate reaction to the tinkling of a shibboleth or the display of an outrage-porn meme of the average American today.  “Socialist” is an immediate endorphin rush for one side, and “fascist” for the other side.  Both short circuit thought and go straight to visceral fear, anger, hate.

However, that does not necessarily apply to everyone.  Most of the American people are largely indifferent to politics, and care more for home and hearth issues, for matters of work and health and enjoying what time they may. Absent a social collapse, the extremists, however vocal, however loud their megaphonic screeching, will remain fringe.  The Man on the White Horse can come along only in a time of chaos.  In normalcy, he is laughed off the stage.

Granted, some bad actors will try to create, or at least claim chaos in order to gain power.  But usually, they can be seen for what they are.  Occasionally, it is necessary for the rest of the population to rise up in protest against those who would steal liberty for personal profit.  Sometimes, the bad actors have fooled a large number into thinking they are defending freedom when they are actually crushing it, by spreading the chaos. It isn’t easy always to discern, especially when one has not been taught the essentials of good citizenship in grade school as was done in former times.

Democracy is fragile. Let us nurture it, and not poison the ground it grows in.

100 Documents of US History

American Rhetoric – – Speeches to the soul of America

The White House

The US Congress

The Branches – – How the government is organized.

Congress in Session