Fall of democracy

Posted 9/28/22

As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

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Fall of democracy


As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

I started out this year, as you may recall, with a good intention: I had wanted to write a set of essays over the course of the year about the key values of the Green movement in the U.S. (See for more information about that.)

Unfortunately, some other things happened instead, and I got distracted from that goal.

But things come around when they are supposed to, and I find that the present moment gives me a good opportunity to get back on track. As I write, autumn has just begun, which in my scheme is the season to think about democracy—an idea that is now under attack on multiple fronts.

We seem to have lost what one would have thought would be an inviolable consensus among Americans, that democracy—the notion that citizens should have a meaningful voice in the way their government is run, and that elected officials should be held accountable to them—is a good thing, and an ideal worth striving for and defending.  

But instead, we have a significant portion of the population who are willing, even eager, to accede to autocracy, authoritarianism and worse.

Why? Well, for one thing, it seems that to certain well-heeled folks, democracy is a threat. It is not “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner,” as a popular saying puts it; rather, it is 98 sheep and a couple of wolves trying to decide what to do about the predator problem. 

Given the choice, I believe people want a government that reins in the worst instincts of the market, and focuses on fulfilling the needs of society as a whole.

If you’re a predator, of course, you don’t like that idea at all.

So there has been a concerted and well-coordinated effort over these past few decades to eliminate the regulatory powers of the government, and let the free market run wild. (Yes, one could say that in a way they want to “defund the police”—the financial police, that is. Ironic, isn’t it?) 

Part of that effort involves making sure that enough sympathetic legislators are elected to keep their power and privileges firmly in place.

(Let me insert a caveat here—there are plenty of rich people who are willing to play by the rules, and who understand the need for balance between the various sectors of our society. I intend to demonize no group, and I do not believe in a purely class-based analysis.)

Democracy has certain necessary preconditions.

  • The electorate needs to be well-informed about the candidates, the parties and the issues, and to have access to accurate and reliable information. Voters should not be subjected to scare tactics, fearmongering and rhetorical manipulation.
  • The electoral system, including the registration of voters and the tabulation of votes, needs to be as inclusive as possible, with participation from most if not all citizens.
  • It also needs to be accurate and trustworthy. If it is compromised in any way, or even just made to look compromised, the government cannot claim to have the “consent of the governed.”

The electorate must also have reason to believe that their participation is meaningful, and makes a real difference in their lives.

Need I go through recent events and delineate how these conditions are each being systematically undermined? It is up to us as citizens, in this electoral season, to do everything we can to improve the process and defend it from attack—otherwise, we risk seeing a real fall of democracy, one that will have devastating consequences.

electorate, democracy, politics


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