Whatever it is, it seems to be difficult to duplicate.
Take Russia, for example. I thought when the yoke of communism was broken there was a chance for democracy as we know it. But before long that country reverted to near dictatorship.
It’s not alone. Many countries have dictators. In fact, it seems to be the preferred form of government. The long history of powerful kings ruling over the masses supports this.
Sounds crazy, I know. Cruelty abounds in dictatorships. Those opposing risk their lives and often lose them. Usually the elite reap all financial benefit while most of the population lives in poverty.
So why is it so popular? I think there are at least two reasons, each based on human foibles.
First, it seems people yearn for a leader that tells them what to do, what to think. When they find someone willing to do that, they will accept without question whatever they are told. My guess is it gives them a sense of security knowing there is a person they can look up to who isn’t conflicted with the doubts they themselves possess. It relieves them of independent thought and responsibility.
Second, it appears people need to feel superior to someone else, even if they aren’t. Dictators seize and manipulate this weakness, pandering on the fears of many against a different class. Examples abound. Think Hitler and the extermination of Jews, gays, and other groups. Or, closer to home, governors and other political figures keeping their jobs by enforcing slavery and Jim Crow laws.
There are, however, many nations that take pride in democratic principles: England, much of Europe, India, indeed several countries around the world.
But what country is the jewel of the concept? The one whose very founding involved shaking the shackles of a king? The United States of America!
After all, our long (long in our own minds at least) history of democracy has withstood all challenges without tarnishing its basic ideals. Our country is safe from the threat of dictatorship. Our principles of decency and a people’s government are too strong.
Or are they? Remember the basic tenets of humans: love of a powerful leader and the need to be superior to someone else.
I think we are in trouble. We have a president who exhibits classic characteristics of dictatorship. For example, he is one who spawns hatred by accepting the legitimacy of hate groups. Who lies to increase his own power. Who commands adoring crowds that swallow every bit of the nonsense he spouts (love of a powerful leader). Who belittles the free press in manners similar to dictators throughout the ages. Who weakens national institutions designed to hold a president in check. Who seizes the court system by packing it with ideologues not committed to impartial jurisprudence. Who belittles immigrants with policies of hate (need to be superior to someone).
If you think these have nothing to do with the possible loss of our democracy and the beginning of a path to dictatorship, I fear you are sadly mistaken.
Ben Franklin was right. He probably wouldn’t put it this way, but democracy is a precarious concept and all it takes is the right person to destroy it. Yes, it can happen here.
The king in waiting has made gigantic strides during the last four years. With new confidence and declining moral imperatives on him and his followers, four more could be all it takes.