Democracy’s Achilles Heel
In the summer of 1787, close by the steamy Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, fifty-five perspiring men, unpaid volunteers representing themselves, their families, and communities, worked in a room with the windows closed so they could speak freely. They were laboring to write a constitution for the now united, no longer rebellious colonies, that were independent states with their own stamps and virtually worthless paper money. They wanted a “more perfect union” than that which the defective Articles of Confederation had produced. They were gentlemen farmers, merchants, lawyers, some highly educated. These men could pick up a text in classical Greek and sight-translate it into Latin.
In the same weeks, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author eleven years earlier of their Declaration of Independence was in Paris as the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of King Louis XVI. He spent his workdays corresponding with other diplomats and men of business, and his evenings dining with some of Europe’s most respected thinkers.
This was the Paris of Voltaire, who had died just seventeen years earlier, on the cusp of the American Revolution. When Jefferson’s European dinner companions learned what was going happening in Philadelphia -- the attempt to create a democratic republic, meaning a republic in which the demos, the common man, would have a say in the affairs of the state -- they guffawed at the foolishness of the effort. They told Jefferson it was settled wisdom that monarchy was the best system for the simple-minded and uneducated common man. For the European scene, they had a point. So many were indeed unlettered peasants and serfs.
But Jefferson countered that they did not know Americans. They were not like that at all. One historian reckoned that 93% of Americans in this period were yeoman farmers. Land was breathtakingly vast and available in America. All a young couple needed when starting out was an ax for the man to chop down trees and build their home; and a rifle for self-defense from the “aboriginals,” as they sometimes called the Indians, and for meat, which was plentiful and cheap. America’s forests teemed with deer.
They also needed some seed to start growing their own food; a mule and a plow that dragged him along, as she put up preserves and sewed their clothes. And if they had only one book in their cabin, it was the Bible that they could and did read. When other families came into the area to build their homes, they raised one another’s barns and eventually a church with no help from any government.
These growing communities built schools for their children and hired teachers. Jefferson told Europe’s deep thinkers that in America, his people were not illiterate peasants and serfs. While he agreed that a democratic republic cannot succeed with a population of uneducated people, he argued that Americans were not like that at all.
But that was then, and it’s possible that America has grown closer to that European model for the elites have nothing but disdain for the demos. Take, for example, the judicial ruling last week that Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, representing the party founded by Jefferson, had broken several state laws, including an order, made all by her lonesome, to send out absentee ballots to all registered voters in the state.
I judge that at the moment when she violated the law, this woman was either a conscious, conscienceless criminal or an idiot for not caring about the potential for voter fraud. And, I fear, this is more evidence that the United States has become what the great Jefferson, father of American Liberalism, knew to be a mortal threat to the republic – an uneducated mass ruled by an uneducated, conscienceless elite class.
The same societal “cancer” is seen in those who demand police defunding. The institution of police is basic to a civilized community and is as old as the Bible. In Deuteronomy 16:18, God commanded the Israelites to create “judges and constables,” to enforce law and order. So those today who demand police defunding are idiots. They are not just uneducated, but mal-educated.
This should not be a surprise since today’s universities, where they went to school, are staffed by leftist jerks who were students in the 1960s. These academics seem to miss the excitement of that decade when they protested authority by protesting the war in Viet Nam. So, they encourage their charges in this century to more or less do the same -- in this case, protest against “systemic racism,” never mind that there is none.
There used to be. For the first seventy-two years of the Republic, slavery was regulated by laws. What changed was that the ordinary Americans Jefferson knew to be good people went to war in 1861 to end that systemic injustice. Some 300,000 White American males in the North gave up their lives to end Black slavery in the South, a fact that is apparently unknown to today’s “woke” decrying “systemic racism” and believing in America’s true birth in 1619.
True, the Civil War was followed by a century of more systemic racism, a.k.a. segregation, but that injustice too would be put out of business by the Civil Rights movement led by the wise Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose heroic front line fighters were the courageous Blacks themselves who risked beatings and dog attacks for their rights. Because they were only 15% of the population, they would never have succeeded without the millions of White Americans who were on their side.
Since the Civil Rights laws of 1964 and 1965, there is no more systemic racism in America – except in the fever swamps of the “woke” generation, who are not only delusional and malevolent but horribly ignorant of history.
And yours truly eagerly awaits more news of the fate of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, for I am curious to know the mix in her motivation of a) Hillary Clinton-like contempt for rules and/or b) the role of innocent, negligent, stupid incompetence. In any case, the Democratic Party seems to be riddled with such types who, if the democratic republic is to survive, must be brought to justice and put out of office.
Sha’i ben-Tekoa’s PHANTOM NATION: Inventing the “Palestinians” as the Obstacle to Peace is available at Amazon.com in hardcover or a Kindle ebook. His podcasts of the same name as the book can be heard on www.israelnewstalkradio.com.
IMAGE: Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy (1940). Public domain.