Why did you expect anything else?
I intended to end this series by talking about the inherent instability of democracies (like probably all forms of government). I was going to go back to Plato’s Republic and 17th-century English Republican Henry Care to talk about the ways democracy and egalitarianism tend ultimately towards tyranny.
Then I saw Robert Merry’s article in The American Conservative. There was no point in me writing much more. So, to build on his article…
The stability and longevity of democracies isn’t a given. In fact, quite the opposite. We, like members of any polity, should expect the eventual failure of our government. That failure can mean a shift towards tyranny. It can mean complete collapse and the long-term reconstitution of one or more new states. We might be talking centuries from now – or decades. All we know for sure is that the American experiment is mortal.
Mortality doesn’t mean giving up. But we cannot rely on our “system” to protect us from tyranny or even to govern us decently. Those things occur through constant vigilance and struggle. But – and more importantly perhaps – we must also constantly reinvigorate the legitimacy of our institutions. For the last forty years, it is exactly this legitimacy that the radical wing of the Republican Party has been attacking. Delegitimize the press, the courts, schools, international institutions, and any other institution that might stand as a bulwark against the unrestrained power of capital – all, of course, in the name of freedom.
Of course, our institutions must actually be legitimate. So the legitimacy of our police must not depend on us turning a blind eye to police killings; we must reform our policing so that it is seen as legitimate by all. The legitimacy of the press will come, not just from us resubscribing to newspapers and not talking about the press as the “enemy of the people;” the press must actually be competent, critical, and adversarial. For Congress to be legitimate, the US Senate must, regardless of political party, recognize the authority of a President to nominate judges to the Supreme Court. At the same time, we must all see the benefits of the legitimacy of these institutions as greater than whatever partisan benefits we might gain through the destruction or undermining of these institutions. Otherwise, we put aside our personal and immediate interests for the greater interests of all.