In Federalist Papers — the closest thing we have to an owner’s manual for our democracy — Hamilton wrote in pamphlet #1 that the world’s first democracy is an experiment. The rest of the world is watching us to see “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
Though Hamilton and Madison had their differences about the strength of the national government, they both consistently maintained that for democracy to work, people must act as reasonably as possible, keeping a break on passionate risky behavior that leads to demagogues and roving bands of mobs. But knowing how people are prone to risky, emotional behavior, they set up a system, which Madison defends in #10 and #51, that would keep emotions at bay and foster deliberation and slow action.
Their system has worked for almost 250 years. The system of government has been emulated to one extent to another by the 123 other democracies in the world. And now it feels rocky.
We have a president that holds rallies for no discernible reason other than solidifying his base and bolstering his ego. He tells them that the wall is going up or he’ll shut down government. Just him. One guy. He’ll shut it down.
Congress, one of Madison’s two checks on executive power, is slowly dealing with the fact that we have a mad man in the White House. They absolutely know that he’s crazy, but are afraid of alienating the idiot’s 62 million supporters. At some point, they’ll have to grow a pair or we’re in serious trouble.
Trump is the demagogue that scared the crap out of Hamilton and Madison.
Then we have other forces at work. Other anti-democratic forces that in the name of purity and light are also undermining our democracy.
Antifa are just a bunch of anarchists. Anarchists are punks. Children who don’t care if the streets are paved, or the social security checks are cut. They enjoy chaos.
There are those who take down statues in the dead of night with ropes and flashlights. Those are the cowards. I don’t give a crap about confederate war statues. Don’t like them? Take them down. No quarrel from me. But I do care about how this happens. There has to be discussion and votes and people voicing opinions. That’s how it is done.
Sure, some people are fed up with the results of the last election and with the Republican control of Congress. I get it. But democracy is better than its alternatives. Always.
All the anger, the name calling, all the negative energy is intense. It’s mobs. Virtual tar and feathers.
My Facebook page has schizophrenia. First, people loved Tina Fey. The next day, they post links to articles saying that she’s a racist and, in fact, all white people are racist, but don’t make black people tell white people how they are racist, because that’s a burden on black people, so white people have to figure it out for themselves or pay money to attend a conference where the black people will tell the white people how they are racist and then make YouTube videos making fun of the white racist people at their seminars. Honestly, I might be done with Facebook.
Democracy is undone by the Internet.
These forces are also willing to undermine First Amendment rights that we have worked damn hard to maintain. All in the name of purity and light. I’m ready to give a big fat donation to the ACLU, because I’m not down with any repression of free speech beyond the basic limits that we already have in place. We could still maintain our democracy with fewer protections of speech — other democracies have fewer protections — but I like our system.
This great experiment, let’s not fuck it up.
UPDATE: I don’t want to forget the one Facebook friend who said that people had to renounce racism using exactly her words on their Facebook wall. If they didn’t do that, she would de-friend them. Or the other friend who held up a sign that said people who were silent were racists.