Jonathan Kraut | Are We Seeing the Death of U.S. Democracy?

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Human history tells us that self-rule and democracy are relatively novel and temporary forms of government. It is so rare than even democratic government practiced by the ancient Greeks only lasted about 140 years before being replaced with dictatorships and monarchies. 

Even the progenitor of our democratic model, the Greeks, only permitted the rich and privileged to vote. In Greek society, slaves, women and immigrants were rarely if ever invited to participate in political decisions. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Russia formed a democratic state. Ultimately, Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchs exerted political control and democratic rule in Russia lasted but a handful of years. 

Venezuela was a democracy until Hugo Chávez followed the Putin playbook. The Venezuelan legislature, like the Russian legislature, removed the checks and balances that had guaranteed democratic authority. 

In both Russia and Venezuela, despite utilizing the electoral process as cover, the political outcomes are forgone conclusions. Those in power will stay in power. 

Sustaining democracy, even in America, is an ongoing battle. Only 100 years ago were women and 50 years ago were people of color en masse invited to vote. To this day there is fevered resistance by many to include all races, immigrants and the politically disagreeable to casting their ballots. 

True democracies in human society in fact may never last. The human mindset resists democracy in favor of a strong autocratic government.  

There are numerous reasons to resist a democratic union in favor of autocratic control. 

One of these reasons is fear. Fear of war, fear of outsiders, fear of loss. 

The first American admiral, David Farragut, famously proclaimed, “Conquer or be conquered.” 

Control over others by the powerful and elite have been the name of the game since recorded human history. Millions if not billions of battles and wars have been fought between feudal lords, ethnic groups, nations and alliances. 

A New York Times story on the subject estimated, “Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8% of recorded history.” 

Fear of losing out, being overrun, being subjugated, or being diminished by outsiders are all powerful motivators when it comes to surrendering democracy in favor of safety. 

Revenge is another powerful influence that degrades democratic rule. 

Obviously angry citizens looking for ways to take revenge and issue punishment one by one, person by person, gets nowhere. But when the impassioned unite under the firm control of a strong leader to “take back” lands, their birthright, or control, such as under Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler, the chances to succeed, given a riled-up society, are improved. 

The need to achieve “greatness,” competitiveness and other aspirational goals also motivate those to unite under one banner. 

Comments like, “We are the greatest nation on Earth,” “We wish our independence,” and “It is our destiny” call upon people to unite by submitting to an authority that promises results. 

Our American identity is currently undergoing change. Human nature is calling us to abandon democratic rule in favor of following a political leader and his family.  

Human society is formed and governments are created specifically to combat fear, to take revenge and punish, or to be free, great, or attain a destiny. 

It would seem the stronger these needs, the stronger the wish for an autocratic leader. 

The rallies behind the Dear Leader, Ex-President Donald Trump, are movements not to erode democracy but to replace our current system of government completely. 

The “make America great again” cause is a surreptitious call for uniting under one leader, the Dear Leader himself. 

The Trump children are positioned to assume power in time. 

Comments in the media decry that “Trump and his allies want to overturn the 2020 election.” 

I disagree. 

Trump and his followers seem intent on abandoning our democratic process altogether. 

Trumpsters claim the results of the election are irrelevant and the safeguards emplaced by our nation’s founders, such as certifying state vote tallies, are to be ignored. 

Trump and his acolytes imply their goal is not to overturn, but to replace democracy with restoring Trump rule. 

What the Trump train really means is that our votes don’t count and that our checks and balances should be abandoned.  

Is America about to be just another failed attempt to diffuse power to the many? Are we destined to follow history’s pattern and diminish democratic participation? Is it inevitable we embrace autocratic control? Are our human impulses stronger than our intellectual intent? 

The next years and your vote will tell. 

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.

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