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
Mitch Gries said:
Thank you John, I have been reminded of the parallels between Trump’s Presidency with his erosion of our democracy and Hitler’s take over of Germany. Earlier this year while at the Holocaust Museum, LA near The Grove, I was most taken by the progression of LA Times’ front pages from the mid to late 1930’s, with articles covering Hitler’s worsening repression of the Jews every few months.
My father Hans Gries, lived through that time in Berlin and was arrested and jailed on Kristallnacht. He warned me and my siblings that authoritarian dictators can arise anywhere, even in America, it happened in Germany which was one of the most culturally advanced countries in the world. My father said that the 66% of Germans who were not Hitler supporters thought that he would just be a “passing fancy.”
Ever since Trump was elected in the back of my head I have been wondering if I would be living through those horrible conditions that my father experienced and now with him not being reelected those concerns have been lessened at least for the time being.
Dennis Cambly said:
It’s dreadfully boring to watch the dirty tactics being played out by Trump and his supporters. They would be wiser to read the Constitution of the United States and prepare for the 2024 election.
“The Executive Power of the United States shall be vested in a President of the United States of America which shall be his style; his title shall be His Excellency. He shall be elected for 4 years and shall be reeligible.” Constitutional Convention 1787
Mitch Gries said:
Dennis, Donald Trump’s Presidency has been “excellent,” in eroding our democracy