It is an understatement to say that American democracy was challenged by the sitting United States President aided and abetted by a sycophantic Republican Congress and 74 million Republican voters who followed a president lockstep despite his autocratic cravings and blatant disrespect for core democratic institutions and norms.
The following reflections about autocracy, oligarchy, democracy, journalism, the media, an informed public, and public morality are instructive as we look back upon what we Americans experienced during these past four years and in our 2020 election. Great damage was done to our democracy and it likely will take time for the nation to heal from the chaos and abuse.
“There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.” -Dr. Richard Beeman, professor of history and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
“It is acknowledged, namely, that there are in the world three forms of government, autocracy, oligarchy, and democracy: autocracies and oligarchies are administered according to the tempers of their lords, but democratic states according to established laws.” – Aeschines (389-314 BCE), Greek statesman and orator
“Journalism is one of the devices whereby industrial autocracy keeps its control over political democracy; it is the day-by-day, between-elections propaganda, whereby the minds of the people are kept in a state of acquiescence, so that when the crisis of an election comes, they go to the polls and cast their ballots for either one of the two candidates of their exploiters.” – Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), writer
“I know a whole generation has been raised on the notion of multiculturalism; that all civilizations are just different. No! Not always. Sometimes things are better! Rule of law is better than autocracy and theocracy; equality of the sexes, better; protection of minorities, better; free speech, better; free elections, better; …Don’t get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance.” -Bill Maher, satirist, commentator, television host